Ariel is the son of leading second-wave feminist and pioneer Phyllis Chesler. This upbringing taught him to listen to the stories and concerns of those with different life experiences from his own. It made him sensitive to all forms of discrimination. And it instilled in him a desire to stand up for fairness.
Through his father, Ariel is the 10th generation descendant of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (literally "master of the good name"), the mystical rabbi and founder of Hasidic Judaism who revolutionized Jewish thinking and traditions in 18th century Poland, and whose love for fellow humans, no matter their station in life, inspired him to bring spirituality and meaning to the uneducated and simple folk who had been neglected by the learned elite. This legacy has made Ariel appreciate the value in all people and has inspired him to approach his work with what Martin Luther King Jr. called a "tender heart."
Ariel is also among the first generation of children raised by a same-sex couple, in his case, two moms. Like a majority of children currently raised by same-sex couples, his mother and father divorced when he was young, and he was then raised by his mom and her same-sex partner at a time before marriage equality was even a dream. He would be the first Civil Court Judge in New York with this story. This experience has equipped him with an understanding of family that transcends traditional boundaries. It has informed his personal and professional life making him all the more sensitive to the importance of the law recognizing and valuing every individual and family in the city.
Ariel spent his first few years in the legal profession representing working class folks dividing their property, resolving custody and child support matters, and handling domestic violence issues.
Since that time, he has dedicated his career to public service. In 2006, Ariel joined the pool of court attorneys at the Appellate Division, First Department, the nation’s premiere intermediate appellate court, which handles appeals from Manhattan and the Bronx. In that role, he worked on more than 1,000 appeals, hundreds of motions, and numerous emergency applications. He learned from many judges from all backgrounds and judicial outlooks, and reviewed the work of the many fine trial judges we have in Manhattan and the Bronx in order to make recommendations and draft decisions on appeals. This work gave him an overview of the entire State court system, the opportunity to gain broad knowledge of the law and to handle the many different kinds of matters, from housing to criminal to family to civil, that the residents of Manhattan may encounter.
Since the Fall of 2015, Ariel has served as the Principal Law Clerk for the Honorable Peter Tom, the first Asian-American Appellate Judge in New York State. During much of that time Judge Tom was the Acting Presiding Justice of the court, and thus Ariel gained a unique perspective on the legal profession and the court system as he worked on the important administrative matters that come within the purview of the Presiding Justice’s special responsibilities. In addition to improving the operation of the First Department, he prepared Judge Tom in reviewing a broad array of matters for the Administrative Board of the Courts – the body that sets statewide policy for the courts - including the new attorney disciplinary rules, the broader implementation of e-filing, the certification of judges who reach the age of 70, and changing housing court forms to make them more accessible to laypersons.
Ariel also served as Judge Tom’s representative on the First Department’s hiring committee and aided Judge Tom in making hiring decisions, as well as determinations for various committee appointments. He assisted Judge Tom in improving and expanding the Court staff by bringing in a well qualified and diverse set of individuals to serve as court attorneys, as well as to serve in key positions in the Mental Hygiene Legal Service and the Attorney Grievance Committee.
Ariel assisted Judge Tom with the work of the Special Commission on the Future of the New York City Housing Court, which Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed Judge Tom to co-chair. The Commission’s report recommended changes which were intended to reduce delays in Housing Court and to make the court more accessible.
Ariel also conducted extensive research and wrote memoranda to prepare Judge Tom for oral argument in People v. Boone (30 NY3d 521 ), a case into which Judge Tom was vouchered, which was argued in the New York State Court of Appeals on October 17, 2017. The decision in Boone broke new ground as it held that New York courts must instruct juries about the likelihood of eyewitness misidentification when the observer-witness is a different race than the suspect.
In his day-to-day work, Ariel advises Judge Tom as to the dispositions of appeals argued each week, conducts research in preparation for oral argument, post-argument conference and weekly agenda conferences, and writes drafts of memoranda to associate justices regarding Judge Tom’s view of particular appeals. Ariel also drafts published dissents, concurrences, and majority opinions, and reviews and responds to writings from other chambers prior to publication.
In addition, Ariel reviews and prepares reports on motions for leave to appeal to the Appellate Division and to the Court of Appeals, motions to reargue appeals, writes reports on disciplinary matters and drafts of per curiam opinions for the Court, which determine the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings against attorneys.
Since 2012, Ariel has volunteered as a small claims arbitrator in the East Harlem Community Courthouse, helping litigants resolve their matters. He also began a Tenants Association in his building to advise his neighbors of their rights and to challenge MCI increases on their behalf at no cost to them. As an active citizen, Ariel led the fight to ensure the City added pre-k seats to his neighborhood, which were needed by the many middle-class families that live there. He also serves as a mentor to minority law students and interns.