Mayor Lovely Warren has started to assemble the panel that will select Leticia Astacio’s replacement on the Rochester City Court.
The panel, set to be completed by the end of the week, will meet at least four times to consider candidates for the bench.
The panel will provide a list of finalists to Warren, who will make the appointment.
The committee is led by City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin, who says no politics will be played in filling this seat on the bench.
"They may have affiliations with political parties, but they will be the best candidates and the most qualified candidates to be chosen from,” he said. “There's no political fix."
Candidates must be licensed attorneys in New York State and residents of Rochester.
The committee will be made up of members of the Monroe County Bar, The Rochester Black Bar Association and Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.
A retired judge, a local attorney and a community member will also join the judicial screening committee.
Astacio was removed from her seat on the court Tuesday by the New York State Court of Appeals.
The court of appeals said "after sustaining six charges of misconduct involving petitioner Leticia D. Astacio’s behavior both on and off the bench, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended that petitioner be removed from her judicial office as a Judge of the Rochester City Court."
Astacio appealed the JCC's decision to remove her from the bench, and motioned to be censured, rather than removed altogether, but the court of appeals ultimately ruled in the commission's favor.
Court paperwork says the commission concluded that Astacio's actions violated the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which prescribes that judges must "participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct" for themselves and others to preserve "the integrity and independence of the judiciary."
According to the ruling, Astacio's removal comes from personal misconduct that followed her initial arrest. The court states that Astacio was discourteous to arresting officers, sought preferred treatment from them and violated the terms of her conditional discharge by "ignoring orders of the court and leaving the country for an extended vacation without notice to the court or her lawyer."
Astacio, whose highly-publicized legal saga began two years ago, returned to work on March 1 for the first time since August, 2017. Despite not working, she received a pay raise of more than $11,000 on April 1, bringing her yearly salary to $187,200. As of Tuesday, she will no longer be receiving pay checks.
The court paperwork also said that Astacio failed to disqualify herself from presiding over the arraignment of a former client and attempted to exercise her discretion to have his case transferred in a manner which she thought might benefit him. Additionally, the court found that Astacio, on other occasions, made discourteous, insensitive, and undignified comments in court.
The findings state "the sanction of removal typically is ‘reserved for truly egregious circumstances that extend beyond the limits of even extremely poor judgment.' It must also be kept in mind ‘that the truly egregious standard is measured with due regard to the higher standard of conduct to which judges are held.’”
Administrative Judge Craig Doran, Astacio's judicial supervisor, released a statement regarding the decision, saying in part:
"For more than 2.5 years, one matter has dominated much of the public’s attention and conversation regarding our court system. During this time, hundreds of judges and staff have come to work each day, ready to deliver justice in thousands of cases involving many of the most challenging issues facing our neighborhoods, schools and businesses.
This unfortunate distraction has not hindered the critically important work done on a daily basis, by the highly competent and caring judges, and dedicated court staff serving the people of this community."
Astacio's case has had many twists and turns since she was first arrested for drunk driving in 2016. She spent time in jail and was accused of violating her probation. Astacio was suspended with pay then, a decision upheld by the court of appeals following Astacio’s arrest in April on the felony gun charge. Court paperwork says Astacio was denied the purchase of the gun by Dick's employees because they said she seemed "very distraught and upset."
Astacio most recently pleaded not guilty to that felony gun charge on October 1 and is scheduled to return to court for an appearance on November 29.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren (D) announced Tuesday that she will convene a judicial screening committee to fill the vacancy.
“Rochester’s City Court is the court with jurisdiction closest to our citizens and I take my responsibility to fill the vacancy on this Court very seriously,” said Warren in a statement. “Our residents deserve a Judge of the highest caliber and I intend to follow a process that will be transparent and inclusive in finding the best and highest qualified individual to sit on the Rochester City Court bench.”
Astacio's comments in and outside of court, her missing court because she was overseas, and subsequent probation violations have garnered her extensive media attention throughout this legal saga.
The now-former judge took to Facebook to express her feelings following the court's ruling: