Durham DA removed from post

Tracey Cline listens to the judge's ruling
March 2, 2012 11:51:10 AM PST
Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline lost her job Friday after publically feuding with a judge and accusing him of corruption in court filings.

The highly unusual decision came after a defense attorney filed a motion seeking Cline's removal, saying her ongoing dispute with Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson was bringing the county court system into disrepute.

Cline feuded with Hudson for months and accused him of bias against her in cases. In court filings, she went so far as to call the judge dishonest and corrupt. She asked that he be barred from hearing criminal cases in Durham County in a complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission.

Cline had been suspended since last month, pending the outcome of a removal hearing.

She had no reaction as Judge Robert Hobgood announced his ruling Friday morning.

Hobgood said if Cline felt Hudson was biased against her, she should have waited for action by the Judicial Standards Commission instead of publically attacking him. He said Cline's attacks were "not supported by facts," and "brought the office of Durham District Attorney into disrepute."

He also said her words were not protected speech under the First Amendment and demonstrated malice.

"She knew the risk and warned her staff of what she was going to do," said Hobgood.

This isn't the first time the Durham district attorney's office has been embroiled in controversy in recent years. Cline replaced Mike Nifong, who resigned in disgrace after prosecuting three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape. Nifong was later disbarred.

Last month, Governor Beverly Perdue named a retired Superior Court Judge A. Leon Stanback, Jr. as the interim Durham DA.

Hobgood ordered Cline immediately removed from office and her pay terminated. At the end of the hearing, Cline thanked him for his time and effort.

Hobgood thanked her for her years of service to Durham County.

One of Cline's attorneys said she plans to appeal.

Cline has 10 days to appeal to the NC Court of Appeals. A special election to fill her post can only be held after she's exhausted the appeals process.

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