Opinion No. 222 (1998)

QUESTION: May a judge write a letter of recommendation for (1) a secretary in the office; (2) a prosecutor who is applying for a position with a law firm; (3) a fellow judge, who has made application for another judicial position?

ANSWER: Yes. Such letters may be written. The applicable section of the Code of Judicial Conduct is 2B. which states that a judge should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others. The commentary to Canon 2B of the ABA 1990 Model Code provides:

Although a judge should be sensitive to possible abuse of the prestige of office, a judge may provide a letter of recommendation based on the judge's personal knowledge. A judge also may permit the use of the judge's name as a reference, and respond to a request for a personal recommendation when solicited by a selection authority such as a prospective employer, judicial selection committee or law school admissions office. A judge may also provide information in response to a request from a sentencing judge or probation or corrections officer. The Committee is of the opinion that so long as letters are based on the judge's own personal knowledge and are written to a specific person the letters may be written. It is not appropriate for a judge to write a "to whom it may concern" letter because of the lack of knowledge by the judge as to its specific use.