Michael Dayian has long felt that working in family court is his calling, something that goes back to his earliest days in the legal profession when he appeared before Judge Vincent J. Reilly Jr. in Schenectady County Family Court in 1995.
“I remember [Reilly] remarking that the ink on my certificate of admission had not yet dried,” Dayian said.
Much of Dayian’s early career was spent working in family court systems around the Capital Region, as both a private attorney and a public defender in Montgomery County. He eventually was hired as the court attorney for Montgomery County Court Judge Joseph M. Sise, then stayed on in the same role under Judge Felix J. Catena once Sise was elected to the Montgomery County Supreme Court in 1999.
Dayian has remained in his role as Catena’s principal court attorney for the last 21 years, but has looked for opportunities to continue working in the family court system.
His current hope is to make that his full-time work, as he has announced his candidacy for Montgomery County Family Court Judge as a result of the upcoming retirement of Judge Phillip V. Cortese.
“I found my time working as an advocate in family court, helping families resolve disputes through some of the most difficult times of their lives, extremely important and rewarding work,” Dayian said.
“I believe that I’m the best candidate for judge of the Montgomery County Family Court,” he added, “because of my 25 years of legal experience, both as a private attorney working in the family and criminal courts and because of my work experience in the court system, along with my own experiences as a husband and father of two wonderful daughters.”
After graduating with a degree in economics from the University at Albany in 1991, Dayian studied law at Albany Law School.
In his role as Catena’s principal court attorney, Dayian is assigned as a court attorney mediator to the Fourth Judicial District’s Alternate Dipsute Resolution program for family and matrimonial cases in Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady counties. Last year, he was assigned to the specialty trial part in the Saratoga County Family Court.
“Family court judges make decisions that immediately and significantly impact families,” he said, “involving issues such as child abuse, neglect, child custody, adoption, visitation, family offenses, juvenile delinquency. I understand that litigation can be harmful for children and parents. As a judge, I’ll be focused on addressing family matters in a timely and efficient manner, so that everyone who leaves the court feels they’ve been heard and I’ve been fair.”
Running for a judgeship, Dayian said, is a “natural progression” of his legal career.
“I’ve been training for it, essentially, my whole career,” he said. “Working with judges, providing legal advice to judges, working in the courts.”
Dayian, who is the current president of the Montgomery County Bar Association, has geared much of his work outside the court system toward families as well. He’s served as the chairman of the Amsterdam Housing Authority since 2014 and is a former member of the Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education.
Dayian said he found the judge he hopes to emulate during his early days as an attorney, when he appeared before Judge Gene L. Catena — the father of the man he’s worked under for the past two-plus decades — in Schenectady County Family Court.
“I was so impressed by him that I pulled him out as a role model for what a judge should be — patient, open-minded, courteous, humble, well versed in law, unbiased and compassionate,” Dayian said.
“And I say that not because he’s my boss’ father.”