Opinion 22-178


December 15, 2022


Question:          May a judge, who serves as a mentor at a law school, write a letter of recommendation in support of a mentee student’s application for permanent residence in the United States?



Discussion:        In prior opinions, the Committee has distinguished between a private situation in which a judge may write a letter of reference for a job applicant, and when a judge is asked to write a letter supporting an individual’s application to a government agency (see Opinion 14-33). We noted that in the latter situation, “much greater caution is needed to avoid creating an appearance that the judge is voluntarily testifying as a character witness or improperly lending the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests before a government agency” (id.; see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).


As the requested recommendation would be used to support an application to a government agency, the inquirer may not write such a letter for the mentee student. However, if the request for a reference came directly from the government agency, the judge would be allowed to send such a letter, as the Committee has found that such a direct request from a government agency can be treated “in the same manner as the judge would honor a subpoena” (Opinion 11-16).


Enclosed:          Opinions 14-33; 11-16.