February 24, 1989
Topic: Propriety of judge writing a character reference on behalf of a former law clerk in connection with the law clerks’ plea bargain arrangement.
Digest: A judge should not write a character reference at the request of a criminal defendant.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(c)
A judge has been requested by his former law clerk to write a character reference for submission to the district attorney in connection with the law clerk’s plea bargain in a criminal proceeding.
Section 100.2(c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that “no judge shall testify voluntarily as a character witness.” A judge’s voluntary character reference on behalf of a criminal defendant would violate this provision and would create an appearance of impropriety. Accordingly, the judge should not write the character reference for his former law clerk. Such judicial communication should be restricted to requests for information by an appropriate agency with respect to sentencing.