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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-32 (Emergency Staff Opinion issued June 24, 2013)
Recommendations; Disclosure/Disqualification;
Rules 1.2, 1.3 & 2.11
 
Issue:
May a Judicial Official authorize an Executive Branch employee to include the name of the Judicial Official on the employee’s resume/letter of application for a position at another Executive Branch agency?
 
Additional Facts: The Judicial Official has personal knowledge of the employee and his/her qualification for the position.  The employee is not a relative, as defined in C.G.S. § 51-39a or the Code of Judicial Conduct.  The employee’s current agency regularly appears before the Judicial Official in adversarial proceedings and the employee regularly appears before the Judicial Official or prepares records for use by a co-worker who appears before the Judicial Official.
 
Response: The inquiry was circulated to the Committee members and input solicited.  Rule 1.2 of the Code states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … 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.
 
Rule 2.11 states, in relevant part, that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 
 
The propriety of furnishing a letter of recommendation or serving as a reference for employment purposes has been addressed by the Committee in numerous prior opinions.  See JE 2008-01, JE 2008-03, JE 2008-26, JE 2009-08, JE 2009-13, JE 2011-01, JE 2011-18A & 18B, JE 2011-19 and JE 2012-27. 
 
In general, this Committee has concluded that a Judicial Official may provide references or recommendations subject to the following conditions:
 
(1) The recommendation should be based on personal knowledge of the applicant’s qualifications (see Rule 1.3 comment 2);
 
(2) The applicant is not a relative within the meaning of the Code or General Statutes § 51-39a;
 
(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 (see Rule 1.3 comment 2);
 
(4) Persons/entities receiving the recommendation do not have cases pending before the Judicial Official at the time the recommendation is provided or for a reasonable period of time after the submission of the letter of recommendation; however, in JE 2012-27, the Judicial Official was permitted to provide a letter of recommendation for an applicant for a supervisory position in the Office of Public Defender Services even though the Public Defenders appeared before the Judicial Official, although the applicant did not appear and was not likely to appear if he or she received the new position;
 
(5) If the Judicial Official believes that recusal would be required in order to comply with condition (4) because his or her fairness would be impaired, and that recusal is likely to be frequent, the Judicial Official should not provide the letter of recommendation;
 
(6) The letter should be specific to the position being sought (see JE 2008-26);
 
(7) The Judicial Official may not provide a recommendation in adversarial proceedings (see JE 2008-15);
 
(8) The Judicial Official may not provide a recommendation in connection with government employment that might suggest inappropriate political activity, but may be listed as a reference (see JE 2009-13 & JE 2011-19).
 
Based upon the information provided, and in particular that the employee or his or her agency regularly appear before the Judicial Official in adversarial proceedings, consistent with Rules 1.2, 1.3 and 2.11, the Judicial Official was advised that the Judicial Official should not consent to the use of his or her name as a reference.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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