News10NBC talks one-on-one with the head of the agency investigating Judge Astacio

April 17, 2018 06:18 AM

It's been more than two years since Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has heard a case on the bench. During that time she was convicted of DWI, violated her probation, ended up in jail but has still been collecting her six-figure salary. 

For the first time, News10NBC sits down face to face with the man who runs the state agency that has the power to remove her as a judge. 

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The thing that upsets people the most is the idea that Judge Astacio is getting paid but not doing any work. So one of my first questions to the administrator of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct was about money. 

Berkley Brean, News10NBC: "If the Commission decides to remove a judge, does that stop that judge's pay?"

Robert Tembeckjian, Administrator NYS Judicial Conduct Commission: "Not immediately. If the Commission decides to remove a judge, the judge has 30 days either to accept the decision or to appeal it to the Court of Appeals which is the state's highest court."
If a judge accepts the Commission's ruling, the money stops. 

If the judge appeals, though, the process can take three to five months. 
Brean: "So the judge keeps getting the salary."

Tembeckjian: "Yes."
At her current pay, Judge Astacio makes more than $15,400 a month. 

Tembeckjian: "Even a judge who is accused of misconduct is entitled to the due process protections that the Commission on Judicial Conduct can provide."
The New York State Court of Appeals suspended Judge Astacio with pay last week after she was arrested for trying to buy a shotgun, a violation of her probation. 

By law the Commission's work is confidential. 

Brean: "Even though you can't say you're investigating Judge Astacio, you're aware of her situation, aware of her case."

Tembeckjian: "Yes." 

Brean: "What did you think when she got arrested for trying to buy a gun?"

Tembeckjian: "Well that's a felony charge and clearly we expect all judges to respect and comply and be competent in the law. Now she has been charged and that's a public event but she hasn't been convicted so I don't think I'm going to comment on what is a pending criminal charge against her."
Since her DWI conviction, Judge Astacio violated her sentence twice, got put on probation, got sent to jail, got barred from work and then got the felony arrest last week.  
Brean: "Does it make it longer? In other words by every bad behavior it just extends the work your Commission has to do?"

Tembeckjian: "Well let me answer it this way if I can. In New York and in all 50 state, any judge who has been convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense is subject to be publicly reprimanded. That's a given. If there are aggravating circumstances the discipline would be more severe."

Brean: "But I'm wondering if some of those aggravating circumstances extend the investigation."

Tembeckjian: "Well they might, they might because while you're investigating the original event something occurs that might elevate the discipline to a more appropriate and serious level."

Here's another factor contributing to the time the investigation is taking:

Although Judge Astacio was convicted of DWI in August of 2016, the verdict was only upheld in October 2017 after a series of appeals. 

Her conviction for violating the terms of her DWI sentence happened in the Fall of 2016 but the appeal process only ended last December. 

If Judge Astacio is removed from the bench, the state constitution prohibits her from running for another judgeship. She would be allowed, however, to run for another elected office. 


Berkley Brean

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