Friday, November 18, 2011

"Power Without Responsibility or Conscious"

[Update III, 3.47pm, Saturday: Two articles were posted on the N&O website earlier this afternoon. The first, by Joe Neff, notes that on Friday, Cline filed a 285-page(!) motion--described by Neff as "packed with passionate and personal attacks" against Judge Orlando Hudson--demanding the removal of Hudson from all Durham criminal cases. Cline further alleged a wide-ranging conspiracy to discredit her between Hudson, various Durham defense attorneys, and the N&O. The paper's executive editor, John Drescher, appropriately deemed the (unsubstantiated) allegation "crazy."

The second article, by Andrew Curliss, reveals that the State Bar has begun looking into Cline's behavior. Additionally, both Jim Coleman and former North Carolina chief justice Burley Mitchell sharply criticized Cline's behavior, noting that the issues raised by Cline--alleged errors by Hudson--would be handled through appeals, not by accusations of ethical misconduct. Of Cline's filing, Mitchell said, "I have never, never seen anything like it"; Coleman contended that "you don't discredit a judge in this intemperate way," adding that he was unaware of any comparable filing against a judge "in any context."

And, from the comments section, a reminder that in 2008, the Independent hailed Cline (whose J.D. comes from North Carolina Central, and whose B.A. comes from Livingstone College, in Salisbury, N.C.) as a "great attorney" who "could be an excellent role model for the young African Americans caught in the system." Those comments, by the way, came in an editorial in which the paper admitted that it was wrong to have endorsed Mike Nifong in 2006. How long will it be until Indy similarly retracts its praise of Cline?]

[Update II, 10.35pm: In an interview with WTVD-11, Jim Coleman notes, "This is as an extreme of a reaction by rulings of a court that I've ever seen, particularly because it's so personal. The basis for it appears to be rulings that can be reviewed on appeal and if the judge got it wrong, they can be reversed . . . There probably a lot of lawyers who had thoughts like this about judges, but I've never seen one actually put it in a pleading and filing it."]

[Update I, 12.40pm: Joe Neff tweets that the Cline filing was an "all out, one of a kind attack" on a judge. And I e-mailed Cline to ask why she didn't proofread her document before filing it; she did not respond.]

In a blockbuster article, the N&O’s Andrew Curliss revealed that embattled Durham County “minister of justice” Tracey Cline has filed a complaint with the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission against Durham judge Orlando Hudson. Cline accused Hudson of acting with “BAD FAITH” (capitalization and emphasis in original) and deemed him guilty of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.” The DA added that the existence of the complaint gives Judge Hudson a conflict of interest with the Durham DA’s office, and therefore he should hear no criminal cases until any ethics proceedings against him are completed.

In a rambling, 12-page document, Cline charged Hudson with having a vendetta based on her handling of the Derrick Allen case. She outlined her . . . reasoning . . . in this meandering sentence (grammatical and run-on errors all in original): “The District Attorney alleges, based upon information and belief, that this Honorable Court’s action of attempting to coerce the District Attorney into dismissing Allen and then for this Honorable Court to engaged in retaliatory conduct against the District Attorney and the District Attorney’s office after the District Attorney refused to dismiss that case are actions that constitute an improper or wrongful use of the power of this office by acting intentionally and with gross disregard for this conduct and in bad faith.”

Cline offered her “evidence” for Hudson’s alleged gross misconduct in three-and-a-half pages. She summarized what she saw as the basic facts of three cases (Yearwood, Dorman, and Allen) in which Hudson had ruled against her. Cline provided no new evidence to sustain her wild claims, most of which were thoroughly debunked in the N&O’s “Twisted Truth” series. Instead, she frequently resorted to citing unspecified, and unrevealed, “information and belief” (about her own cases!). Based on the arguments presented in her filing, virtually any high-profile ruling against a prosecutor could be deemed judicial misconduct.

The most striking aspect of the filing, however, came not in Cline’s decision to accuse a sitting judge of gross misconduct based largely on his having had the temerity to criticize her own unethical behavior. Rather, it was her decision to do so in a filing that appeared as if it were written by an ill-prepared high school student rather than a major county’s chief prosecutor.

A comedy of grammatical errors, the filing included numerous comma splices that (doubtless unintentionally) produced passages that differed from Cline’s desired meaning. Sometimes the DA seemed unable to write in complete sentences. (“Also a nurse saw the defendant looking at the deceased child’s vagina prior to there being any indication of sexual assault.” Or: “That the appellate courts have reviewed this case two times and each time did not overturn this conviction.” Or: “In that the agency was helping the family with counseling and trying to locate other family members.”) Mid-sentence, Cline frequently capitalized words (Game, Stayed, Interest) for no apparent reason. Occasionally, she ended sentences without periods. Sometimes, she used words Sarah Palin-style, as when she asserted that Hudson’s behavior “retards” confidence in the court’s application of the law.

Most embarrassingly, the filing was riddled with spelling mistakes. At one point, Cline referred to saliva as “salvia.” At another, she described the court system’s principles as the “principals” of the criminal court system. At still another, she feared that her rights were “striped away” by Hudson’s rulings. At yet another point, Cline charged that the legal system’s credibility was a “causality” of Hudson’s conduct. And consider this single-sentence paragraph, with the emphasis added: “This is power without responsibility or conscious.” Was Cline suggesting that Hudson had passed out while delivering his rulings?

Finally, ponder this borderline incoherent sentence, with which Cline began her introduction to the Yearwood case (run-on nature, lack of punctuation as in original): “Mother of 12 year old victim comes home at lunch hears her daughter scream out Mom help and goes to her bedroom to see her daughter crying, her panties torn on the floor, her dress torn and being held up trying to cover her body and the defendant is there buttoning his pants.”

In many circumstances—say, comments on a blog—there’s little, if any, expectation of the writer adhering to basic rules of grammar. But, in this instance, a sitting district attorney took the extraordinary step of registering a claim of ethical misconduct against a sitting judge. Yet this prosecutor, whose job includes the writing of legal briefs at the trial level*, couldn’t even take the time to have someone who knows how to write proofread her legal filing?

It should go without saying that, if removal proceedings aren’t already underway against Cline, this filing should force the State Bar to take a hard look at her fitness for office. As Curliss notes in his article, "Ethics rules for lawyers say they cannot 'engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal' or engage in discourteous conduct 'degrading to a tribunal.' Ethics rules also require lawyers to bring actions based in law and fact, and that a lawyer cannot make a statement 'with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.'"



William L. Anderson said...

I doubt seriously that the North Carolina State Bar will do anything with Cline. It was one thing to disbar Nifong, who thoroughly deserved his fate (and even more), but if the State Bar acts against Cline, it will face inevitable criticism on racial lines.

Unfortunately, Durham voters will return this person to office again and again.

mikelau said...

What a complete embarrassment she is. Cline doesn't belong serving as a paralegal, much less the DA.

What the hell is wrong with people in Durham that someone like this gets elected District Attorney?

It would be comical if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.

mikelau said...

What a complete embarrassment!! Cline isn't capable of serving as a paralegal much less the DA. Writing like this makes you wonder how she received an undergrad degree much less her JD.

What the hell is wrong with people in Durham that someone like this gets elected DA?

Without conscious??????? She should have had an 8th grader proof read it for her first.

It would be comical if it wasn't so damn sad and pathetic.

mikelau said...

I have just read the entire filing and I have 2 observations-

1) Cline is incredibly ignorant and a terrible writer.

2) Cline is bat-shit crazy.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all of the above--she's crazy, unethical, and this will have no bearing whatsoever on her ability to be re-elected.

Anonymous said...

I am both horrified and amused by Cline's shocking level of hubris and stupidity. Normally, I would agree with the posters who think she will get by with this. However, she's targeting a judge. For those who think this could be a racial matter, while I would like to think that's false, it may not quite be. However, it bears mentioning that the Honorable (and honorable, lower-case) Judge Orlando Hudson is African-American as well. For those small-minded people with those concerns, this should be a wash. It may require Judge Hudson filing the complaint from his office, but to put it mildly, I highly doubt he's the least bit amused. Professor Johnson, I often agree with what you write, and calling this career suicide is certainly no exception. Even Michelle Bachmann isn't quite as insane as Tracy Cline, as evidenced by both this act and this brief.

jim2 said...

I would note that Ms. Sarah Palin, whatever one's views of her might be, does have style.

Whatever it is that Ms. Tracey Cline might have, I would not call it style.

Anonymous said...

K.C. I have two modest questions:

1. From what law school did Tracey Cline receive her law degree (J.D.)?

2. How did she manage to pass the Bar Exam (I presume in the state of North Carolina)?

2A. In terms of completeness, difficulty, and professional adequacy, how does the Bar Exam in the state where she (presumably) passed it compare with Bar Exams in other states?

-- Gus W.

carmen said...

These insights may offer the key to getting the central truth about the LAX farce through to Kline and others in the community. Can we try it? "Acting on Information and belief, Mangum was a Striper Without a conscious."

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Ms Cline's legal alma mater will list her as a shining example of the erudition that its graduates possess.

