How to Write an Absence Letter to a Judge

By Trudie Longren

Parties to a lawsuit or defendants in criminal cases are obligated by law to appear in court when summoned to a hearing. In a civil law suit, failure to appear can result in a default judgment. In criminal cases, a defendant can be detained if she fails to appear at a scheduled court date. When a party cannot appear at a scheduled court hearing, she must notify the judge in writing and request an adjournment of the court date. The request for adjournment must include the reasons for the anticipated absence.

Read the court rules regarding a request for adjournment. Each court has rules that govern the way to seek an adjournment. The judge's clerk can help you find the rules and can suggest how to inform the court of the absence.

Determine the reason for your anticipated absence from the court hearing. For example, if you must have emergency surgery, your absence will be explained by the fact that you will be in the hospital for a surgical procedure on the date of the court hearing. The judge exercises full discretion over whether your reason for absence will be accepted by the court.

Write a letter addressed to the court explaining why you are requesting an adjournment of the court date. The letter should be written on 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper and should have the name of the judge and the court house address. The letter should reference the names of the parties and docket number of your case, if available. You must also sign the letter.

Mail or hand deliver the letter to the court and notify the other parties in the case that you are requesting an adjournment by giving them a copy of the letter. There is no filing fee for the letter requesting an adjournment.

Await the decision of the court. The judge will consider your request and will notify the parties if the request is granted.

About the Author

Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.