March 23, 2016
This responds to your inquiry (16-18) asking if it is ethically permissible to be a character reference for a court intern who has applied for a pistol permit.
A judge must avoid impropriety and its appearance in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Thus, a judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
With these principles in mind, the Committee previously advised a judge, who also is a practicing attorney, not to write a reference letter to a sheriff to support a long-time client’s pistol permit application, even if the judge did not use his/her judicial stationery (see Opinion 95-33). Nor should a part-time town justice be a character reference for a friend applying for a pistol permit (see Opinion 10-17). In either circumstance, the judge would risk the appearance that he/she is lending the prestige of judicial office to advance another’s private interests.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 10-17 and 95-33 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)