Rochester, NY – The Court of Appeals decided Tuesday that Rochester City Judge Leticia Astacio must be paid her $187,200 salary as she appeals having her judgeship stripped from her.
Astacio has has until May 24 to tell the court if she plans to challenge having her judgeship stripped from her, and it appears that she will continue to be paid more money the longer she draws out the process.
The state of New York’s Commission on Judicial Conduct stripped Judge Astacio of her judgeship on April 24.
The decision to finally remove Astacio from the bench came more than two years after her initial drunk driving arrest on Feb. 16, 2016.
Since that time, the judge has continued to draw her salary – even receiving a raise bump up to $187,200 recently – while her defiant antics, smug demeanor, and arrogant outbursts have been commonplace during her multiple appearances in relation to violations of her sentence.
“Faith in the courts requires all judges to respect and comply with the law, to preside fairly and without even the appearance of bias, and to obey court orders when they themselves are litigants," said commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian at a press conference on Tuesday. "Regrettably, Judge Astacio failed to uphold each of these principles."
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that a series of lapses in judgment and a drunken driving conviction contributed to the commission's final decision.
This was the first time Commission on Judicial Conduct has removed a judge from the bench for a drunken-driving conviction, but the commission said that Astacio’s problems extended far beyond her 2016 misdemeanor.
"There are no external factors creating this," Commission Deputy Commissioner John Postel told commission members when recommending the 36-year-old Astacio be stripped of her judgeship, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
"There is no one else to blame here. This is the result of what she did, and the choices she made and what this says to the public is this judge is unfit and you should have no confidence in her,” Postel said.
Astacio can appeal the commission’s decision to the Court of Appeals; however, the commission’s decision didn’t even take into account her most recent shenanigans, which involved felony charges for attempting to buy a firearm she was prohibited from having from two different Dick’s Sporting Goods stores.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that Astacio started making questionable courtroom decisions and comments as soon as she took the bench in 2015, all of which ultimately played into the commission’s decision to remove her.
She arraigned a defendant whom she knew, rather than recusing herself as would have been appropriate. Astacio had represented the man when she was a defense lawyer. She was worried his case could go to a judge who was tougher than she was.
Astacio told a jaywalker in her courtroom that if there were no laws, she would “run [jaywalkers] over because it’s disrespectful,” the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that she told a deputy to “tase” or “shoot” or “punch… in the face” a 16-year-old girl who was resisting being brought into her courtroom.
Astacio also laughed when an attorney representing a man accused of sexual misconduct said the alleged victim had “buyer’s remorse.” The prosecutor objected to the attorney’s comment and Astacio asked “You didn’t think that was funny?”
The former judge told WHEC-TV in an interview outside her home that the voters’ will was subverted by the commission.
Astacio was asked if she thought her removal was racially-motivated and she responded with a rant.
“Do you?” she asked the off-screen reporter. “You are a black woman. I’m asking you, baby girl. Do you? Because there has not one judge that has ever been removed from the bench for DWI including judges that pissed on cop cars, including judges that tried to take police officers’ guns, including judges that have been arrested repeatedly while in their cars drunk and asleep.”
“Including judges – the last judge we had in Monroe County - got a DWAI [Driving While Ability Impaired] and got a DWI while his case was pending and continued to stay on the bench and hear cases. Do you?” she ranted at the reporter.
Astacio told reporters that if she’d known what would happen as a result of her trip to Thailand, she wouldn’t have gone. She said that she was being persecuted because she hadn’t gone away quietly like other judges had.
She became combative and chewed out the reporters for more than 20 minutes outside her home for having published her address information.
Astacio blamed them for the “media firestorm” that has caused people to say “ridiculous, crazy heinous things” without consideration for the fact she’s a human being with feelings.