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Astacio has 11 days to respond to NYS Court of Appeals

Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has 11 days to respond to the New York State Court of Appeals in order to appeal the suspension handed down Wednesday. In this June 5, 2017 photos, Astacio arrives at the Hall of Justice in Rochester for a court appearance. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has 11 days to respond to the New York State Court of Appeals in order to appeal the suspension handed down Wednesday.

But there is a reason she may not want to do so.

Astacio has been using a doctor's excuse to avoid showing up to work at the Hall of Justice in downtown Rochester. Since August 31, 2017, she has shown up for one full day of work - February 27, 2018. She has not shown up to work any of the other days.

Now that Astacio has been suspended with pay, she will not need the excuse. She can stay home and be paid.

Robert Tembeckjian is the administrator and counsel with the Judicial Conduct Commission. While the Commission has investigative powers, it can only remove or sanction a judge after a disciplinary hearing - the equivalent of a non-jury trial.

"No judge can be removed without the full protection of the due process of the law," Tembeckjian said.

The proceeding has dragged on behind closed doors. It took a felony charge to get the attention of the New York Court of Appeals. That felony charge came April 2 when Astacio was accused of trying to buy a shotgun at Dick's Sporting Goods in violation of her probation.

"Whenever a judge is charged with a felony in New York the judge is subjected to be suspended," Tembeckjian said.

Yet the suspension is a legal step that, in reality, will not change Astacio's daily life - at least for now.

Astacio has not heard or tried a single case since February 2016 and has not been showing up to work at the Hall of Justice for other legal research work as ordered. The suspension eliminated the need for an excuse.

Her suspension with pay means she will continue to collect her $187,200 annual salary.

"The court has the option to suspend them with or without pay," Tembeckjian said.

When 13WHAM News asked about the criteria the New York State Court of Appeals uses to make the decision to suspend an official with or without pay, the court did not respond.

But beyond the suspension, the high court cannot remove Judge Astacio from office.

That decision goes back to the Judicial Conduct Commission - and will remain confidential until there is an outcome.

Since 1975, it has fired 169 judges. But only five have been suspended with pay.

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