October 29, 1982
This is in response to your letter inquiring whether you may write a letter of recommendation to the Clemency Board and the Board of Bar Examiners on behalf of an individual seeking a pardon and admission to the Bar Exam. In essence, you are asking whether you may voluntarily furnish favorable information on behalf of an individual whose rights are being adjudicated by administrative bodies.
Of the seven members of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges who responded, all were of the opinion this proposed conduct is prohibited by Canon 2B. This view is consistent with our Opinions numbered 77-17 and 75-6.
As noted in Opinion 75-6, the prohibition of Canon 2B is "limited to investigatory or adjudicatory proceedings either of an administrative, civil, or criminal nature where a person's legal rights, duties, privileges or immunities are ultimately involved.
In Opinion 75-22, the Committee ruled a judge could properly reply to an inquiry from a probation officer doing a pre-sentence investigation. Likewise, it is proper to respond to an inquiry from the United States Army Judge Advocate, Opinion 77-10.
In summary, a judge can write letters of recommendation, but may not write a voluntary character reference on behalf of persons involved in investigatory or adjudicatory proceedings, where legal rights,, duties, privileges or immunities are ultimately determined. On the other hand, there is no prohibition against judges furnishing information in response to official inquiry.
James T. Carlisle, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court
Mr. Mark Hulsey, Chairman, Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission
Linda H. Yates, Managing Editor, Florida Bar Journal
Hon. Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel of the Judicial Conference of the U.S.
All references to the inquiring judge deleted