State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 92-17
Does the Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2 permit a judicial officer to write a letter for the adult child of a family friend which would be used in the sentencing of the adult child in a federal court proceeding?
The following representations were made to the Committee: 1) the letter would be written on plain paper and the judicial title would not be used in the letter; 2) the letter would be addressed "To Whom It May Concern"; 3) the letter would be based on the judicial officer's personal observations of the family and the family's reputation in the community; and 4) the letter would be given to the adult child's attorney.
A judicial officer may not write a letter in connection with the sentencing of the adult child of a family friend. Writing such a letter, even under the conditions outlined above, creates an appearance of impropriety, lends the prestige of the office to advance the private interests of others and is analogous to voluntarily testifying as a character witness in judicial proceedings and therefore, is prohibited by CJC Canon 2.
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