2012-27 (September 21, 2012)
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.11 & 4.1
May a Judicial Official provide a letter of recommendation directly to the Office of the Chief Public Defender for an attorney who is applying for a supervisory public defender position?
Additional Facts: The Judicial Official knows the attorney and has personal knowledge of his/her qualifications. The attorney does not currently appear before the Judicial Official, nor does the Judicial Official anticipate that the appointment of the attorney to the position sought would result in the attorney appearing before the Judicial Official in the future. The Judicial Official and the attorney are not relatives.
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”
Rule 1.3 of the Code states that a judge “shall not use or attempt to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.” The Commentary to Rule 1.3 states, in relevant part, as follows:
(2) A judge may provide a reference or recommendation for an individual based on the judge’s personal knowledge. The judge may use official letterhead if the judge indicates that the reference is personal and if the use of the letterhead would not reasonably be perceived as an attempt to exert pressure by reason of judicial office.
Although the recommendation is in connection with government employment, the Committee holds the opinion that the proposed activity does not involve inappropriate political activity under Rule 4.1. Therefore, based upon the information provided and consistent with the Committee’s prior opinions, the Committee determined that the Judicial Official may provide a letter of recommendation to the Office of the Chief Public Defender, subject to the following conditions:
(1) The applicant is not a relative within the meaning of the Code or General Statutes § 51-39a;
(2) The recommendation should be based on the Judicial Official’s personal knowledge of the applicant’s qualifications and be specific to the position sought (see Rule 1.3 comment 2; JE 2008-26);
(3) If the recommendation is furnished in writing on official letterhead, the Judicial Official should indicate that the recommendation constitutes the Judicial Official’s personal opinion of the applicant’s qualifications (see Rule 1.3 comment 2); and
(4) If anticipated circumstances change such that the applicant appears before the Judicial Official within a reasonable period of time following the issuance of the recommendation, the Judicial Official should consider whether disclosure or disqualification may be warranted in accordance with Rule 2.11.