December 9, 2021
This responds to your inquiry (21-130) asking if you may write a letter in support of a court clerk’s request for promotion within the court system, based on personal knowledge.
We have said a judge with relevant personal knowledge may, at the request of a job applicant, write a letter of reference for the applicant. If the judge uses judicial letterhead, it must be marked “Personal and Unofficial.” The judge should abide by generally applicable cautions and limitations as set forth in Opinion 10-07 and should not recommend that the recipient hire, accept or appoint the applicant. The judge should limit their comments to the judge’s personal knowledge of the applicant’s professional performance; to the judge’s observations of the applicant’s qualities and abilities that are relevant to the position the applicant seeks; or to the judge’s opinion of a person’s character based on the judge’s observation; or the applicant’s work history if the judge has worked with the person or otherwise has reliable personal knowledge of the person’s expertise.
Here, too, we conclude you may write an employment reference letter in support of a court clerk’s request for promotion, subject to the same limitations.
We enclose Opinions 19-116, 15-173, 10-07, 05-29, 95-153, 93-26 and 90-46 for your convenience.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice