Probe finds no cause for discipline of Durham Judge Orlando Hudson

Former district attorney alleged pattern of abuse

acurliss@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2012 

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Judge Orlando Hudson

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com

Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson has been cleared by the state’s Judicial Standards Commission after it looked into much-publicized allegations made against him by former Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline.

The commission met Friday and reviewed a confidential report that was prepared as part of a commission investigation, according to a letter sent to Hudson and released by him Tuesday.

“The Commission determined the evidence did not establish probable cause for disciplinary proceedings,” commission lawyer Nancy A. Vecchia wrote to Hudson. “Therefore, no further action will be taken, and this inquiry has been closed.”

Cline’s complaint brought against Hudson last year is kept secret under state law, but she had also leveled her charges in public in a series of court filings that sought to remove Hudson from all criminal cases in Durham during the judicial standards review.

Cline had alleged that Hudson had not only made errors of judgment that appeals courts would have to address, but that he had engaged in conduct involving “moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption.” She contended that his rulings were a malicious and “purposeful pattern of abuse” to establish prosecutorial misconduct by Cline. Her filings filled hundreds of pages.

Cline had also alleged that Hudson’s actions were in “total and complete” violation of the Judicial Standards Commission’s rules. She disclosed last year that she filed a complaint with the commission.

Hudson disputed Cline’s allegations and said at the time that he welcomed a review of his actions but that he was otherwise prohibited by judicial rules from commenting or responding.

Cline elaborated on her written allegations in testimony as part of an inquiry this year, saying she could have chosen her words more carefully but that her charges were “absolutely true.”

The inquiry, overseen by a judge from Franklin County, led to her removal from office on findings that Cline had brought a false and reckless attack on Hudson, engaging in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought her office into disrepute.

Cline is appealing her removal. She has also filed a libel suit against The News & Observer.

Paul Ross, executive director of the Judicial Standards Commission, said Tuesday that under state law he cannot comment on the commission’s inquiry or release information about it. He said the standard procedure in investigations that do not lead to further action is to issue a letter to a judge detailing the closure of the case.

Ross said that judges are free to release the letters they receive but that he could not confirm its authenticity.

‘No probable cause’

Hudson released the letter along with a statement about the finding of “no probable cause.”

The commission’s letter to Hudson does not specify that it was dealing with Cline’s complaint, listing only a file number. Hudson’s statement, however, said the commission letter relates to Cline’s allegations.

“As I previously stated, I welcomed an investigation by the independent commission,” Hudson said, “understanding and respecting that these proceedings are confidential. The investigation was thorough and fair.”

Hudson is seeking re-election in November and will face Jim Dornfried, a prosecutor and former top assistant to Cline, on the ballot.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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