State News

Attorneys for ousted Durham DA argue removal violated her rights

Posted February 13, 2013

— Lawyers for former Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said Wednesday that the state law used to remove her from office last year is unconstitutional.

Cline lost her job last March after she repeatedly accused Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of being corrupt and biased against her and asked to have him barred from handling criminal cases in Durham County.

In the lengthy motions, she said Hudson had "the reprobate mind of a monarch," said his conduct involved "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption," that his actions "raped" crime victims and "kidnapped the rights of victims and their families" and that his only goal was "to demean the district attorney at all costs."

Other Superior Court judges found her complaints to be groundless, and Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled after a hearing that the allegations had damaged the Durham County justice system and removed her from office.

Attorney Patrick Mincey told a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals that the statute allowing for district attorneys to be removed from office violates Cline's due process rights because it required Hobgood to hold a hearing within 30 days of a complaint being filed.

"For Ms. Cline or for any other district attorney in the state of North Carolina, this statute does not afford the minimum level, the minimum protections of due process that our federal Constitution requires," Mincey said.

Appellate judges Robert Hunter and Martha Geer questioned what rights Cline was denied, noting that she had a hearing and was able to challenge the evidence against her and call witnesses to bolster her case.

Cline didn't attend the hearing.

Decision on Cline appeal likely to take months Decision on Cline appeal likely to take months

Former Durham DA appeals her removal from office Former Durham DA appeals her removal from office

Mincey also argued that Cline's statements are protected under the First Amendment, saying she had a basis for making them because she believed Hudson was hindering her ability to prosecute cases.

"This was not speech based on Tracey Cline's imagination but it was, in fact, founded and grounded in a year of observation," he said.

The judges asked why Cline filed motions challenging Hudson instead of simply appealing his rulings.

"Speaking out is one thing," Geer said, "but that's not what we're talking about. .... We're talking about fairly extreme language."

"Corruption is a very serious charge for a sitting judge," Hunter said.

Mincey said Cline had no alternative – although she had filed a complaint against Hudson with the Judicial Standards Commission.

"There's no doubt Tracey wanted to resolve issues peaceably with Judge Hudson, but when it came to choosing peace or injustice, she wouldn't be the one person who would not side with justice," he said.

The state Judicial Standards Commission in September cleared Hudson of the allegations raised by Cline.

Burton Craige, a Wake County attorney appointed to argue that Hobgood's order be upheld, said Cline had been repeatedly warned about filing motions with baseless accusations.

"The only record against her is her own words," Craige said. "There's been no showing of prejudice. ... There was ample procedural due process."

He also urged the panel to draw the line on preventing public attacks on judges' character.

"If this barrage of false accusations against Judge Hudson is acceptable, what would not be acceptable?" he asked.

The Court of Appeals usually takes about three months to issue its rulings.

A disciplinary hearing in front of the North Carolina State Bar is on hold pending the Court of Appeals ruling.

The bar's disciplinary hearing, which was originally scheduled for last October, will rule on a complaint against Cline alleging she committed five violations of rules requiring lawyers to be honest and trustworthy.

It's not clear what punishment Cline might face.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Sherlock Feb 14, 2013

    Why did she not attnd the hearing? She knows the truth and did not what to hear it all again.

  • whatdidusay Feb 13, 2013

    I bet both of them think they are squeaky clean. In their own mind

  • ylmclean73 Feb 13, 2013

    cline deserves a second chance. You out there would want someone to give you a second chance. Right?

    She definitely does not deserve a second chance as a lawyer. As a lawyer you have the ability to save/ruin peoples lives and her actions were unforgiveable. hiding evidence and with holding damaging evidence to the prosecution from the defense is incredibly irresponsible and immoral. She got what she deserved and the people of Durham are better off for it. When you have a position as powerful and important as hers you do not deserve a second chance when you make huge ethical and moral mistakes and violations while

    Its amazing so many of you think she did something wrong. I'm sure he did everything she said he did. You think any sitting Judge is going to admit that another sitting Judge did something wrong?That hearing was a waste of time. Next time the Police Dept is accused of brutality why don't they just let the Sheriff Dept determine if they did anything wrong?

  • Rebelyell55 Feb 13, 2013

    Don't be like Cline and just make stuff up... provide something concrete against Hudson.

    February 13, 2013 6:13 p.m.______________________ Just wondering, didn't the court of appeals ruled against his ruling on that case?

  • samr Feb 13, 2013

    A woman calls out behavior by a judge and she gets castigated. Wow, only in NC!!


    She filed motions that she KNEW to be false and used her previous relationship with Judge Hardin to get him to sign them. Even IF her statements about Hudson is deemed to be free speech, she did plenty of other things that brought the Durham DA's office into disrepute.

  • seankelly15 Feb 13, 2013

    faycop4ncstate - " however it would seem to be protected speech for someone to reasonably form the opinion that a judge who constantly makes legal decisions wholly inconsistent with statute and established case law in the favor of criminal defendants that results in dismissal of serious felony charges is corrupt. Has Judge Hudson been investigated? Does he care to provide an explanation as to why he can’t seem to understand basic statutes and legal principles despite being the Resident Superior Court Judge?"

    You are as daft as she is. Name ONE instance where "statute and established case law" was not observed by Hudson. And, don't bring up the cremation story - it has been explained to you why what Cline did was wrong and because of what she did she left Hudson with no choice but to dismiss the case. Don't be like Cline and just make stuff up... provide something concrete against Hudson.

  • michaelllee11 Feb 13, 2013

    A woman calls out behavior by a judge and she gets castigated. Wow, only in NC!!

  • Geez Louise Feb 13, 2013

    All a bunch of lawyers trying to out-yell the others.

  • rachel Feb 13, 2013

    bottom line-in this state, the boss has the right to fire you-and she was fired-end of way too costly story.

  • SurvivorOne Feb 13, 2013

    Stick a fork in it!