January 27 - 28, 2010
Digest: A part-time town justice may not serve voluntarily as a character reference for a friend who is applying for a pistol permit.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); Opinions 95-33 (Vol. XIII); 93-26 (Vol. XI).
A part-time town justice asks whether he/she may be a character reference for a friend applying for a pistol permit. The judge states that the application must include four letters of recommendation.
A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Therefore, a judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The Committee has advised that a judge who also is a practicing attorney should not write a reference letter to a sheriff to support a long-time client’s pistol permit application, even if the judge did not use his/her judicial stationery (see Opinion 95-33 [Vol. XIII]). In the Committee’s view, the judge would risk the appearance that he/she is lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the client’s private interests (see id.).
The present circumstances do not warrant a different result. Therefore, the inquiring judge also should not serve as a character reference for a friend who is applying for a pistol permit.