How to Write a Personal Reference Letter to a Judge for Someone on Trial

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If you have been asked to write a reference letter to a judge to discuss an individual’s character, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused. Your credibility letter will help the judge gauge that person’s character and it may play a role in determining the sentence she faces if she is convicted of the charges against her. Take time to write your recommendation letter to a judge with care to ensure that it accurately depicts the character of the person on trial.

Address the Judge Properly

When you write a reference letter to a judge, be sure to address the judge correctly. In a letter, the proper way to address a judge is by using his title. Instead of starting your letter with "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern," begin the credibility letter with Dear Judge [Surname].

Then, later in the letter, refer to the judge as Your Honor, if the letter requires you to address her directly.

State Your Relationship to the Person

In your vouch letter’s opening paragraph, state your relationship to the individual who is on trial. He might be a friend, a family member, a coworker or simply an acquaintance whose character you are qualified to discuss. In this paragraph, briefly state your profession and any relevant qualifications you hold, such as a degree in psychology or any experience working in the field relevant to the alleged offense. In this paragraph, you should also state how long you have known the person on trial.

Discuss the Issues Truthfully

In the next paragraph, truthfully discuss the individual’s experience with the issues related to the case. If he has gone to counseling or completed an anger management course, mention this fact in your letter. Discuss whether he has expressed remorse for his actions and how the charge has impacted his professional and social lives.

If there are relevant facts about his upbringing or current circumstances, include these in your letter as well. Relevant facts include: hardships he currently faces or has faced in the past; relationship challenges that might have put him into compromising positions that led to the charge; addiction and related difficulties he has faced; and any previous convictions on his record that could be related to the charge he currently faces.

Be Completely Honest

Embellishing the subject’s previous actions or characteristics in your vouch letter will not help her. In fact, it can backfire if the court finds you have submitted a letter that is not 100 percent truthful. In your letter, stick to objective facts and use observations you have made about the subject to illustrate her character.

For example, writing “Stacy is the sweetest, kindest person I’ve ever met” in your letter is not as effective a character reference as “In the years I have known her, Stacy has always been a pillar of her community through projects like Toys for Tots and volunteering at a local soup kitchen.”

Keep the Letter Concise

A reference letter to a judge does not have to be long. In fact, it should only be about one page in length. Keep this in mind when writing your vouch letter and use it as a guide when you edit redundant and irrelevant points out of the letter.

Once you have stated all your relevant points in the credibility letter, close it with a brief summary that emphasizes the letter’s primary points. Following this paragraph, close your letter with "Sincerely,” followed by your signature.

Read More: How to Write a Settlement Demand Letter


  • Make sure to proofread your letter for grammar and spelling mistakes before you send it to the judge.

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