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Durham DA's continued attacks on judge questioned

Posted January 10, 2012
Updated January 15, 2012

— Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline is putting her job in jeopardy by repeatedly attacking the integrity of Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, according to lawyers and legal experts.

Cline filed a motion Monday requesting that Hudson recuse himself from presiding over the case of Clint Edward Pollard, who is accused of molesting a boy.

The motion is similar to some she filed in November, when she alleged that Hudson was biased against her and asked that he be barred from hearing criminal cases in Durham County. The judge has criticized Cline's handling of at least two cases in his written rulings.

Another Superior Court judge found no basis for Cline's motion last month, clearing the way for Hudson to handle a request for a new trial from Mike Peterson, a Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate who was convicted of killing his wife a decade ago.

"As one famous person once said, it is déjà vu all over again," said James Coleman, the John S. Bradway Professor of Law at Duke University. "Obviously, she is not willing to take 'no' for an answer, and that seems to be what is going on now."

Cline couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment. In the past, she has declined to comment on ongoing cases.

Pollard's attorney, Kerry Sutton, asked that Cline not be allowed to call witnesses in support of the motion, calling it "a dangerous precedent" and noting that Cline has never worked on the case.

"If a prosecutor can successfully seek to bar a judge from sitting on her cases because he has ruled against her ‘one too many times’ or on particular grounds that she objects to, the separation between the judicial and executive branches is breached, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” Sutton wrote in her response to the motion.

Durham attorney Scott Holmes, who has been critical of Cline, said he has heard from colleagues who want her removed from office.

"It appears our judicial resources are being used in her own personal dispute with a judge rather than focusing on the important criminal cases that need to be taken care of in Durham," Holmes said. "To file the same thing and expect a different result is inappropriate, unless there is some astounding new allegation.”

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson Criticism of judge could jeopardize DA's job

The North Carolina State Bar cannot publicly comment on proceedings against an attorney, but the agency recently requested more than 1,250 pages of documents from the Durham County Clerk of Superior Court in recent weeks related to cases Cline cited in her initial complaints against Hudson.

Coleman said Cline's latest filing could increase the State Bar's sense of urgency in taking action, such as suspending Cline's law license.

"I think the judicial system is being damaged by her conduct," he said. "Certainly, the image of the system has been damaged. ... It makes the system look sort of rinky-dink."

Holmes said he would like to see Cline apologize to Hudson and focus on cases. He said he would wait until at least next month to see if the State Bar takes any action before deciding whether to file his own complaint to start a removal process.

"It's a really difficult climate to work in right now for everybody," he said.

Cline also has filed a complaint with the state Judicial Standards Commission over Hudson's actions.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Common Sense Man Jan 18, 2012

    Hudson has been in Orange County letting the criminals off the hook.

  • Ancient Warlock Jan 18, 2012

    No one knows the "whole" truth in this situation except the judge and the DA. My suggestion would be to remove BOTH of them from their offices now until a formal inquiry can decide which is at fault.

  • renaissancemon Jan 13, 2012

    "No one ran against her"

    The tally claims no one VOTED against her. Do you find that believable?

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 11, 2012

    Until Durham voters quit putting unqualified people into the DA's office, things aren't going to change.

    Instead of figuring out what she's doing wrong, Cline instead decides to attack the judge who rules against her.

    Sounds like Cline is the one with the problem.

  • samr Jan 11, 2012

    I don't believe this woman is incompetent, I believe she's fighting for what's right.

    Comparing that judge in Carteret to Hudson is not valid. As many have pointed out, until this conflict, Hudson has never been regarded as a defendant's judge and in fact has made many controversial rulings that clearly favored the prosecution. One thing that he always has done is require that he is courtroom is fair to both defendant and prosecution. It is wrong to compare Hudson to the judge you mention when Hudson has never been accused of anything except by Cline.

  • Brianda Jan 11, 2012

    With her in charge, the D.A.'s office is a Joke.... She should just go away, don't go away mad, just go away..

  • westernwake1 Jan 11, 2012

    "How can anyone not like Tracey Cline when she was elected unanimously?" - renaissancemon

    No one ran against her so she got 100% of the vote. Since she was the only Democratic candidate she took all the votes. Republicans do not run or win these offices in Durham.

    Hopefully another Democrat runs against her in the upcoming election, and the citizens of Durham can restore the DA's office with some integrity.

  • renaissancemon Jan 11, 2012

    How can anyone not like Tracey Cline when she was elected unanimously?

  • westernwake1 Jan 11, 2012

    "I don't believe this woman is incompetent, I believe she's fighting for what's right." - nanasix

    Oh great, nanasix is back defending Durham DA Tracey Cline. I believe that you need to read some of the court filings and emails from Cline; if she cannot spell or use proper grammar then she is not fit to serve as DA. I also think that you need to read in detail the "Twisted Truth" series in the N&O which outlines how Cline has abused the justice system. I hope that you will return to this thread and defend Cline against the facts outlined in the N&O. Cline was given the opportunity to refute any of the information and was unable to do so.

  • nanasix Jan 11, 2012

    This woman could be the only one in the district that has enough guts to stand up for what's right in the judiciary system. There are many crooked judges in the legal system that do anything wanted by specific attorneys. Here in Carteret County we have a judge that definitely needs to be removed. He signed an annulment order when neither the motion or order stated any reason allowed for annulment under NC Law. He knew this man was in our country illegally and his attorney had this done to keep him from being charged with Bigamy. He was ultimately charged with Bigamy, and it stayed on the docket for 2 yrs with the DA doing nothing to prosecute after promising he would, and having everything in hand (evidence) of the Bigamy.
    What has happened to our legal system is unbelievable. There is no more justice. It's all about money to everyone involved. I don't believe this woman is incompetent, I believe she's fighting for what's right.