May 9, 1988
Topic: Criminal court judge’s letter of recommendation to the District Attorney regarding a law student’s application for a summer-term appointment.
Digest: Criminal court judge may not initially recommend a law student for summer-term employment to the District Attorney, but may write a To Whom It May Concern letter of reference for the student, and may authorize the candidate to use the judge as a reference and may thereupon respond to an inquiry from the District Attorney.
Rules: Canon 2B of the Code of Judicial Conduct; Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, 22 NYCRR 33.2(c) ; Office of Court Administration Opinion 184.
An Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, New York County, who is permanently assigned to a Felony Criminal Term, asks whether he can send a letter of recommendation to the District Attorney of New York County regarding the application of a second year law student, whom he has known for many years, for a position in the District Attorney’s Office for the summer. The law student has requested a letter concerning her professional ability.
Canon 2(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct states:
A Judge should not allow his family, social, or other relationships to influence his judicial conduct or judgment. He should not lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others; nor should he convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence him. He should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
Section 33.2(c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Court [22 NYCRR] states:
No judge shall lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others, nor shall any judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence him. No judge shall testify voluntarily as a character witness.
As the Justice sits in Criminal Term of New York County, and the District Attorney’s Office constantly appears before him, the Justice’s letter of reference directed to the District Attorney in this case might appear to compromise the judge’s independence or impartiality and may seem coercive with respect to the District Attorney. The justice, however, may authorize the job candidate to use the justice as a reference, and may respond to a request by the District Attorney for information about the candidate. The justice may also recommend the candidate with a “To Whom It May Concern” letter that he provides to the candidate.
This opinion is advisory only and is not binding upon the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the Office of Court Administration.