Legal war in Durham, N.C.: Judge suspends district attorney
Tracey Cline, the confrontational district attorney in Durham, N.C., has been suspended from office by a state judge, who ruled Friday that probable cause exists for Cline’s permanent removal.
Cline, who replaced disgraced former Durham Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong, has been chastised in court for including false information in filings seeking to remove from office Durham’s senior judge, Orlando F. Hudson Jr. Cline has accused Hudson of "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption" in murder cases her office prosecuted.
Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood of nearby Franklin County set a Feb. 13 hearing for Cline to defend her filings and argue against permanent removal. Hobgood’s ruling was in response to an affidavit by Durham lawyer Kerry Sutton, who alleged that Cline had engaged in "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute."
Under state law, prosecutors found guilty of violating that standard are removed from office.
In court filings replete with misspelled words and fractured syntax, Cline has described Hudson as "without legal consciousness of right and wrong, having total and reckless disregard of the law, and a reprobate mind of a monarch."
Hudson dismissed murder charges against two defendants prosecuted by Cline. The district attorney said that was "retaliatory conduct" for her refusal to heed Hudson’s request to drop charges in a 2010 case.
In her filings, Cline said crime victims had been "emotionally and relentlessly repeatedly raped" by Hudson’s rulings.
In 2008, Cline, 48, replaced Nifong, who was removed from office and stripped of his law license after falsely accusing three white Duke University lacrosse players of raping a black stripper at a house party in 2006.
Cline was elected on a promise to do the right thing, not the popular thing. She was reelected without opposition in 2010.
-- David Zucchino in Durham, N.C.
Photo: Durham, N.C., Dist. Atty. Tracey Cline questions a witness at a hearing in December 2011. Credit: Shawn Rocco / Raleigh News & Observer/MCT