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Four Nassau judges take oaths

Retired Supreme Court Justice Zelda Jonas, left, gives

Retired Supreme Court Justice Zelda Jonas, left, gives the oath of office to District Court Judge Joy Watson during a ceremony at the State Supreme Court in Mineola. (Jan. 13, 2014) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Four judges took oaths of office in Nassau County Monday in front of colleagues, family and other supporters in a formal ceremony that followed their recent elections to the bench.

Nassau Bar Association president Peter Mancuso called on them to be independent and answer only to the ideal of justice, describing their roles as "an awesome responsibility."

State Supreme Court Justice Hope Zimmerman, County Judge Patricia Harrington, and District Court judges Scott Siller and Joy Watson also addressed the packed room in state Supreme Court in Mineola after their oaths.

Zimmerman, 67, a former Nassau Family Court supervising judge, said she came to her new role after growing up as the child of first-generation Americans.

"I prove the adage, only in America," she said.

State Supreme Court Justice Sondra Pardes, a speaker and friend of Zimmerman, recalled meeting her decades ago at an LSAT prep course, and said ever since she'd stuck close to a woman she called energetic, compassionate and talented.

Harrington, 61, read from a prayer she keeps in her desk. The one-time Suffolk County assistant district attorney reflected on her new role as being the place where she believed she was meant to be, before saying she'd be the "best darn judge" she could.

Her father, retired Nassau County Judge Raymond Harrington, swore her in, after County Judge Jerald Carter recalled practicing in the elder Harrington's courtroom as an attorney.

Carter said the younger Harrington, who'd just left her job as his law clerk, would carry her family's name through the annals of the county's history.

Siller's sons, Alexander, 11, and Nicholas, 9, helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance as the event kicked off. He joked later that their cuteness had helped him as he'd gone door-to-door on the campaign trail.

The 52-year-old has served as a Village of Flower Hill trustee and had specialized in family law and civil matters as an attorney in private practice.

Nassau Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs called Siller a generous person and a party "superstar," who would serve admirably.

Watson, 55, had been an acting District Court judge after serving as a Nassau deputy comptroller and as a law clerk for a state Supreme Court justice in Nassau.

She said she would be guided by advice that the late Denis Dillon, the former Nassau district attorney, often repeated to her when she was working for him as an assistant district attorney.

" 'Joy, don't convict. Do the right thing.' That was it," Watson said. "And I carry that thought in my heart and onto the bench. Because it's not about anything but making sure every day when I go into that courtroom, to the best of my ability, that I do the right thing."

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