December 5, 2002
Digest: A judge should not write a letter of reference for a person to aid the person’s fiancé in obtaining a visa to the United States.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinions 93-26 (Vol. XI); 93-12 (Vol. X).
A judge inquires as to the propriety of writing a letter of good character on behalf of her dog walker, to be submitted to the United States embassy in a foreign country. The apparent purpose of the letter is to aid the individual’s fiancé who is a foreign national, to obtain a visa to the United States. The judges does not know the fiancé.
Section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, prohibits a judge from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others. In the past, this Committee has advised that judges may in certain instances, write character recommendations where the prestige of judicial office is not compromised. See, e.g., Opinions 93-26 (Vol. XI); 93-12 (Vol. X). A necessary predicate for such opinions, however, is that the judge is writing on behalf of someone the judge knows well. The inquiry at issue appears to be aimed at obtaining a visa for someone the judge knows not know at all, even though the text of the letter would comment upon a person with whom the judge is familiar.
Under the circumstances, the opinion of the Committee is that the judge should not participate in the process by writing the letter requested.
To do so would be lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the fiancé, a person whom the judge does not know at all.