Judicial misconduct alleged in North Carolina

An extraordinary legal shouting match has broken out in Durham, N.C., between the county’s beleaguered local district attorney and its senior Superior Court judge, who has chastised the D.A. in open court.

In a harshly worded court filing, Durham Dist. Atty. Tracey Cline accused Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr. of "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption" and complained that the judge "harbors animosity" toward her and has engaged in "retaliatory conduct" and "gross misconduct."

Court filings are typically written in dry, obtuse legal argot. But Cline’s filing contains unusually accusatory and vituperative language replete with fractured syntax and spelling errors. She wrote that Hudson’s actions "striped away" her rights, and that credibility of the criminal justice system is a "causality" of Hudson’s conduct. She described Hudson’s behavior as "without responsibility or conscious."

Saying crime victims have been "emotionally and relentlessly repeatedly raped" by the judge’s rulings, Cline said she will attempt to have Hudson removed from overseeing criminal cases. She also wrote that she has filed a misconduct complaint against Hudson with the state commission that oversees judges.

Cline's filing, submitted late Thursday, accuses Hudson of "intentional and malicious acts with GROSS UNCONCERN for this conduct and done in BAD FAITH."

Hudson, the senior resident judge in Durham since 1995, has dismissed murder charges in two cases prosecuted by Cline’s office. The judge has ruled that Cline "flagrantly violated" a defendant’s rights in one case, in which Hudson said Cline deliberately misstated facts in court. Cline was elected district attorney in 2008, after former Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong was removed from office and disbarred for falsely accusing Duke University lacrosse players of raping a stripper. Cline was reelected last year after running unopposed.

In a three-part series titled "Twisted Truth," published in September, the News and Observer of Raleigh reported that Cline withheld evidence favorable to defendants and misstated facts to judges. Cline has sharply criticized the series, portraying herself as a victim of "injustice."

In an apparent reference to the series, Cline wrote in her filing that Hudson has been "swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism."

Cline wrote that Hudson’s conduct in cases she has prosecuted amounts to "more than an error of judgment or a mere lack of diligence." She said the judge attempted to coerce her into dropping murder charges in a case that Hudson later dismissed.

Hudson dismissed a murder charge last year against Derrick Allen, who was accused of killing a 2-year-old girl. Cline’s filing briefly recounts details of the case, but offers no new evidence or arguments beyond what has appeared in court.

Hudson also dismissed a murder charge in August against Michael C. Dorman II. He ruled that Cline misrepresented facts in court and violated the defendant’s rights by allowing the female murder victim’s bones to be destroyed before defense lawyers could have them tested.

Neither Cline’s nor Hudson’s offices returned calls from The Times seeking comment Friday. In a brief interview with the News and Observer on Thursday, Hudson disputed the district attorney’s allegations and said he welcomed a judicial review.

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-- David Zucchino in Durham, N.C.

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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