Cherri Gregg Mincey

Reporter, Anchor, Multimedia Journalist

Profile Story

Clay Cauley for Judge

Clay Cauley works fast and hard.  He skipped kindergarten, graduated from high school at age 16 and got his college degree at 20.  He was a homeowner at 22 when most people his age were still going to keg parties.  Cauley, now 33, is the Democratic candidate for magisterial district judge in Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania.

But this is just one part of his master plan.  Over the past seventeen years, Cauley has moved from a dead-end job to become a criminal defense attorney, reality television star and now, a judicial candidate.

Growing up, Cauley’s role models were his parents who were self-made entrepreneurs.  His mother, now deceased, owned a beauty salon.  His father owned a cleaning business. They raised him to work hard.

Cauley believes in hard work and believes in family.  He is focused, faithful to his dream and not afraid to reach for opportunity.  Now it will be his determination that takes him to the next level.  This is only the beginning.

Cauley grew up on Harlan Street in West Philadelphia during the late 1970s.  At the time, Harlan Street was a nice, quiet block.  Modest homes lined the street.  Neighbors looked out for each other.  Children could play in the neighborhood.  Families felt safe.

“I was lucky to grow up when I did,” said Cauley.  “I had both of my parents, my brother and an entire block looking out for me.  Harlan Street was a community.”

After graduating from high school in 1992, Cauley attended West Chester University, a college not too far from where he grew up.  He majored in theatre.  Cauley appeared in commercials as a young child and viewed acting as the natural progression of the career he had already started.  But the role did not suit him.  He dropped out after one semester.

Working full-time job as a teller at a local bank, Cauley believed he did not need a college education to be successful.  He had a good salary, a car, and a nice place to live.  At age 17, he thought he had everything he needed.

Eighteen months later, he had a revelation.

“I realized I needed school,” he said.  “It provides you with a social network. It helps to expand your way of thinking.  I wanted that.  I needed it.”

Cauley returned to school with a new sense of direction.  Determined to graduate with his class, Cauley took extra classes each semester while working a full time job.

“It was very intense,” said Cauley.

He completed his college education in less than two years.  At age twenty, he graduated from West Chester University, with a degree in Communications.

With step one in his long-term plan complete, he began the next phase, spending the next four years working in the banking and insurance industries.

“I was aggressive,” Cauley said.  “I kept posting for jobs, hoping to move up in the company as quickly as I could.”

Cauley was promoted a few times, but his company soon slammed the brakes on his career.

“I just couldn’t advance and it became clear to me that there was only so far I could go [at that company],” he said.

Cauley wanted more, needed more.  With his career stalled, it was time for a change.

Cauley’s brother suggested that he attend law school.

In August 2000, the Cauley brothers switched gears and started their tenure at Howard University School of Law.

“At 25, I knew exactly what I wanted. I was focused,” said Cauley.

Law school was not easy.  For the first time in his life, Cauley could not accelerate the learning process or move ahead of the pack as he had done in the past.  Law school required that Cauley slow his pace.  It was a humbling experience.

“I had been out of school for so long that it took me a while to remember how I learned,” he said with a chuckle.  “I loved [my time at] Howard, but it threw me for a loop.”

After a year and a half, and a lot of hard work, Cauley began to excel.

In 2003, following his graduation from Howard, Cauley went to work as a prosecutor under Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham.  Three years later, Cauley helped create the law firm of Cauley, Ahmad & Zaffarse, LLC where he focused on adult and juvenile criminal cases.  Putting his foot back on the accelerator, he decided to move into a solo practice where he has been able to shift his career into high gear.  But the master plan was not complete.  He still wanted more.

When Cauley learned that the current magisterial district judge for Southern Chester County would be retiring at the end of his term, Cauley leapt at the opportunity.

“This job would be the culmination of what God has raised me up to do,” said Cauley.

The magisterial district judge is required to hold hearings on traffic and non-traffic matters and landlord/tenant cases, as well as preliminary hearings on criminal cases.

Although a Chester County magisterial district judge does not need to be a lawyer, having legal experience could be beneficial to the position.  At least Cauley thinks so.

