Joel K. Asarch, a state Supreme Court justice from Nassau County who presided over cases affecting some of society's most vulnerable, died early Sunday from a heart attack at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, his family said. He was 60 and lived in Long Beach.
Asarch, whose legal career began at his father's law firm, was voted onto the New York State Supreme Court in Mineola to oversee guardianship cases for those who were deemed incapacitated -- Article 81 cases, in legal parlance.
It was an area of the law that was of particular interest to Asarch, colleagues and his family said.
"There is nobody with a bigger heart," said his wife Malky Asarch, 59, a legal assistant. "He's taking care of people who couldn't take care of themselves -- people who are declared incapacitated, elderly people or children. . . . He'd come down off the bench -- with funky cartoon ties and being warm and personable -- he was able to reach out to these people."
Marian C. Rice, president of the Nassau County Bar Association, where Asarch served as president from 1999 to 2000, said he was a "very gentle and fair human being" who was active in the association.
"Judge Asarch spent an incredible amount of his judgeship helping people who were not able to stand up for their own rights and he made sure their rights were properly protected," Rice said.
Asarch was born in Brooklyn in 1952. His family moved to Baldwin when he was a child and he graduated from Baldwin High School. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from New York University.
He was elected Nassau County District Court judge in 2000, was appointed acting county court judge and, in 2006, was elected to the Supreme Court. Before taking the bench, he had a private practice in Lynbrook.
He also served as dean of the Nassau Academy of Law, the educational arm of the bar association, and wrote a monthly column in its publication -- The Nassau Lawyer -- on civil procedure.
In an emailed statement, Nassau County's administrative judge, Thomas A. Adams, said, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Judge Asarch. His extraordinary accomplishments, fairness and integrity have left an indelible mark on the Nassau County Courts."
Asarch also is survived by son Steven Asarch, a student at Baruch College in Manhattan; daughter Michelle Asarch, a student at Binghamton University; mother Helen Asarch, of Long Beach; and sisters Sharon Asarch, of Los Angeles, and Ilene Asarch, of Needham, Mass.
A funeral service is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. at Gutterman's Memorial Chapel, 175 N. Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre.