A LETTER TO JUDGE LETICIA ESTACIO
I call you by your first name because I am old enough to be your father, and I want to speak to you as if I was your father, or perhaps an uncle you see on holidays.
I want to say hard but necessary things to you. I don’t mean them to be hurtful, I hope them to be helpful. I am going to speak with a bluntness you may not hear very often. But the truth is the truth, and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it needs to hurt.
You are a drunk.
You are like one of the fiends on the avenue, driven and destroyed by something you put in your body.
You have allowed drinking to publicly humiliate you and your family, as well as those who voted for you or could have looked to you for inspiration. Many people consider you a joke, and you act as if you feel the same way.
You must face that, and change that. You need rehab and rebirth. For you, drinking is a cancer, and there is no acceptable amount of cancer, it only grows and kills. And it will kill what is left of you. You need to humble yourself and heal yourself, or you will lose the most important fight of your life.
You must stop acting the fool.
Right now, you're running the biggest welfare scam in Rochester. You get almost $175,000 a year for doing nothing. Benefits, pension, vacation from your vacation, probably even a little badge to carry in your purse. You pocket the money and think you win, but you actually lose.
You lose the respect of your community and colleagues. You have disgraced the bench and the bar. You have brought shame upon your family, and are setting a ruinous example for your children.
And you are feeding prejudices against your race and gender.
You are a black woman in a position of power acting like trash. You are creating and reinforcing a stereotype that other black women will have to work against and overcome. You are kicking in the head those climbing the ladder behind you. That is unfair to them and hurtful of your heritage.
As other women of color try to ascend to the bench, in this community they will have to carry the extra weight of your embarrassment. Instead of bringing credit and credibility to women of color in the legal community, you are bringing shame and prejudice to them.
You are better than that.
And the young people of Rochester deserve better than that.
Kids watch the news, and kids know things, and little black girls in Rochester -- who already face incredible difficulty in their rise to maturity and success -- will be dispirited and deceived by your example. Your name could stand for achievement, because of your education and election, but it doesn't. Your name is a joke, because you have allowed yourself to become a joke. You have reinforced the normalization of failure, and that is a crime against young people who need to know that they can achieve and succeed.
Think on your own children, whose love for you will unconsciously lead them to follow in your tracks. Are these the tracks you want them to follow? Is this where you want them to go?
Of course not.
And this isn't where you want to be either.
You may glaringly look at the world as if it is victimizing you, but you have brought this all on yourself. This is a mess completely of your making.
Which is good news.
Because if you made the mess, you can clean it up. If you have destroyed your name and career and perhaps your life, you have it within you to rebuild and redeem them.
You will need God, you will need true friends and real love and heartbroken humility, and you may even need professional help. You will need to be completely honest, with yourself and others.
But you can do it. And you must do it. Or one day my column might be your obituary.
Sit down and think. Kneel down and pray. Get yourself right. Throw out the bottles, and throw out the friends who hand you the bottles. Be sober, completely coin-carrying sober. Stand up in a little room somewhere and tell some strangers who understand and love you that you are an alcoholic. Find a true minister who will help you get God power in your life. Reach out to the judicial community and ask for help to rebuild yourself, throw yourself upon its mercy and concern.
And earn the right to come back to court, to keep the promise you made to the voters.
Be a noble black woman on the bench. Be a worthy example. Be a leader in your city. Be a source of pride and inspiration. Go into classrooms instead of barrooms, let the little girls of Rochester watch the news and see someone who looks like them being honored instead of lampooned.
God and this community have given you much. And where much is given, much is required. Begin immediately to set things right and live up to your obligations and opportunities.
These are all hard words, but they are all true, and they are spoken in love, not derision.
You have accomplished a great deal in your life. You got an education when the odds were against you, and you won a citywide election.
But right now you are broken, and if you don't fix yourself, everything which is good within you will die. Please don't let that happen. Many of us are praying for you, but in the end it is all up to you.
Please save your life.
And do it now.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016