December 9, 1993
Digest: A judge may write a letter nominating an attorney whom the judge has known for several years through Bar Association activities for a position on the Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association.
Rules: 22NYCRR100.2(c), Canon 2B, Code of Judicial Conduct
A judge inquires whether it is permissible to write a nominating letter on behalf of an attorney seeking a position on the Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association. The judge states that the judge has known the attorney-applicant well for several years by virtue of working together on Bar Association activities.
Although section 100.2(c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator (22NYCRR100.2(c)) and Canon 2B of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from using the prestige of office to advance the private interests of others and from voluntarily testifying as a character witness, this Committee has previously opined that this rule does not prohibit, as a general matter, judges from writing appropriate letters of recommendation. (See, e.g., Opinion 88-10, Vol 1.)
Since this nominating letter is an appropriate letter of recommendation, it is the opinion of this Committee that it is permissible for the inquiring judge to write the letter, provided that the letter reflects the judge’s personal knowledge concerning the applicant. The letter may be written on judicial letterhead, provided that the words “Personal and Unofficial” are noted clearly on the stationery.