Durham, N.C. — A Franklin County judge decided Friday to suspend Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline from her duties pending a hearing next month.
Cline's accusations of bias against Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson put her own performance under scrutiny in recent months and led one defense attorney to push for her ouster.
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."
The filing is the first step required by law to remove Cline from office.
On Friday, Sutton said, “It’s an on-going process, and by the time we get to the end everyone has a chance to make their case.” She and Cline will get that opportunity Feb. 13.
Cline has repeatedly accused 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.
Hudson, the chief judge in Durham County, handed the complaint over to Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, who on Friday suspended Cline with pay.
Marcia Morey, a former assistant district attorney in Durham and current District Court Judge, said “It’s a sad day for Durham. The justice system is supposed to be working for the people of this county."
The clash not only puts Cline on the sidelines, it could cause chaos in her office, according to Irv Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University.
"You have a feud or an attack involving the top two elected officials in our court system here, and that does not look good," Joyner said. "It's not good for our profession nor is it good for Durham County."