Hearing on Durham DA's fate delayed
Posted February 13, 2012
Durham, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Monday gave embattled Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline another week to put her case together to defend herself against an attempt to remove her from office.
Judge Robert Hobgood delayed a hearing until next Monday to give Cline more time to recover from pneumonia and a chance to find an attorney to represent her in the case.
In a hoarse voice that cracked repeatedly, Cline told Hobgood that she's had difficulty finding an attorney who doesn't have a conflict of interest because of their ties to her, other parties in the case or potential witnesses.
"It's very important to me that I have an attorney who can represent me, and I think that the court is aware of the fact that I don't want to be that attorney that represents yourself because of the emotional and mental aspects of the case," she said.
North Carolina Central University law professor Irving Joyner said it's imperative for Cline to have an attorney with her during the hearing.
"I think it's critical for her. I think it's critical for the court process and for our system," Joyner said. "I think that the attorney coming in will help to properly frame the issues and keep out a lot of the emotion and the extraneous material."
Hobgood suspended Cline with pay last month, saying there was probable cause to support a motion to have her removed.
Defense attorney Kerry Sutton filed an affidavit that alleges Cline has "brought the office of the Durham County District Attorney and the entire Durham County justice system into disrepute."
Cline has repeatedly accused Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson in recent months of bias against her and has asked to have him barred from handling criminal cases in Durham County. Two other Superior Court judges have found Cline's complaints to be groundless.
The law in the case is seldom used and is broadly written, giving Hobgood plenty of discretion to determine whether Cline should remain in office, Joyner said.
"I think it's more in the notion of in the eye of the beholder," he said. "I think Judge Hobgood is very fair. He is very reasonable. He is a person who will listen to all the evidence. He will put time into studying everything that is going on, as well as the law."
Hobgood began hearing motions on whether to quash some subpoenas Cline issued in the case, but he decided to delay everything for a week, fearing Cline's voice would give out in trying to explain why she needed a newspaper reporter and a lawyer to testify in the hearing.
Judge Leon Stanback, a retired Superior Court judge, has been filling in for Cline since Feb. 1.