Opinion 16-33

March 29, 2016

Please Note: This Opinion has been modified in part by Opinion 23-82, which states: "Prior opinions, including Opinion 10-175 and Opinion 16-33, are hereby modified as necessary to reflect that a judge may attend and participate in their child's parole hearing, provided they do so in the obvious role of a parent and without reference to their judicial status or otherwise invoking the prestige of judicial office."

Dear :

          This responds to your inquiry (16-33) asking if it is ethically permissible to write a letter of recommendation for a fourth degree of relationship family member who has a criminal case pending in another state. You state you would identify yourself solely as a family member with experience as a former prosecutor, former defense attorney, and former court attorney-referee in several courts. You would discuss only information based on personal knowledge and would not reveal your judicial status.

         In prior Opinions the Committee has advised that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit judges from providing character references, written or oral, on behalf of individuals who are the subject of proceedings involving alleged criminal or professional misconduct except when asked to do so directly by a tribunal, hearing officer, other governing body or official, or by subpoena. It is not sufficient that the individual involved or his/her legal representative requests the character reference.

         Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 10-188; 10-175; and 89-73 which address this issue.


                                       Very truly yours,

                                       George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice

                                       Appellate Division, First Dep’t (Ret.)

                                       Committee Chair