Former Durham DA can return to practicing law
Posted June 5, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Former Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline will be able to resume her legal career after a state disciplinary panel ruled Friday that she violated several rules of professional conduct for attorneys.
The three-member panel of the North Carolina State Bar suspended Cline's law license for five years but determined that only two years of that would be an active suspension. Any time Cline hasn't been practicing would apply toward that two-year requirement, the panel said.
Cline hasn't practiced law since she was ousted from the District Attorney's Office in March 2012. In tears after the hearing, she said she would like to practice law again some day.
"Sometimes you can do the right thing in the wrong way," Cline told the three-member panel, describing a "hurricane" that surrounded her in late 2011.
She had been accused in a series of newspaper stories of prosecutorial misconduct, and when Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson wouldn't help her figure out why and ruled against her in several high-profile cases, she repeatedly criticized him in public, accusing him of bias and corruption.
Six months later, she was out of a job. A judge ruled her accusations were groundless and were harming Durham County's justice system, and he ordered her removed from office.
Cline said Friday that she regretted the language she used against Hudson but said she was only trying to stick up for crime victims and their families, who she felt were being harmed by his rulings.
"My intent was to try to seek justice," she said.
The disciplinary panel ruled in February that Clines's criticism of Hudson violated several rules of conduct. On Friday, they said she also violated conduct rules when she got an investigator for her office to file bogus motions in late 2011 seeking the prison visitation records of three inmates, never told the prisoners or their lawyers about the filings and misled a judge about them.
"We see things that were disturbing to us about what was going on in Durham County, but we're not here to try those issues," said Steven Michael, a Kitty Hawk lawyer who chaired the disciplinary panel. "We're here to try the conduct you engaged in, and that's all that is before us."