Don’t call judges ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’, lawyers told

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New guidance promotes ‘modern’ address for certain judicial roles

Lawyers have been told not to address certain judges by ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ as part of a push towards more “modern and simple terminology” in courtrooms.

The guidance issued by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, and Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, states that masters, upper tribunal judges and judges of the employment appeal tribunal should be addressed in court or at hearings simply as ‘judge’.

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The current practice is to address them as ‘Sir/Madam’ or ‘judge’.

The Lord Chief Justice said the tweak in terminology embraces a “modern and simple” mode of address “whilst maintaining the necessary degree of respect”. The change also applies to district judges, first-tier tribunal judges and employment judges.

The hope is the change in language will also assist litigants in person involved in court proceedings.

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A welcome move.



More should be done.



Bonkers move by the senior judiary which protects their dignity but doesn’t really address the bit lay people find difficult.

Most people can manage “Sir” or “Madam” without much difficulty. On the other hand, what is a lay person to make of “If my Lord turns to page x does that answer his Lordship’s question?”. Throw a few “Your Honours” and a Recorder of City into the mix, and perhaps “Sir” or “Madam” would be easier for the whole judiciary?


Don't make me laugh

I’m sorry, what? You still refer to your judges as “master” and “lordship” and expect to be taken seriously on the “push towards more “modern and simple terminology” in courtrooms”?

The British legal system’s formalities are truly hilarious sometimes, it’s like a bunch of middle-aged people who consider themselves professionals playing dress-up at a medieval costume fair. Might as well go LARPing at this point in those gowns and wigs, would look about as ridiculous.


Not easily triggered

Erm, okay…



As someone who does all of my (civil) advocacy in the county court, mostly in front of DJs, I welcome this move. Unless it’s a MT trial or there aren’t enough DJs, it is rare to be before a CJ.

Lay witnesses usually follow the advocates’ lead in respect of the mode of address. I quite often get asked after the hearing whether it was a Judge because they had to be addressed as Sir or Madam. Using ‘Judge’ makes it abundantly clear to the lay individuals

I have seen lots of “woke” comments. I think removing gender out of the mode of address is easy, sensible and you would be surprised how often I am connected to a telephone hearing by the DJ and the voice doesn’t make it entirely clear whether the Judge is male or female. When you are the first advocate to speak, being able to address them as ‘judge’ is a life saver in that circumstance

It’s a relatively easy transition.


Just Anonymous

Well, that is your experience. I can only offer my own experience, which is as follows:

1. Before my cases, I advise my lay clients as to how to address the judge. Specifically, I have told them (up until this change) to say ‘Sir’, ‘Madam’ or ‘Judge’. To date, this has never caused difficulty or confusion.

2. No lay client has ever asked me whether or not the person deciding their case was a judge.

3. I have never had any difficulty working out how to address a judge, under sir/Madam terminology, whether by telephone or in phone.

Based on my own experience, I consider this change a solution to a problem that does not exist.


Scouser of Counsel

In my Mags hackery days I always stuck to “Your Worship”, which was especially helpful if you were unsure of the gender of any of the people on the bench!



Did you just not assume my gender?


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