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This is why you can't just dump Judge Astacio


Rochester City Court Justice Leticia Astacio has eight years left on her first term – eight years too long, according to much of the public. But judges have lengthy terms for good reason.

Astacio was convicted of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated earlier this year and received a conditional discharge. She was back in court recently after an interlock device on her car detected alcohol on two occasions – a violation of the terms of her discharge. Astacio admitted the violation.

Craig Doran, the administrative judge for the state's 7th Judicial District, reassigned all of Astacio's work to other judges and barred her from non-public areas of the courthouse. Doran can't do much more than that under state law.

Astacio continues to collect her $174,000 annual salary.

The situation is a recipe for public outrage. Astacio's critics say that her conduct should disqualify her as a judge and the Democrat and Chronicle's Editorial Board called on her to resign. But Astacio has given no indication she intends to quit.

Judges make tough decisions that affect people, businesses, and governments on a daily basis. They serve longer terms so that they can make a decision one day without worrying about losing their job the next. Astacio is in the first years of a 10-year term.

The downside of the extended terms is that you occasionally have a case such as Astacio's.

At this point, only the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct has the power to remove Astacio, and the decision has to be made with the agreement of the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

All of the commission's proceedings start with a complaint, which are confidential unless the commission decides to publicly discipline a judge. So the public won't know if the commission is investigating Astacio unless it decides on a disciplinary action or the commission and Astacio reach some sort of agreement.