A member of the Bar has asked several judges to send recommendation letters to a screening committee for judicial appointments, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether a judge can write such a letter without violating the Canons of Judicial Conduct.
In Opinion No. 9, in responding to a closely similar question, attention was directed to Canon 1 which provides that:
Judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities.
Rules 1.3 and 2.4(C) provide, in part, as follows:
Rule 1.3 Respecting the Prestige of Judicial Office
Judges shall not lend the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.
Rule 2.4 External Influences on Judicial Conduct
(C) Judges shall not convey or enable others to convey the impression that any person or organization is in a position to influence the judge.From this it is clear that, if the letters are sought primarily by reason of the prestige of the judicial office, then the requested letters of recommendation from members of the judiciary violate Canon 1 and would be inappropriate. On the other hand, if the letters are sought, not primarily for that reason, but because of the peculiar opportunity of those from whom such letters are being sought to know and to recommend the applicant, then such recommendations would not constitute a violation of Canon 1. For that reason, the letters of recommendation sought in this instance would not, in the opinion of the Commission, constitute a violation of Canon 1.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.4(C), 2.13(A)(2), 3.7(A)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #9, #30, #64.]