Opinion 21-177

December 16, 2021

Dear :


This responds to your inquiry (21-177) asking whether you may, at the request of an assistant district attorney who regularly appears before you, write a letter of recommendation in support of their application for employment as a federal prosecutor. 


We have previously advised that a judge may write a letter of reference for an attorney who has appeared before the judge regularly as assistant district attorney that is confined to the judge’s personal knowledge of the attorney’s professional performance (see Opinion 94-36; see also Opinions 19-118; 10-07).

As we observed in Opinion 10-07 (citations omitted):


a judge who provides a reference for a job, law school, or college applicant, or an applicant for an appointive position, should not recommend that the recipient hire, accept or appoint the applicant. Rather, the judge should limit his/her comments to his/her personal knowledge of the applicant’s professional performance; to the judge’s observations of the applicant’s qualities and abilities...relevant to the position the applicant seeks; or to the judge’s opinion of a person’s character based on the judge’s observations; or to the applicant’s work history if the judge has worked with the person or otherwise has reliable personal knowledge of the person’s expertise.


We also advised a judge may use his/her judicial stationery for such letter if the words “Personal and Unofficial” are noted clearly on the stationery (see Opinion 19-118; 17-134).


Therefore, subject to the limitations set forth in the opinions cited above, you may write a letter of reference for an attorney who regularly appears in your court and who is seeking other legal employment.


Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 19-118; 17-134; 10-07; 94-36; which address this issue.

                                               Very truly yours,

                                                 Margaret T. Walsh

                                                 Supreme Court Justice

                                                 Committee Co-Chair


                                                 Lillian Wan

                                                 Acting Supreme Court Justice

                                                 Committee Co-Chair