State Bar sets weeklong hearing on Cline’s conduct

State Bar will decide whether Tracey Cline broke ethics rules

acurliss@newsobserver.comJune 10, 2012 

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Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline listens as Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood during a Feb. 12, 2012 hearing.

CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com

The state agency that disciplines and regulates lawyers in North Carolina is setting aside a full week in October to focus on disciplinary action against former Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline.

The N.C. State Bar has scheduled a hearing about Cline for Oct. 1 - 5, signaling it expects an extensive presentation. Most disciplinary hearings at the Bar last one or two days. The hearing for Cline also has been moved to the Campbell University Law School in downtown Raleigh from the Bar’s small, in-house courtroom at its offices on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh.

The hearing will focus on whether Cline broke ethics rules for lawyers.

A judge removed Cline from office on March 2 after finding that she had engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to justice in making court filings that were not truthful. Testimony in the removal inquiry took four days over a two-week period.

The Bar’s attorneys and a Bar grievance committee also allege, in a complaint made public May 25, that Cline violated rules that require honesty of lawyers.

The complaint details 14 times that Cline allegedly broke ethics rules when she filed court documents seeking prison records about inmates featured in a News & Observer series and in making voluminous filings that asserted Durham’s senior judge was, among other things, corrupt.

The various filings by Cline, according to the Bar complaint, were false, misleading, improper and reckless, among other charges.

Cline has not responded to the complaint, and has until late June to do so unless a time extension is granted.

It is not clear if Cline will represent herself or have an attorney at the hearing.

Cline is appealing the ruling that removed her from office, and court papers say she does not have money to pay for lawyers to handle the appeal. She is seeking a judge’s order to access public money for the appeal.

Cline has not sought public aid for the hearing, according to state courts officials.

Last week, Cline wrote to courts officials in Durham seeking a wide range of records that relate to the issues before the Bar.

“I need some information which I can no longer obtain,” Cline wrote to a judicial assistant in seeking “emails, faxes, documents, and all publicly held obtained, made or facilitated records” related to her, a judge and a range of courts officials or lawyers who were involved in cases in which Cline’s conduct is in question.

Cline has not responded to requests for comment since she was removed from office.

The decision about discipline at the Bar will be made by a panel of three people who act as a judge and jury.

They are:

• Sharon Alexander, who heads the Bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Commission. Alexander is a lawyer in private practice in Hendersonville at Prince, Youngblood & Massagee.

• Ronald R. Davis, a business trial lawyer at the Womble Carlyle firm in the Piedmont Triad area.

• Karen B. Ray, a former Republican member of the state House from Mooresville. She is a registered lobbyist for the N.C. Motorsports Association and is the “public member” of the panel.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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