Dr. Jill Biden?; Then Why Not Dr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq.

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Dr. Jill Biden?; Then Why Not Dr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq.; Lawyers Also Earn Doctorates, At Least Now

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Jill Biden Should Stop Employing The Honorific "Dr."

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 14, 2020) - An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that Jill Biden should stop employing the honorific "Dr." (including @DrBiden) - because the use of "Dr." by anyone other than a medical doctor feels "fraudulent," "pathetic," "bush league," and "even comic" - has created widespread outrage at the suggestion.

Northwestern, where she has taught for many years, objected to his "misogynistic views," and the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris complained that it "would never have been written about a man,"

But since lawyers also earn doctorate degrees, should we have to start addressing, and referring to all of them in print, as "Dr." - for example as "Dr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq." - asks public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has a Doctor of Jurisprudence [J.D.] degree he received after studying for three years at Columbia Law School.

The Title Issue

The entire issue is a murky one which at times has involved titles, history, and gender, he says, citing the following as background about the debate involving Jill Biden but without taking a position.

  • Even those who earned a genuine medical doctoral degree weren't always referred to by the title "doctor." That title was often reserved only for males in the medical profession, with women sometimes addressed or referred to as "doctress" (presumably similar to actress, waitress, songstress, etc.). As a professor at the New England Female Medical College once explained, "ladies of the profession . . . should have a title exclusively their own" that would not cause "inconvenience and many annoyances."
  • Interestingly, medical doctors apparently (at least in many movies and TV programs) frequently use "doctor" in referring to each other, For example, Dr. Smith might say, even in casual conversation: "Doctor Jones, meet Dr. Green." But, claims Banzhaf, attorneys generally don't use any such titles, at least in casual conversation. I would not refer to my co-counsel in a law suit as "Dr. Smith" or "Lawyer Smith" or even "Attorney Smith," he suggests.
  • Originally, those who attended law school for three years, after obtaining a basic bachelor degree from a four-year university, typically received only another bachelor degree upon graduating and going on to practice their profession. It was called a Bachelor of Laws [L.L.B. or LL.B, Legum Baccalaureus], although some law schools offered both a LL.B and J.D. degree at the time. Thus once most lawyers didn't even have a doctoral degrees.
    Beginning in the mid-1960s, law schools began changing the name of this initial 3-year degree from an LL.B. to a doctoral degree: Juris Doctorate or Doctor of Jurisprudence [J.D. or JD]. Most law schools eventually made the change retroactive. Indeed, Banzhaf recalls that the degree he received from Columbia Law School was originally an LL.B., but Columbia upgraded it (for a nominal printing charge) to a J.D. degree several years later.
  • Traditionally, attorneys have not used the title "Dr." or "Doctor" to refer to themselves and to members of their profession, but rather have used the suffix "Esq." to designate individuals as lawyers. But as the New York Times noted, as late as the mid-1970s, there was confusion as to whether "Esq." could be used in referring to female attorneys, since the term "Esquire" originally referred to a knight's attendant, or members of the English landed gentry, whose gender is "clearly male and should apply only to men."

Some lawyer agreed. As one lawyer explained, "strident demands for tortuous revision of the English language cannot change this fact of history” - the term “esquire” was a “title of chivalry” and therefore could be used only by a man. Moreover, at the time, the Oxford English Dictionary refers to a female esquire as an “esquiress.”

At that time, even organizations of lawyers disagreed. The policy of the New York State Bar Association was to use "Esq." to refer only to males, whereas the Association of the Bar of the City of New York extended the title to any member who wants it. But the state bar group said that men had always been “Esq.” and women had been addressed as “Attorney.”

Rudy Giuliani, Esq.

In any event, there seems to be general agreement that no one should ever use the combination ("Dr." and "Esq." together) as in "Dr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq." any more than they should use "Mr. Rudy Giuliani, Esq. " The correct usage would be "Rudy Giuliani, Esq." or, if one follows Dr. Jill Biden's lead, "Dr. Rudy Giuliani," explains Banzhaf.

By the way, many publications follow AP style, which dictates that "Dr." should not be used for academic credentials in news articles.

Also, most attorneys who appear on TV news and discussion programs, male as well as female, are not referred to as "Dr."