Opinion 98-57

May 8, 1998

Note: While the outcome of this opinion remains unchanged, please see Opinion 17-110 for a discussion of a judge’s ability to initiate, suggest, or facilitate a plea agreement in criminal cases.

Dear :

         The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has considered your inquiry (98-57), concerning the propriety of using certain letters issued by the District Attorney’s Office and distributed by your court advising defendants of their option to negotiate a plea by contacting the District Attorney and further describing the procedures necessary to effectuate a negotiated plea.

         Enclosed for your information is Opinion 96-132 in which this Committee concluded that courts should not be the agents for furnishing printed forms to defendants in Vehicle and Traffic Law cases, in which a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a reduced charge.

         The Committee has reviewed the forms attached to your inquiry and has concluded that they are similar to those forms addressed in Opinion 96-132. There fore, you and the court staff should not distribute these forms. However, similar forms advising defendants of the option to negotiate a plea may be distributed to the defendants by representatives of the District Attorney’s Office, in court or by mail.

                                                                        Very truly yours,


                                                                        Thomas P. Flaherty

                                                                        Justice of the Supreme Court



                                                                         George D. Marlow

                                                                         Dutchess County Court Judge