March 11, 1999
A judge may write a letter to local governmental agencies and officials
in support of an upgrade in the civil service classification of probation
22 NYCRR 104(C)(1);
Opinion 96-41 (Vol. XIV).
A judge inquires as to the propriety of writing a letter to the County Personnel Department, the County's Chief Executive, and the Chairman of the County Legislature, supporting an upgrade in the civil service classification of probation officers. The judge has been approached by the Probation Officers' Association seeking the judge's support.
In the opinion of the Committee, the sending of such a letter may be likened to an appearance before an executive or legislative body or official on a matter concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. An appearance at a public hearing on such matters is specifically allowed under section 100.4(C)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(1). Applying that section to an inquiry from a judge's association concerning the sending of a letter to legislators in support of proposed legislation affecting the deferred-compensation of non-judicial employees of the Unified Court System, the Committee, in Opinion 96-41 (Vol. XIV), concluded that such legislation "concerns the administration of justice so that it would not be improper for a judge's association to publicly support proposed legislation in that area." Opinion 96-41 (Vol. XIV).
In our view the same result is called for in the instant matter. An elevation in civil service status could arguably allow a probation department to retain officers for a longer period of time and might well attract more qualified applicants. Such factors directly affect the court system and the administration of justice. A letter in support of the proposal, therefore, is not ethically improper.