Opinion: 99-54

March 11, 1999

Digest: A judge may allow a nursing home to post a letter from the judge on its bulletin board, thanking the staff for the care rendered to the judge's late mother.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.2(C).


            The inquiring judge's mother died after spending more than a year in a local nursing home. The judge "was profoundly impressed by the way the staff treated her and all of the other residents at the home. As a result I wrote each member of the staff a very complimentary letter thanking them for the wonderful care they gave to my mother."

            Written on court stationery and bearing the designation "PERSONAL, UNOFFICIAL & CONFIDENTIAL," the letter was also sent to the director. The director contacted the judge and stated that "they like to post letters like this on their house bulletin board because it is good for staff morale."

            The judge asks whether it is ethically appropriate to allow the posting of the letter on the house bulletin board, it being understood that the letter would not be used in any way during interviews of families of prospective residents.

            On the facts presented, the Committee does not believe it is inappropriate or ethically improper to allow the posting of the letter. The judge fully understands that it would be improper to allow the letter to be used as part of any promotion of the facility. To do so would violate section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which forbids the lending of the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others. But that danger is not present in this instance, given that the letter is not being distributed to prospective residents or to the public but is simply being made available for viewing by employees at the home. Under such circumstances, the judge may allow its posting on the nursing home's bulletin board.