Rochester City Judge, Leticia D. Astacio [photo], could be formally removed, in 30 days if her appeal fails
A judge in upstate New York with a history of drunken antics and ans a string of official misconduct charges is on the verge of losing her job.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended that Rochester City Court Judge Leticia D. Astacio be removed from office this week after a series of incidents , including a stint in jail for driving while intoxicated, that “undermined trust” in the justice system.
Astacio had already been stripped of all her judicial duties by state court officials and earlier this month was suspended by the state’s highest court after she was arrested for trying to buy a gun while on probation.
Commission Chairman Joseph Belluck said: “Nobody, including a judge — is above the law,” in a statement.
“This unanimous decision from the commission sends a strong message that driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence, and that the penalties for judges who drink and drive will be severe.”
Astacio is in tears after she was sentenced to spend 60 days in jail with three years probation to follow after she failed to appear in court or provide a court-ordered alcohol test. She preferred a trip to Thailand, instead of appearing as ordered in May 2017
Judge Astacio has 30 days to appeal the commission’s ruling to the Court of Appeals before she is formally removed. Her attorney, Robert Julian, said Tuesday they are still reviewing the commission’s ruling.
Astacio, who had served on City Court since 2015, was convicted of drunken driving in August 2016 after she was found in her damaged car on the side of the road and tried to escape arrest by invoking her judicial office. She also used profane language in dealing with the responding officers.
After being sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, Astacio, within a few months, violated the terms of her sentence by attempting to start her car while testing positive for alcohol on the ignition interlock device.
In May 2017, she failed to provide a court-ordered alcohol test and appear in court as ordered. Instead, she was on a trip to Thailand. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years’ probation.
Leticia Astacio seen in a Rochester court during a probation violation hearing Nov 9, 2017, claims she has been unfairly targeted and exposed to ridicule
Commission officials also found Astacio guilty of misconduct while on the bench by failing to disqualify herself from the arraignment of a former client and making “discourteous, insensitive and undignified comments.”
In one instance, she told a sheriff’s deputy that he should “Tase,” “shoot” or “punch” a disruptive defendant “in the face.”
In another instance, Astacio laughed when a defense attorney in a sexual abuse case said the alleged victim had “buyer’s remorse” and she later said the comment was “freakin’ hilarious” even while acknowledging that the prosecutor was offended.
Observes say by themselves, these lapses in judgment may have earned Astacio a mild public rebuke. But tall things considered, instead they are part of the case the Commission on Judicial Conduct built against Astacio when it decided to strip her of her judgeship. Her more egregious errors were well publicized, her drunken driving conviction, her failure to abide by post-conviction terms, her ill-timed trip to Thailand that caused her to miss court-ordered monitoring.
“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,” Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said. “Regrettably, Judge Astacio failed to uphold each of these principles.”