You'll call me "Your Honour"… OR ELSE!!

Has anyone in the last fifty years or so been found in contempt of court for the sole reason of refusing to address the judge as “Your Honour”? There are many small but vocal groups of people (Quakers, certain socialists, etc.) who are generally polite but eschew all honorifics. I’m wondering what happens when, for example, a Quaker is a defendant, plaintiff, or witness in a court of law and starts calling the judge “thou”, “you”, or “friend” instead of “sir” and “Your Honour”. I wouldn’t be surprised if contempt charges for this behaviour were common a few hundred years ago, but what about today?

Most judges really do not care, as long as the witness or non attorney speaks clearly so the reporter can hear them. However this does not apply to attorney’s. As a member of the bar and an officer of the court, attorneys better address the court as “Your Honor” in some court rooms it is not acceptable to call them “Judge”. I have had a judge say “You will address this court as “Your Honor”, or you will not address this court.”

I have seen plenty of witnesses not call the judge anything, sort like how I handle talking to my mother-in-law. I have never seen anyone admonished for not using your honor. Of course if they called him your honour thy would be dragged out to be tarred and feathered as a lousy feriner.

Judges grant significantly more leeway to non-attorneys than to attorneys. That said, I did once see a judge correct a pro per who called the judge “ma’am.” In a rather sharp tone, the judge said, “I am Your Honor or Judge. I am not ma’am.”

The pro per replied, “Yes, ma’am.” :smack:

If a witness or pro per had a religious barrier to referring to the judge as “Your Honor,” the person has two options. The Loach approach (say nothing), or to explain why you can’t say Your Honor and ask for options. The judge will figure something out.

I’m currently on jury duty in a Federal court and so far, only the attorneys have addressed the judge as “Your Honor” and as askeptic said they are doing it consistently (“May I approach the witness, your Honor?” whenever they have to take two steps forward to hand somebody a bit of paper, etc). I assume that since we are doing our civic duty we aren’t held to the same standard of behavior as the prosecution and defense who are Legal Professionals.

During jury selection everyone in the pool said “Sir” or didn’t use any honorifics when answering questions and that was evidently quite acceptable, he’s far more easy-going than I imagined a Federal judge would be.

I was also surprised to find that the jury are the last people to enter the courtroom and everybody (including the judge) stands until we are seated.

Generally, only the attorneys speak directly to the Judge in court. And they know enough to address the Judge as “Your Honor”.

Defendants, Plaintiffs, witnesses, etc. are typically not speaking to the Judge. And the Jury doesn’t usually ever speak in court, after they are selected to be jurors. (Except for giving their verdict, of course.)

So it would be rather unusual for any of these people to actually speak directly to the Judge, unless the Judge asked them something. And in that case, the Judge is more interested in their answer than what title they use, as long as they are respectful. If they are disrespectful in Court, they could certainly find themselves with contempt charges.

So the situation wouldn’t arise very often.

Even when I’ve gone through voir dire with a judge here in the U.S., I don’t recall ever addressing the judge as “Your honor” or anything. I think they phrase things so you don’t have to do that. Most of the time here in California, the judge asks you to answer a series of questions and then tells you to talk to the reporter.

that’s because, for the duration of the trial, you (with the judge) are the court. Spectators, lawyers and witnesses rise for the entrance of the court, and don’t sit down until the court is settled. Judges typically stand as the jurors come in and then sit down at the same time as the jury, so that the entire court is seated at the same time.

I happens much more often at the municipal court level which is where I have had most of my experience.

I’ve been a municipal court magistrate for just over four years. I think showing respect to the court is more important than using any particular “magic words,” especially if you’re not a lawyer yourself. I cut laypeople a lot of slack. but I expect lawyers to know how to conduct themselves. “Your Honor” or “Magistrate” are proper modes of address.

I’ve had Moslems who refused to rise when I entered the courtroom, and people of various faiths who affirmed rather than swore an oath before testifying. Doesn’t bother me. Freedom of religion is very important, and my ego is not so fragile that I will insist someone do something in my courtroom that is genuinely objectionable to them on religious grounds.

I’ve heard of sects who affirm rather than swear, but why would a Muslim refuse to rise?

I have used “Your Honor”, “Judge”, “Judge X”, “Sir” and “Ma’am” frequently in various courts for a number of years without any problem. I have never seen anyone chastised for how they address the court so long as it with respect. I have seen people get in trouble for calling a judge “Your Honor” when it was clear that there was a complete lack of respect.

Lifetime appointment tends to take the edge off of the job a bit. :smiley: Seriously, though, even the hardasses are pretty civil to the jury panels, because they know they’re there out of civic duty, and they want the experience to be as painless as possible.

I had to address a federal judge for my bankruptcy case a few weeks ago( I am not an attorney)
I slipped up and called him “sir” once instead of your honor. He either did not notice or did not care

On the jury panel I was on (L.A. County), the judge was a real sweetie, answering our (the jury’s) questions and requests promptly and friendly. And she was helpful to the witnesses (at least the non-expert witnesses), gently reminding them of any testimony rules they may of violated.

But she was a hard-ass when it came to the attourneys, chastizing them in front of us, scolding them with loud whispers at the sidebar, and even excused us once to give 'em a whooping (or so the bailiff told us). The attourneys always used “Your Honor” or “the Court”, and the judge didn’t accept even a hint of snarkiness.

Interestingly, “your honor” becomes a verbal filler for a lot of attorneys with less than stellar oral advocacy skills. Think of it as ‘sir’ and how often you might say that to a cop who has pulled you over (i.e. you’re on your best behavior). You’d pretty much only say it in response to a “yes or no” question or to get the cop’s attention (e.g. “Excuse me, sir.”). But with some lawyers it’s “your honor” this and “your honor” that.

You know, I’ve been in front of a lot of judges (many times as a lawyer :wink: ) and 90% have been real swell so long as I hadn’t done anything to legiti9mately warrant anger, but every now and then you get the douchebag who singles out the one person in the room who didn’t get up when he came in (maybe cause he had something in his lap and couldn’t get it out in time) and makes a scene. :frowning:

Pardon my ignorance, but what’s a “pro per”? prospective perpetrator? pro bono person?

If it please the Dope I would like to redirect the witness with a slight hijack. Is there a difference between being a magistrate where you are and a municipal court *judge * where I am? Is it just a matter of different terminology for the same position? Here a municipal court judge presides over traffic court, township ordinance violations and disorderly persons offenses (anything that is not an indictable crime). Does being a magistrate give you additional powers? All the municipal judges I know do it on a part time basis. They all practice law full time and sit on the bench one or two times a week. Is it the same for you?

Somebody with an idiot for a client

I kid, its an old joke.

Pro Per, is someone who represents themselves in court.

“Pro per” is short for “in propria persona,” which means something like “for one’s self”. A pro per is a litigant who is acting as his own attorney (hence askeptic’s old joke about a pro per having an idiot for a client).