Cayton: Experience sets him apart from challengers

Published 10:03 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

Staff Writer

Darrell Cayton Jr. said experience sets him apart from the other judicial candidates in is race.
“By and far, there’s a gap,” Cayton said. “I’ve been practicing law since 1987, and the vast, vast majority of my legal experience revolves around District Court.”
Cayton is one of four people seeking the 2nd Judicial District seat held by retiring Judge Sam Grimes.
Cayton said he has “significant experience” on the criminal side of District Court.
He acknowledged that all three of his opponents have been prosecutors at some point in their careers.
“I have not, but I don’t think that’s a real disadvantage because one of the things in doing criminal defense work is analyzing cases,” Cayton continued. “I’m real up-front with clients as to what I anticipate. … I have no problem trying a case, but if it’s something that they are dead in the water on, if it’s something that it’s clear the state can prove, my preference is to advise there is no reason to have a trial.”
Cayton recalled a speech he heard years ago at a District Court seminar, when one of the speakers uttered the words, “I don’t try cases to hear myself talk.”
“If I sit down to try a case, plead not guilty, then I want the judge to sit up and go, ‘Humph, there’s something here. There’s a reason that Darrell’s trying a case.’ I think that, over the years, has served me well. And I think it’s served the clients well, too, because the judges realize there’s a reason we’re trying this case.”
Cayton added that he has “pretty much run the gamut” on the civil side of District Court, noting that he has represented clients in contested divorce cases.
“That’s no great feat, but what it does is it goes to experience,” he said.
He said he has represented men and women involved in domestic issues, including custody matters.
“In custody cases, it’s real unusual to have a lot of success in representing other than mama or daddy,” he said. “They have, generally, a constitutional right to custody over and above others with a limited number of exceptions.”
He said he has represented grandparents in custody cases, which is “somewhat unique.”
Speaking of the other candidates, he said, “I’m not disputing that the other folks have some family-law experience, but they don’t have 22 years worth.”
Cayton explained that he has advised or taken up causes for 20 law-enforcement officers whom he has had to oppose in court on behalf of his clients.
He said he has helped these officers in a legal capacity, unrelated to their jobs.
“These are guys you oppose, and I think that says something for their trust and respect,” he stated.
Cayton said there are two basic facets of District Court: a civil side and a criminal side.
The criminal side handles primarily infractions, misdemeanors and some preliminary things in felony cases, like early bond hearings.
On the civil side, he said, cases other than family law have a monetary limit of $10,000. Any amount over $10,000 goes to Superior Court, he related.
Family law and social-services cases are typically heard in District Court, Cayton said.
“Most of those involve family law of some type, whether it be child support, child protective services,” he remarked.
Cayton spent most of his interview talking about his resumé, but indicated it was difficult to do so.
“It’s really hard blowing your own horn,” he said. “That doesn’t come easily. The other folks are good folks, there’s no dispute about that.”
He also mentioned his parents, Peggy Cayton and Darrell Cayton Sr. He confirmed that Robert Cayton, a Beaufort County commissioner, is his uncle.
Darrell Cayton Jr.
Age: 47.
Address: 407 N. Market St., Washington.
Occupation: Attorney.
Education: Graduated from Aurora High School, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and from Campbell University School of Law.
Immediate family: Wife, Paula.
How long a resident of Beaufort County: Has lived in Beaufort County all of his life.
Experience as an elected official: None.
Other relevant experience: Played high-school baseball and football in every county in the 2nd Judicial District.
Last book read: Bible.