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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tracey Cline: 1st BLACK, Female NC District Attorney Retaliated Against After Filing Complaints

Durham DA suspended from duty

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, Its 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 Its 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."

Cline takes reins as Durham DA

A longtime NC Prosecutor took the oath of Durham County district attorney Monday, becoming the first black woman to hold the post.

Tracey Cline, a sex crimes prosecutor in the 14th Judicial District for more than a decade, won the district attorney position during the May primary with 46 percent of the vote, beating out three other Democratic challengers.

Because no Republican sought the position, she ran uncontested during November's general election.

Cline replaces David Saacks, whom Gov. Mike Easley appointed to the position in September 2007 to serve out the remainder of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's term.

Nifong, who was at Monday's ceremony, resigned two months earlier in July after being disbarred for breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct for the way he handled the Duke University lacrosse case.

It centered on three players of the school's highly ranked men's team who were accused of raping an exotic dancer.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper later dismissed the case and declared the three men "innocent victims" of a prosecutor's "tragic rush to judgment."

Cline said Monday that she is ready to take on the challenge of overcoming the scandal, which put the Durham District Attorney's Office under public scrutiny.

Durham County, she said, is ready to move forward and as district attorney, she said she can help do that.

"Being a prosecutor is not about power, it's about doing the right thing," Cline said. "You don't have to be popular to be DA. You have to do the right thing, and that's what people are looking for. And I'm going to do that."

During her campaign, Cline said the Duke lacrosse case was one of thousands the district attorney's office handled and that although it did not define the office, it is a part of the city's history.

"I don't think we can separate ourselves from it," she said in an April interview. "I think we can learn from it and move on."

Among her family, friends and colleagues were Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin, who served for 11 years as district attorney before being appointed to a judgeship in 2005.

Hardin said Cline his first hire as district attorney is hardworking and that he is very pleased that she will serve in the position.

North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who administered the oath of office, said Cline, as a young public defender in Fayetteville, stood out to her when she served as a District Court judge because of her thoroughness and ability to think on her feet.

Meanwhile Monday, Saacks was also presented with an award from the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys for what director Peg Dorer said was bringing an even keel to the job.

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Sources: Winston-Salem Journal, WRAL, Youtube, Google Maps

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