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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-30 (June 27, 2013)
Recommendations; Sentencing Proceeding
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.10 & 3.3
May a Judicial Official provide a letter of reference for a long-time friend in connection with a federal sentencing hearing?

Additional Facts: The Judicial Official was not subpoenaed, but rather asked by defense counsel to provide a letter of reference.

Response: Rule 1.2 requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  Rule 1.3 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 2.10 (a) of the Code states that a judge “shall not make any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court or make any non-public statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.
Rule 3.3 of the Code states as follows:

A judge shall not testify as a character witness in a judicial, administrative, or other adjudicatory proceeding or otherwise vouch for the character of a person in a legal proceeding, except when duly summoned.
The Comment to the foregoing Rule states as follows:
A judge who, without being duly summoned, testifies as a character witness abuses the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of another.  See Rule 1.3.  Except in unusual circumstances where the demands of justice require, a judge should discourage a party from requesting the judge to testify as a character witness.

Based upon the facts provided, and in particular that the Judicial Official has not been subpoenaed but rather asked to voluntarily provide a letter of reference in connection with a criminal sentencing, the Committee unanimously determined that providing a letter of reference to.the sentencing judge in a criminal case was specifically prohibited by Rule 3.3 and generally prohibited by Rules 1.2, 1.3 and 2.10(a).

Committee on Judicial Ethics



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