April 21, 2005
Digest: A judge should not write a letter at the request of a court employee facing disciplinary charges attesting to the employee’s good character, work ethic and job performance.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinions 88-63 (Vol. II); 90-156 (Vol. VI); 95-75 (Vol. XIII); 99-101 (Vol. XVIII).
A judge asks whether, at the request of a court interpreter facing disciplinary charges, the judge may write a letter attesting to the interpreter’s “good character, work ethic and job performance.”
Section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that “A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.” In applying that provision, this Committee has held that voluntarily writing such a letter in a professional disciplinary matter would be tantamount to testifying as a character witness. Nor should a judge lend the prestige of judicial office to support the private interests of others. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). Opinion 90-156 (Vol. VI); see also, Opinions 99-101 (Vol. XVIII); 95-75 (Vol. XIII); 88-63 (Vol. II). However, the judge may provide such a letter in response to an official inquiry from a hearing officer or the disciplinary authority; and, of course, the judge would be obligated to respond to a subpoena requiring the judge to testify, should one be issued by a party. Opinion 88-63 (Vol. II)