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Legal experts: Durham court feud an 'embarrassment'

Posted November 21, 2011
Updated November 22, 2011

— Legal experts say the ongoing feud between Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson will create chaos with the criminal caseload at the Durham County Courthouse.

Cline filed a motion last week asking that Hudson be barred from hearing criminal cases in Durham. She accused him of corruption and being biased against her, saying his decision to dismiss murder charges in two cases amounted to "raping" crime victims.

The motion followed Hudson's criticisms of Cline in recent months. He said she withheld evidence in one case and worked to destroy evidence in another.

”I have seen and have been guilty of intemperate comments, but I usually try not to make them in the open,” former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell said Monday, calling the feud "an embarrassment.”

Cline's motion is unprecedented, Mitchell said, and it will impact judicial proceedings far beyond cases involving Cline and Hudson.

"It will also make it difficult on the assistant DAs who have to come into court,” he said. "It just will leave everybody on pins and needles, I’m afraid, and it’s really hard on the system.”

Hudson is scheduled to hear criminal cases in Wake County through the end of December and in Orange and Chatham counties for the first six months of 2012, so Durham County's court schedule shouldn't see major impacts in the near future, trial court administrator Kathy Shuart said.

Hudson is scheduled to hear an appeal from convicted killer Mike Peterson on Dec. 5, and Cline is expected to be involved in the case.

Cline has filed a complaint with the state Judicial Standards Commission over Hudson's actions, and Duke University law professor James Coleman said he wouldn't be surprised if the North Carolina State Bar looks at her attack for possible ethical violations.

Tracey Cline motion against Orlando Hudson Judicial fight hasn't yet disrupted Durham courts

"Lawyers don't file pleadings like that," Coleman said. "That’s not the kind of language that lawyers use. That’s not the kind of language that an elected district attorney would ever use in any circumstance.”

He said he thought Cline's motion was an out-of-season April Fool's joke when he first heard of it.

"If you are going to make those allegations, you better be able to prove them and prove them in spades,” Mitchell said. "It’s serious allegations against a judge.”

Irving Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University, said Cline's motion to bar Hudson from cases will fail because no other judge has the power to diminish his ability to carry out his duties from the bench.

"For all practical purposes, the motion seeks to remove the judge's powers to act as a judge, a process that present North Carolina law does not contemplate," Joyner said, adding that Cline should have simply let the Judicial Standards Commission review Hudson's actions.

Coleman said Cline could even lose her job over the dispute, noting the ill will she has created has destroyed any effectiveness she had as a district attorney.

"It’s very difficult for the office, it seems to me, certainly to deal with Judge Hudson and probably to deal with any of the judges here in Durham," he said. "I think that she has damaged her office. She’s damaged the victims that she claims to be acting on behalf of. You don’t do something like this.”

11 Comments

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  • solarflare40 Nov 22, 12:27 p.m.

    Cline has committed career suicide! She'll be flipping hamburgers in the near future.

  • masontom56 Nov 22, 12:21 p.m.

    Thought once they got rid of the likes of Nifong & Brown, things would get back to normal?

  • abylelab -BT- Nov 22, 10:35 a.m.

    i seriously don't understand how DA's who hide evidence that PROVES innocence don't go to jail

  • Nancy Nov 22, 10:00 a.m.

    If Cline is an embarrassment to Durham, let's remember the voters put her in place (overwhelmingly so) after she was second chair on the non-rape lacrosse case after the law got rid of the other inept DA, Nifong.

    I think the voters should be embarrassed but somehow I don't think they are.

  • Milkman Nov 21, 7:56 p.m.

    I'd love to see Cline's "evidence" presented, and when she has none, I hope someone with the power to remove her (perhaps Perdue) does exactly that.

  • Mr Davis Nov 21, 7:44 p.m.

    To call this an embarrassment is an understatement. Another DA Durham can be proud of. Keep up the good work! Durham better give her a pay raise, isn't that the secret to keeping good job talent. Do I hear another Town Hall meeting in the works for Mrs Cline. Better yet where is Jim Hardin when you need him?

  • ncspamfish Nov 21, 7:29 p.m.

    durham.........continues its lawless days. hudson seems ok.........but cline needs to go at the earliest possible moment.

  • methinks Nov 21, 6:49 p.m.

    Judges have too much power and very little accountability.

  • westernwake1 Nov 21, 6:34 p.m.

    Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline is many steps beyond an embarrassment; she is a threat to justice and needs to be sent packing by the citizens of Durham as soon as possible.

    The N&O profiled the outrageous behavior of DA Tracey Cline in a series in early September called "Twited Truth: A Prosecutor Under Fire".

    The first of the three part series can be found here:
    http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/09/04/1459697/clines-courtroom-actions-lead.html

    Links can be found to the other related articles on the page.

    Cline has abused justice worse than Nifong.

  • sjb2k1 Nov 21, 6:27 p.m.

    thanks "legal experts" for telling us what we already know hehe

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