By Gintautas Dumcius

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE -- Drawing from his own experience with divorce, a member of the panel that weighs Gov. Deval Patrick's judicial picks on Wednesday grilled a nominee for the position of associate justice of the Probate and Family Court's Franklin County division.

During the three hour and a half hearing, David Dacyczyn, who has served in the Navy in Afghanistan and is currently the judicial case manager in the Hampshire Probate and Family Court, said the position he's angling for "fits who I am and who I have become, personally and professionally."

In his judicial questionnaire submitted to the Governor's Council, Dacyczyn (pronounced like the word "decision") said he will continue to serve as a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, with an anticipated date of retirement in Aug. 2017.

Dacyczyn, 54, lives in South Deerfield and helps the first justice of the court with the daily operations of the court, conducting case management conferences, pre-trial conferences and uncontested hearings.

As an attorney, he has worked on domestic assault and battery cases and restraining orders, and he has represented both men and women in those types of cases, he said.

Christopher Iannella, one of the eight members of the Governor's Council, pressed Dacyczyn for his feelings on parents' joint physical custody of children. "I want to get a sense of where you're coming from and I don't get that sense," Iannella said.


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"Both parents have the right to be a part of their child's life, to the greatest extent possible that is also in the child's interest," Dacyczyn said.

"I would like to see both parents involved equally but the realities of our work life and the things that go on not just in one household, but two different households, can be impediments to achieving that goal," he added.

While saying he dislikes bringing up the topic in public, Iannella pointed to his own divorce, saying he and his ex-wife split visitation thanks to a judge. "He believed in 50-50," Iannella said. "No one gets that."

Iannella also asked Dacyczyn for his thoughts on Skype and how the internet video chat can be used in a parental visitation context.

Dacyczyn said he viewed it as a tool, not a substitute. When he was in Afghanistan, he communicated with his family primarily through Skype, he said, adding, "I found it very enjoyable to see a face on the screen."

"Is it a substitute for a hug? No," Dacyczyn said.

After he asked his last question, Iannella said he apologized if he had gone a "little overboard." "When you make those orders, temporary, permanent, just remember your kids and how would you feel," he said.

Governor's Councilor Robert Jubinville's question was more philosophical, asking Dacyczyn who would his "boss" be in the new role.

"Absolutely, she sits over there. And the other one sits right over there," Dacyczyn quipped, pointing to the chief justice of the Probate and Family Court, Angela Ordonez, and his wife, Mary, who were seated in the council's chambers.

Jubinville said some judges "don't think out of the box a lot," maybe because they don't want to upset the chief judge or to be overturned.

He urged Dacyczyn to "do things that weren't always done," and the nominee said he agreed. "I guess my point to you is shake some things up," Jubinville said. "That's what you're there for."

Asked for his thoughts on the alimony reform law passed in 2011, Dacyczyn said it was a "step in the right direction." The law, advocates say, allows judges increased discretion on when and how much alimony to award.

Governor's Councilor Michael Albano, who presided over the hearing, said afterwards that he is "very confident" that Dacyczyn will be confirmed. A vote is expected on Sept. 3.

In her testimony to the council, Chief Justice Ordonez called Dacyczyn a "go-to person" within the court, acting as a liaison between court magistrates, probation officials and judges.

Pointing to Dacyczyn's experience in private practice, as an assistant judicial case manager in the Franklin division for 12 years and as a judicial case manager in the Hampshire division since 2012, Ordonez said he strikes a "perfect balance" for assuming the position. 

Ordonez said he also keeps current with court terminology, and sees people as parents instead of "visitors." "It has been one of my goals to eradicate the use of the word 'visitation' and use the term 'parenting time, parenting plan,'" she said. "To me, and David agrees, we marginalize a person when we call them a visitor."

Geoffrey Wilson, who retired and created the judicial vacancy, said he has known Dacyczyn for 20 years and when Wilson first ascended to the bench, he referred some of his most difficult cases to Dacyczyn because they would be in "good hands."

Wilson called Dacyczyn a "quick study" and an "ideal candidate" for the seat.

Dacyczyn received a criminal justice degree from Westfield State College, a police science and administration degree from Sam Houston State University in Texas, and a law degree from the New England School of Law, according to his resume.

Dacyczyn also received praise from Bette Babinski, the chief probation officer at Franklin Probate and Family Court, Greenfield attorney Mark Berson and Mary Hildreth, the former judicial secretary for the court.

"David's life is one of service to others," Berson said. "Service to his wife, service to his children, service to the public, service to his country."

Hildreth, who recently retired, said Dacyczyn was approachable at work. "His door was always open to us," she said. "He was always a team player."

Patrick McCabe, co-chair of the Fatherhood Coalition, which advocates for fathers' rights in family court and frequently weighs in on judicial nominees, spoke in opposition to the nomination.

But he added Dacyczyn assured him that he will not be treating litigants before him as "winners and losers."

"I hope he is a good judge," McCabe said.