April 25, 1991
Digest: A judge may not provide a letter of reference relating to a law firm's performance in medical malpractice cases in advance, but if contacted directly by a municipal health and hospital corporation, may give an opinion about the law firm.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.2 (c)
A full-time judge advises that the judge has been requested by several law firms to forward a letter of reference concerning each law firm's performance in medical malpractice cases for submission to the municipal health and hospital corporation, which has required these law firms to attach five professional references, including references from members of the judiciary. The judge has also asked what action would be appropriate if the municipal health and hospital corporation were to contact the judge directly for an opinion concerning a law firm's performance.
Section 100.2 (c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides, in part, that, "No judge shall lend the prestige of his or her office to advance the private interests of others . . . No judge shall testify voluntarily as a character witness." This provision prohibits a judge from giving any type of reference, by way of letter or otherwise in advance, at the request of the law firm. However, if the municipal health and hospital corporation contacts the judge directly, the judge may give his or her opinion of the lawyer or law firm.