Opinion: 98-103
September 10, 1998
Digest:    Under the circumstances shown, a judge may write a letter of reference to the board of a co-operative building on behalf of an individual seeking an apartment.

Rule:    22 NYCRR 100 2(C)
            Opinion 93-12 (Vol. XIII)


            A judge inquires whether it is ethically permissible to write a letter of reference for an individual who is seeking an apartment in a co-operative building. Approval of the co-operative board is required. The letter of reference would relate to the individual's general character and would not address or evaluate the applicant's financial status. The individual is a person the judge has known for many years.

            Section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that "[a] judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of ... others ..".

            In many circumstances, but not in all, this rule does not automatically prohibit judges from writing letters of reference commenting on the good moral character of an applicant. See e.g., Opinion 93-12 (Vol. XIII) [applicant for license to practice acupuncture].

            Under the particular circumstances presented here, the Committee finds no ethical prohibition precluding the judge from writing the proposed letter of reference. It must, however, explicitly state that it is personal and unofficial.