NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONProfessional
Ethics Committee Opinion
Opinion #164 - 10/09/1970 (50,
Topic: Letterhead, Advertising
Digest: A lawyer who holds public office and engage; in private
practice may not show public office on letterhead used in private
Code: DR 2-102 (A) (4); Canon Judicial Ethics: 31
Where a lawyer who holds the position of city judge or district
attorney is also permitted private practice, may he properly set forth
such position on the letterhead which he uses in private practice?
Under DR 2-102 ( A)( 4) of the Code of Professional Responsibility a
lawyer shall not use letterheads except "A letterhead of a lawyer
identifying him by name and as a lawyer, and giving his addresses,
telephone numbers, the name of his law firm and associates and any
information permitted under DR 2-105," the last referring to specialties
Under the former Canons it was ruled that a lawyer's letterhead
should not state that he had been States Attorney or judge. [Unreported
Decisions A.B.A. Nos. 118, 119. "A lawyer's letterhead should not
...show ...any public office he has held or is holding." Wise, Legal
Ethics, 146 (2nd ed. 1970). Also Drinker, Legal Ethics, 229 (1953).]
Where a judge or district attorney is permitted private practice,
while it may be helpful to show his public office on his letterhead so
as to indicate the limitations of his practice, such act is also subject
to being construed as an advertisement and self touting or as an
exercise of improper pressure because of his position.
Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics emphasizes this in respect
to a judge.
"In such cases one who practices law is in a position of great
delicacy and must be scrupulously careful to avoid conduct in his
practice whereby he utilizes or seems to utilize his judicial position
to further his professional success.
It is the Committee's opinion that in a letterhead used for private
practice, it is improper to show a present or former public office held
by the lawyer.