Writing a letter to a judge implies that legal are issues involved, so it is important to get it right. If your son’s father is up for sentencing, for instance, you might be asked for a character reference. Letters help the court better understand the prisoner as a person.
Regardless of the reason, when you are writing a letter to a judge, your task is to stick to the facts and present the information in a clear, concise way. Writing a draft is a good way to start, because then you can put it aside for a little while, come back to it and revise. Remember that all letters to judges must be handled through a lawyer. If you are not used to typing, hand-write the draft.
Make Notes and Compose a Draft
Jot Down the Key Points to Cover
Jot down the points you want to cover in your letter. Think about the things you want to say and then give an example. If you say your son's father is "hard working," for instance, give a concrete illustration, such as how he works overtime to help support the family: "James often works overtime at the factory to help pay the family bills."
Be Direct and State Your Purpose
Be direct from the start. State your purpose. For example: “I am writing a character reference for James Bowden, the father of my 6-year-old son, Berton.” Think about what you want to say about your son's father before you write the next sentence. Refer to your list if you aren't sure.
Describe Your Relationship With Your Son's Father
State how long you have know your son’s father and whether you are living together in your introductory paragraph. Indicate why you are qualified to write about him. Finish your introduction by outlining the topics are you going to cover in the remainder of your letter.
Add a Paragraph About Each Topic
Start a new paragraph about the first topic you mentioned at the end of your introductory paragraph. For example, if you said, "I'd like to tell you a little about James' difficult upbringing, his remorse over this crime and how dedicated he is to his family," start with a paragraph about James' childhood. Each topic should be a new paragraph. When you finish writing about your son's father's childhood, for instance, start a new paragraph about his remorse over the crime.
Fill in Examples and Details
Fill in examples and details to support your statements. If, as an example, you wrote about how guilty your son’s father feels about robbing the local store, describe how he expressed it. Something like, "James burst into tears when he told me about robbing the store, and he said he still has trouble sleeping," lets the judge know the individual feels remorseful.
End on a Positive Note
Sum up the points you raised in the concluding paragraph and end on a positive note. For example, you could end with: "In summary, I want to say that I hope my letter gives you a better picture and understanding of my son's father." Offer to provide additional information, should the court request it.
Review Your Draft
Check the draft of your letter against all the points you jotted down to make sure you didn't forget anything. Then set it aside for a few hours, perhaps even a day. When you take it out again, check to make sure you have made all the points you wanted to make, and that you have been clear and to the point.
Revise and Type Your Letter
Type Your Letter on a Fresh Sheet of Paper
Type your letter on a fresh sheet of paper. Use the block format. According to the Writing Center, the block format is ideal for business letters. Each part of the letter starts flush left, meaning the first line of the text is not indented. The parts of a business letter are: return address, date, inside address, salutation (also known as the greeting), body of the letter and closing. Make sure you don’t leave any parts out.
Add the Address Information
Type your postal address in the top left-hand corner. Leave a blank line and type in the date. Leave another blank line and type in the inside address. This is the address to which you are sending the letter, the same as goes on the envelope. Leave a blank line, and then put in the salutation, or greeting.
If you know the name of the presiding judge, use it. Write “Dear Judge Smithers,” for example. Note that there is a comma after the name. If you don’t know the judge's name, write “To the Presiding Judge:”. If you use the latter format, note there is a colon after it.
Add the Content of the Letter
Leave a blank line after the salutation. Then type in the body of your letter, using your draft as a guide. Type the introduction, the paragraphs about your son's father, and your conclusion. Leave a blank line at the end.
Conclude the Letter
Close the letter with “Sincerely,” or “Yours sincerely,” followed by a comma. Leave three or four spaces to give you room to sign your name when you type the letter and then add your name.
Maintain a professional tone at all times. When you are writing to a judge, keep emotion out of your letter and use easy-to-understand language.
Avoid over-the-top praise. Phrases such as "the best ever" and "the most" should not appear in your letter.
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