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Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts
You have requested an opinion from this Committee as to whether the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts would permit you to write a character reference letter on behalf of a court employee in connection with disciplinary proceedings brought against the employee. Although a disciplinary hearing already has been held at the Administrative Office of the Trial Court, you have indicated that the Committee's opinion may still be of assistance. You have provided the following information.
You are the Clerk Magistrate of the _______ District Court. A court employee has been suspended after an incident in a different District Court. You personally did not observe the incident. You have worked with the suspended employee in the past, although you currently do not work together. You have been asked to write a character letter to support the employee, for the employee's use in connection with a disciplinary proceeding. You state that your letter will consist of your personal observations formed during the times you observed this worker during court sessions.
It is the opinion of this Committee that the Code does not prohibit you from writing a character reference letter for the employee. As the Committee previously stated in Opinion 97-6 , "Unlike the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts contains no prohibition on a Clerk-Magistrate voluntarily testifying as a character witness". It is our view that, like oral testimony, the letter of support you contemplate writing is not prohibited by the Code.
As a practical matter, it might be advisable to inquire as to whether your official character testimony will be accepted by the hearing officer before you write your letter.