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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2012-05 (March 1, 2012)
Recommendations; Rule 1.3
Issue: May a Judicial Official provide a letter of reference for an individual who has been independently nominated as a Youth of the Year by a 501(c)(3) organization?
Response: The facts presented included that the Judicial Official has personal knowledge of the youth from the Judicial Official’s involvement in non-judicial activities, that the youth is not a relative of the inquiring Judicial Official, that the youth is required to include references from the most influential adults in his or her life, and that the letter of recommendation should address, inter alia, the youth’s character, leadership and moral standards.

Rule 1.3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge may not use or allow others to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal interest of others. Comment (2) to Rule 1.3 provides that a judge may provide a letter of recommendation for an individual based on the judge’s personal knowledge of the individual, and it further provides that the judge may use official letterhead if the judge indicates that the reference is personal and if the use of judicial letterhead would not reasonably be perceived as an attempt to exert pressure by reason of the judicial office. Consistent with Rule 1.3 and Comment (2), the Committee determined that the requested letter would not constitute the use of the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal interests of another individual provided that the recommendation would be based upon the Judicial Official’s personal knowledge. Based upon the foregoing, the Committee unanimously determined that it was permissible for the Judicial Official to provide a letter of reference subject to the following conditions:

  1. The Judicial Official has personal knowledge of the youth’s qualifications that are relevant to the particular award;
  2. The youth is not, as noted in the inquiry, a relative within the meaning of the Code or C.G.S. § 51-39a;
  3. The Judicial Official indicates that the opinions expressed represent the personal opinions of the Judicial Official;
  4. Neither the youth nor the nominating organization currently are appearing before the Judicial Official nor did they or do they appear before the Judicial Official within a reasonable period, under the circumstances, of the submission of the letter of recommendation; and
  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.

Committee on Judicial Ethics



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