Opinion: 99-07

April 9, 1999


Dear Judge:

         This is in response to your inquiry (99-07), in which you ask whether you are ethically permitted to write a letter on behalf of a prison inmate who is seeking release on parole. The individual is someone whom you knew many years ago. You had no involvement as a judge or otherwise with the legal process leading to his imprisonment. The request for a letter of support is from the inmate’s correction counselor who appears to be an employee of the Department of Corrections.

         It is our view that the requested letter of support should not be sent. Although the Committee has previously advised that a judge may respond to a request from a public agency, in the nature of a request for character evaluation, the letter to you does not appear to fall within that category. That is, the counselor is not acting as the agent of the body that will be making the determination of whether the inmate should be released. Rather, the counselor’s role is more akin to that of an advocate on behalf of the inmate. To respond, under such circumstances, would be lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the prisoner, which is prohibited under section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. We therefore advise that you not send the letter requested.

                                                                     Very truly yours,


                                                                     Thomas P. Flaherty

                                                                     Justice of the Supreme Court


                                                                     George D. Marlow

                                                                     Dutchess County Court Judge