March 9, 2006
Digest: (1) A judge may provide a letter of recommendation for a prospective law student that reflects the judge’s opinion of the applicant’s prior history or character. (2) A judge may serve as parliamentarian during the annual, statewide convention of a not-for-profit religious organization, provided the convention is not a fund-raising event.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(a), (C)(3)(b)(i),(ii); Opinion 88-10 (Vol. I).
A judge asks whether it is ethically permissible for the judge to (i) write a letter of recommendation to the Law School Admission Council on behalf of a student applying to law school and (ii) to serve as Parliamentarian at the annual, statewide convention of a not-for-profit religious organization.
Pursuant to section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge is prohibited from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests others and from testifying voluntarily as a character witness. In Opinion 88-10 (Vol. I), this Committee advised that a judge does not violate this rule by providing a recommendation for a prospective law student, as long as the recommendation reflects the judge’s opinion, based on the judge’s personal knowledge (Opinion 93-129 [Vol. XI]), of the applicant’s prior history or character. In addition, the judge may use his/her judicial stationery to convey the recommendation, provided the judge includes the phrase “Personal and Unofficial.”
A judge also is permitted to serve as an officer, director, or non-legal advisor of a not-for-profit religious organization, if the organization will not be regularly engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge, or, if the judge is a full-time judge, will not be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(a). A judge who is otherwise permitted to serve in such capacity, however, is prohibited from engaging in any fund-raising activities on the organization’s behalf. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i), (ii).
In the Committee’s view, a Parliamentarian is not a legal advisor, and section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules does not prohibit a judge from serving in that capacity. The inquiring judge, therefore, may serve as Parliamentarian during the annual statewide convention of a not-for-profit religious organization, provided that the convention is not a fund-raising event.