Judge suspends Cline as Durham district attorney

acurliss@newsobserver.comJanuary 27, 2012 

A judge today suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline from her elected office, ruling that there is probable cause that Cline should be removed permanently.

Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood of Franklin County set a hearing for Feb. 13 in which Cline will have a chance to defend her numerous court filings made over the past three months in a high-profile attack on Orlando Hudson, the senior judge in Durham.

Hobgood was not required to suspend Cline before a hearing, but had the option under state law.

Cline has been under scrutiny for her ongoing allegations against Hudson, allegations that two other judges have dismissed. A third judge issued an "admonition" to her over motions she presented with false information, warning her to be accurate in court filings.

Cline has sought to remove Hudson from all criminal cases in Durham, alleging that his conduct encompasses "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption." Cline has said his rulings have "raped" victims and that he has turned Durham County's judicial district into a monarchy.

In one motion, Cline wrote that Hudson has acted in an abuse of power that is "without legal consciousness of right and wrong, having a total and reckless disregard of the law, and a reprobate mind of a monarch, (that) aims to destroy and will destroy, the heart of our justice system if left unchecked."

Cline claims Hudson has been retaliating against her with the dismissal of two murder charges after Cline refused to dismiss a case in late 2010. Cline says Hudson privately encouraged her to drop a murder case and she refused. She says Hudson's rulings since have been designed to foster "media mayhem" against her.

Lawyers in Durham and legal scholars have attacked Cline's filings as unprecedented. One, lawyer Kerry Sutton, filed an affidavit that invoked a rare state law, requiring a judge to determine if Cline's actions are grounds for removal. Hobgood was appointed to handle it, and he began reading files in the case Thursday.

The affidavit by Sutton says that Cline's attacks, and that her court filings with false information in them, are "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute," a standard that requires the DA to be removed under state law. In his order, Hobgood agreed.

Sutton, who has been present in the courtroom with clients as Cline's filings were considered and is a likely witness in a hearing, wrote in the affidavit that Cline's conduct has brought Durham's courts into "widespread disrepute."

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