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MINEOLA � Nassau County’s newest Family Court judge is no stranger to working with children. Merik R. Aaron, 59, was a teacher and educator in Long Island’s public schools for 22 years before graduating from law school in 1991. “I had a good relationship with kids, always,” said Judge Aaron, who was nominated by Governor George E. Pataki to fill a vacancy created by the appointment of former Family Court Judge Angela G. Iannacci ( See Profile ) as an acting Supreme Court justice. There are nine Family Court judges in the county; Judge Aaron must run for a full 10-year term in November. He is one of three Republican candidates for three open positions. His running mates are Robert Bogle and Patricia Doyle, neither of whom now sit on the bench. The Democratic candidates, all non-incumbents, are Conrad Singer, Ellen Greenberg and Stacy Fleisher. Judge Aaron began his career as an educator in 1969, teaching biology and middle-school science in the Carle Place school system. He was quickly promoted to chairman of the school system’s science department. He left the Carle Place schools in 1980 to become supervisor of science for the Lawrence public schools. During his time there, he introduced a science research program to the district and produced Lawrence’s first Westinghouse Science Talent Search semifinalist. He became an assistant principal of Calhoun High School in 1984 and was in charge of discipline for that school’s 11th graders. He was later named director of curriculum for the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. “All that experience has just been a great help to me here,” Judge Aaron said during an interview in his chambers in the Family Court building in Westbury. He said his tenure as an educator, which includes experience as a certified guidance counselor, helps guide him through the decision-making process as he tries to determine the best way to help troubled children who appear in his courtroom. “It’s a clich�, but what’s in the best interest of the child is paramount,” said Judge Aaron “You try to do your best and you hope you do your best.” One of the challenges Family Court judges face is making placement decisions for children caught in the middle of tough custody battles. Among other things, Judge Aaron will assess what kind of home environment parents can provide and their ability to support their children’s education. The process includes asking the child where he or she prefers to live, but that question often elicits contradictory or confusing answers. “I don’t really think children know what they want,” said Judge Aaron, adding that children who express a preference for living with their mothers often suddenly change their minds and express a preference for living with their fathers, or vice versa. Judge Aaron said children often express a preference in favor of the parent who is a less-strict disciplinarian. In that case, he said he must decide if he should override the child’s wishes and place him or her with the stricter parent, whose strictness may actually be an indicator that he or she is better able to raise the child. “My job is to sort of cut through that,” he said. Doing ‘Something Different’ Judge Aaron took his first step toward becoming a judge in the late 1980s when he began going to Touro College’s law school at night. He said he had reached “the pinnacle” of his career as an educator and decided it was “time to move on and do something different.” As an administrator, he said he had worked with a lot of attorneys, and that he “always kind of wanted to be a lawyer, you know. It’s something that was always in the back of my mind.” The judge’s curiosity about the law was stimulated in part by a course in human sexuality and family living that he has taught at Nassau Community College since 1974. In addition to lecturing about human anatomy, Judge Aaron also covers current legal issues such as same-sex marriage, grandparents’ visitation rights and other hot-button social concerns. Judge Aaron was admited to the New Jersey bar in 1992 and the New York bar in 1994. He worked as a law clerk for Liotti and Skelos in Garden City and then as a general counsel to a computer software company in New Jersey. He later became a deputy town attorney for Hempstead and was eventually promoted to principal deputy town attorney. “It was a great place to work,” said Judge Aaron of his 12 years in Hempstead. “I loved it there.” Before his nomination, Judge Aaron did not appear often in Family Court, which handles about 25,000 new petitions each year. As an attorney, he appeared a few times to seek child support modifications. As a school administrator, he sometimes supported obtaining Persons in Need of Supervision warrants for troubled children. However, he does not think his relative lack of experience in the court will handicap him. “District Court and Supreme Court are very similar to Family Court,” he said. “It’s not that vastly different.” Family Court is “a perfect match for me,” he added. Although he has only been at work there for a month, Judge Aaron is in agreement with many in the Nassau County legal community about the need for the cramped Family Court building to be replaced or extensively renovated. “This building, it’s past its time,” said Judge Aaron, who said he is most concerned about the building’s lack of conference room space. “There’s no room here,” said Judge Aaron, adding that law guardians must hold their precase conferences in the hallways. He also said an adequate Family Court building would include amenities to make litigants and their children feel more at ease, like a nice waiting room and well-painted courtrooms with decent seats. “We want it to be comfortable,” Judge Aaron said. Tentative plans for the construction of a new Family Court building in Mineola were announced last year, but the start of construction has been stalled due to ongoing legal wrangling over environmental reviews. Judge Aaron received his doctorate in educational administration from Nova Southeastern University in 1982. He obtained his professional diploma and certificate of advanced studies in educational administration from Hofstra University and earned his Masters and Bachelors degrees from Long Island University. He has been active in Republican Party activities and ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 1996. The judge lives in Hewlett Harbor with his wife Karen, who has been a fourth-grade teacher for 35 years at the Shelter Rock Elementary School in Manhasset. They have two daughters; Stacey, 20 and Lauren, 17. � Michael Scholl can be reached at [email protected] .

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