Hearing kicks off with Cline's own words

Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline in court

February 20, 2012 10:43:25 AM PST
A Durham attorney made the case for why embattled Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline should be permanently removed from office during a special hearing Monday morning.

Cline was suspended with pay after Durham Attorney Kerry Sutton filed an 11-page affidavit last month charging Cline has damaged the court system's reputation by making unfounded accusations of misconduct against the county's senior criminal judge.

Cline took copious notes throughout the proceeding, while North Carolina Appellate Defender Staples Hughes read Cline's own words in typed court motions that were signed off by her, aloud.

Page by page, Sutton also used a projection screen to highlight strong language Cline used in her judicial standards complaint against Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson -- a matter that's to be kept confidential, by law.

She accused him of "moral turpitude" ... "dishonesty and corruption," saying that he's acted like a "monarch" ... "repeatedly raping" crime victims.

The DA had been feuding with Judge Hudson for months and accused him of bias against her in cases. Cline even asked that he be barred from hearing criminal cases in Durham County in a complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission. Cline claimed the judge was part of a wide-ranging conspiracy including defense lawyers, the media, and others who are colluding to make her look bad.

Last Friday, Judge Robert Hobgood, who is presiding over the special hearing, declined to postpone it any further. He said Cline's defense team had adequate time to prepare.

Cline has said she recently had medical issues and struggled to find an attorney who did not have a conflict of interest and was geographically suited to represent her. The DA retained the firm of Camp, Meacham, and Newman of Pinehurst last week. In court Friday, attorney James Van Camp requested that the Monday hearing be continued to give him more time to get ready.

Once Sutton presents evidence, Cline's defense will present its case on Friday.

Such proceedings to remove an elected DA are very rare in North Carolina, having been held only once before in the 1990s. Governor Beverly Perdue named retired Superior Court Judge A. Leon Stanback, Jr. as the interim replacement for Cline pending the outcome of the effort to remove her.

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