“I bring a lot to the table… My years of experience, new ideas, fair-mindedness and diversity,” he said.

Cauley is a master on Philadelphia’s Truancy Court and an arbitration officer in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  He has worked on a number of juvenile criminal matters and has acted as both a criminal prosecutor and a defense attorney.  He also has experience dealing with civil disputes.

“I have experience in every area that is necessary to this job,” he said.  “I am the most qualified candidate.”

But years of legal experience may not be enough to overcome his Republican opponent.

Chester County is largely white and Republican.  Cauley is African-American and a Democrat.  While Cauley prefers to think that race will not factor into voter decision-making, it is clear that tough challenges lie ahead.

“My biggest challenge will be getting the message out,” said Cauley.  “Chester County is very rural, which makes going door to door to meet voters difficult.”

The existence of low voter turn-out, a weak Democratic party and lack of funding present additional challenges.

Cauley, however, is determined.  Even though there are long distances between Chester County housing communities, he knocks on doors each night.  He funds his own campaign despite lack of support by local Democrats.  He remains optimistic and hopeful.

The odds do not frighten Cauley.  He welcomes the challenge.

One night, while up late looking for acting auditions for his oldest son, Clay, Jr., Cauley located an Internet advertisement for the ABC reality game show, “The Mole.”

“I liked the “The Mole” because it was an intelligent game show.  You didn’t have to act a fool or embarrass yourself to do well,” he said.

Cauley knew the show would present unknown challenges and thought it could be a great opportunity.  On a whim, he took a photo of himself and sent the picture, along with a personal statement to the producers of the show.  Within weeks, the producers for “The Mole” flew Cauley to Los Angeles, California for an audition.

“I couldn’t believe it.  It happened so fast,” said Cauley.

He decided to go on the show and compete for the $500,000 reward.  Cauley soon became a fifth season favorite with viewers writing into the show’s blog, rooting for him to win.  Unfortunately, his ingenuity and charm could not keep him on the show.  Cauley was the eighth player eliminated from “The Mole,” leaving four players in the game.

After being isolated from his family for approximately two months, Cauley said he was not unhappy about the elimination.

“That was the longest time I had ever been away from my family.  I was sad not to win the money, but I was glad to go home,” he said.

Faith and family are important parts of Cauley’s life.  Cauley, a devout Christian, believed that he needed a good partner if he was ever to become the person that God intended him to be.  His life changed, and his faith was strengthened in 2002 when he met his wife, Kimberly Fields.

“I knew from the moment I saw her that I would marry her,” he said. “I prayed for her.”

Fields is a political scientist and researcher.  She is tall and slim, with wide-eyes rimmed with long lashes.  It is no surprise that Cauley noticed her when she worked at the Howard University Law Library.

“I thought she was attractive.  But she is also extremely intelligent.  She matches me in every way,” he said.

Fields said that while she did not fall in love with Cauley when she first met him, he impressed her early on.

“Clay was so self-disciplined.  He was very focused and determined to accomplish his goals, which was unusual for a guy his age,” said Fields.

Fields and Cauley quickly became friends after learning that their parents lived just miles from each other in Delaware.  It took only a few months before Fields realized that their friendship would evolve into something more.

“The night I proposed, [Kim] told me to ‘put up or shut up,’” Cauley said with a smile.  “So I took her to the Washington Monument, got on my knees and asked her to marry me.”

Fields is a significant part of the blue print that is Cauley’s life plan.

“I married her because she is stronger than I am.  She keeps me strong and on the right path,” he said.

“I always tell Clay, don’t live with regrets.  Think before you leap, but leap,” said Fields.

Cauley followed his wife’s advice; he decided to take a chance.

“When I was young, I had no aspirations to be an attorney,” said Cauley.

Now, he is racing to be a judge.

Clay Cauley, Sr. and Kimberly Fields live in Chester County, Pennsylvania with their two sons Clay, Jr. and Christian.

For more information regarding Clay Cauley, go to his website located at http://www.claycauley.com.

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