December 13, 2001
Digest: Under the circumstances presented, the inquiring judge may serve as a reference for an attorney who is seeking employment with a law firm that does not appear before the judge's court, and is located outside the jurisdiction of the judge's court.
22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinions 96-32 Vol. XIV); 88-53 (Vol. II); 88-10 (Vol.I).
A judge asks whether it is ethically permissible for the judge to serve as a reference for an attorney seeking employment with a law firm located in another community. The attorney represented a party during a trial over which the judge presided.
A judge is prohibited from lending ". . . the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of . . . others. . . ." 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). In past opinions, the Committee has concluded that this rule does not preclude a judge from writing a letter of recommendation on behalf of a law school or job applicant (Opinion 88-10 [Vol. I]) or of an attorney who seeks admission to the 18-B panel (Opinion 96-32 [Vol. XIV]). The Committee has concluded, however, that a judge should not write a letter of reference on behalf of a law student for summer employment with a District Attorney who constantly appears before the judge, but may allow the law student to identify the judge as someone who can serve as a reference. The judge could recommend the law student with a "To Whom It May Concern" letter. Opinion 88-53 (Vol. II). In the present inquiry, the judge indicates that the prospective employer is located in another geographic location that is not within the jurisdiction of the court in which the judge presides and, presumably, does not appear in the judge's court. Under the circumstances, the Committee believes that the inquiring judge may serve as a reference for the attorney.