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There are several reasons you may need to write a letter to a judge. Maybe you are asking them to show leniency, or maybe you are petitioning to have a more difficult sentence imposed on a defendant. Either way, this can seem like a daunting task.
When writing a letter to a judge, you’ll want to have a clear introduction of yourself and why you are writing to them. Then you will want to follow this up with an explanation of your reasoning, a story, and your contact information.
Need more information about how to write a letter to a judge? Read on, we will break it down for you.
How to Write a Letter to a Judge
Step 1: Introduction
Unless you live in a small town, it is likely that there is more than one judge in your area. Before you start writing your letter, you will want to look up the name of the judge handling the case as well as any other pertinent information, such as the location where he or she receives their mail or if there is an assistant you need to send it to.
It is possible, however, that you might be unable to find the name of the judge on a specific case. When this happens, the greeting “honorable Judge” works as well. Otherwise, you should start your letter with “Dear Judge Smith,” etc.
Then, after the intro, it’s time to put a small introduction that explains why you are writing. Don’t put your whole story here, just a sentence about why you are writing. Here are some examples below:
- I am writing on behalf of defendant ......... (name)
- I am writing you to ask for leniency
- I am writing you to ask that you sentence ............ in case ...........
Even if you are writing to ask for leniency, it is always a good idea to include a case number in addition to the name of the defendant so that the judge knows exactly what case is being referenced.
Step 2: Introduce Yourself
Now that the judge knows who you are writing about and why it’s time to introduce yourself. You will want to include your full name, as well as your relationship to the defendant if you have a familial relationship, it’s important to include it.
You will also want to include how long you have known the defendant (if it’s not obvious in the familial relationship, such as mother) as well as how often you have interacted with them recently. If you see them on a daily basis, state that.
If you are a professional, include all of your credentials in this portion of your letter, such as a license number, etc. You will also want to include how long you have been working as a professional in that area. You can also mention previous positions if it is applicable.
Step 3: Add Reasons
In the third paragraph, you should give the judge a clear reason for why they should listen to your letter. For example, if you are writing to ask for leniency, or perhaps no jail time, explain how the defendant is a good person or has obligations, such as the care of children or parents, which would be inhibited if the defendant went to jail. This is also a good time to mention the rehabilitation process the defendant is going through.
If you are asking for a stronger sentence, or perhaps something specific like restitution, express how the defendant has hurt you or a family member and the impact it has had on your life. Keep this section brief, and save your story for the next part.
Step 4: Explain or Tell a Story
If the reasons you gave in step 3 need some explanation, here is the place to expand on them. If you need to tell a story in order to explain to the judge why you feel the way you do, now is the time to do it.
You’ll want to include specific stories with details, not just a sentence about how the defendant does good deeds. This is the only place in your letter where you want to go into detail, but don’t get crazy, as long letters are less likely to be read by the court.
Step 5: Conclusion
Before you end your letter, it’s important to summarize the reason you are writing in one sentence to bring the judge back to the overall purpose of your letter. For example, you could finish your letter with, “For this reason, and based on the character of the defendant, I ask you to please act with leniency as you consider his punishment.”
As you can see, it doesn’t have to be intricate, just something to bring your letter full circle, so there is no doubt why you wrote it.
Step 6: Closure and Contact Information
Just like any other letter, you will want to close your letter to a judge with a “thank you” or “sincerely” and sign your name. Below your signature, you should also print your name in case your signature is illegible. You should also include a way for the judge to contact you.
As a minimum, we recommend providing your email and phone number, as well as any work contact information needed to verify your credentials (such as a workplace name or phone number).
What Should You Use to Write a Letter to a Judge
Now that you know what goes in the letter, let’s discuss a bit about the other aspects of writing a letter to a judge, such as the paper you should use and whether or not you should handwrite or type it.
Use Paper With Letterhead
It is always best to use a paper that has letterhead when writing to a judge, especially when you are doing so in a professional capacity. Ask your place of employment for paper with a letterhead before you begin writing your letter.
Obviously, if you are writing as a family member, you likely won’t have your own letterhead. You can still use paper with letterhead from your place of employment, or blank white printer paper will work as well.
Date Your Letter
After you have figured out what paper you will be using, ensure you add a date to the upper right corner. This will let the judge know when you wrote the letter.
Type Your Letter
If possible, type your letter on a digital document. This will not only ensure that your letter is readable by all, but it will also help you to correct any grammar or spelling issues.
Also, only use a basic font. While it might seem fun to use something a little fancier, Times New Roman or Arial really is best.
Have Someone Else Proofread Your Letter
Before you print the letter on fancy letterhead, have a friend or family member (or coworker) review your letter to ensure it flows well and that everything is spelled correctly.
If you are printing on fancy letterhead, it is also ideal to print a practice copy not on the letterhead so you can see where everything will appear on the page and make adjustments if needed without using the expensive paper.
What Not to Write in a Letter to a Judge
Writing a letter to a judge is a big deal, and therefore there are some things you need to keep in mind as your write to them
1. Do Not Make Any Political Remarks
No matter what your political affiliation is or what you think about your local judge, now is not the time to make any political remarks or talk down about the judge. Remember you are writing to ask them a favor.
2. Do Not Use Bad Words
Even though you may want to express strong emotions, curse words and other harsh language are not appropriate in a letter to a judge. Keep what you have to stay professional.
3. Do Not Discuss Other People
There is a chance that the person you are writing the letter for committed a crime with someone else. Even though this might be the case, leave that second (or third) person out of your letter. They are charged separately in court, and the judge will be unable to read any letter that pertains to anyone else. Keep your letter focused on the one defendant.
If you want to write letters for all the defendants involved in a case, you can just ensure that each letter references just one defendant individually and not multiple defendants.
4. Do Not Get Off Topic
It can be exciting to write a judge, and maybe you think now is the time to bring up the fact that you want a new stop sign put in your neighborhood. This is not the time. As mentioned above, you want to keep the letter just about the case and just about a single defendant. You can write a letter to your local judge regarding your neighborhood another time.
Reference Legal Explanations
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"How to Write a Letter to a Judge". Legal Explanations. Accessed on February 25, 2024. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-write-a-letter-to-a-judge/.
"How to Write a Letter to a Judge". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-write-a-letter-to-a-judge/. Accessed 25 February, 2024
How to Write a Letter to a Judge. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-write-a-letter-to-a-judge/.