On another note - Black and female will always trump Black and male when it comes down to a decision.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how Sidney Harr will try to tie this development to the "Carpetbagger Jihad"?

Anonymous said...

What's disturbing is that Cline's view that legal rulings against a DA's office are per se judicial misconduct is consistent with most DAs' views. Having some experience with them, most DAs are "true believers" -- that is, they are on the side of all that which is righteous and any obstacles a court puts up must be in bad faith. It simply never occurs to them that there may be another view, and anyone adopting another view must be a personal enemy. This is really not all that unusual for DAs.

Then again, most DAs are not crazy or dumb enough to go after a judge personally like this. Most DAs just spread bad and malicious gossip about them.

- Haunches

Anonymous said...

RE: "It would be comical if it wasn't so damn sad and pathetic."

It IS comical and characteristic of Durham. This kind of behavior from Durham's leaders (sic) will continue.

Anonymous said...

A blast from the past-- the Election 2008 Indyweek endorsement for Cline:

We think voters should support assistant district attorney Tracey Cline. Cline began her legal career as a public defender, representing the poor—valuable experience for a prosecutor. She has served in Durham as an assistant district attorney for 14 years, working her way up to first assistant district attorney and then chief assistant district attorney, when David Saacks was appointed top prosecutor after Nifong resigned. (Saacks is not running to keep his seat.)

Cline is a great attorney who has already shown that she can manage a large caseload. She understands the need to address escalating juvenile crime, and as a black woman, could be an excellent role model for the young African Americans caught in the system. She is putting to rest questions that she was involved in Nifong's lacrosse prosecution, a concern among some critics. She told the Independent that police officers came to her asking advice about what paperwork to complete, a search warrant or a non-testimonial order, and when they had completed the paperwork, filed it with then Assistant District Attorney David Saacks, who signed it. "I didn't sign anything," Cline said. "All I did was advise them, which I should do on every single case. Under the same situation, any district attorney would do the same thing. The statute requires you to do that."

Saacks corroborated Cline's account under oath during Nifong's criminal contempt hearing.

Bumper said...

Cline's law school:
North Carolina Central University
The nation's first public liberal arts college founded for African-Americans, located in Durham.

QuadDog said...

Durham continues to get curiouser and curioser. You can't make this shinola up.

Gary Packwood said...


Poor grammar and spelling play-out really well for those voters who don't respect the perfect writing skills and expectations of their privileged neighbors.

Anonymous said...

"She... as a black woman, could be an excellent role model for the young African Americans caught in the system." Yes, she could be. Sarah Palin could also have chosen to serve a full term as Alaska's governor with honor, and Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain could have chosen to study the issues and get basic facts straight. All of this could have happened. It was possible, and they would have been well advised to do so. However, Cline, Palin, Bachmann, and Cain did not make those choices. As such, none are fit to be role models for anyone, and all are embarrassments.

Anonymous said...


You are so right.. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Republican candidates were more like the twice elected, liberal icon Bill Clinton? Not only did he quit as governor, dodge the draft, admit adultry as president, lie under oath as a sitting president, conduct national security business while being sexually serviced by a youthful intern, lie to the Amercian people national television about said sexual harrassment (shall I go on?), he was also an accused rapist and lost his law license.

Those silly republicans.


Stuart McGeady said...

Superfluous references to presidential politics detract from the focus of the blog. Slamming candidates of one political party by comparing them to Tracy Cline taints the generally non-partisan flavor of the discourse here. I'll set a good example by refraining from listing the many wrong words, gaffes, mistakes and outright falsehoods issued by a candidate of another political party. Let's show some restraint before judging who's a fit role model and who is or isn't an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

To the 11:59PM and 1:01AM: KC started this by mentioning his unswerving loyalty to Obama, so I think that he should refrain from posting and/or including any political preferences henceforth. Likewise we commentors.
I am forced to grasp my right hand with my left and pull it away from the keyboard so that I don't violate my own suggestion.

Big Al
Atlanta, GA

Anonymous said...

Removal proceedings?

Do you think Hudson would remove Cline if someone filed for removal under N.C.G.S. 7A-66 ???

Before you answer ... remember this IS Durham, NC

A Duke Dad said...

.... Will Cline's position as District Attorney be assumed by Victoria Peterson ?

Anonymous said...

How does NCCU stack up as an institutiion of higher learning? I have heard rumors from faculty friends at UNC that Mangum was given a total pass by NCCU. What are they doing over there? Is Hooked on Phonics now an acceptable substitute for English 101? What a dunce Cline is....and worse yet, what a disgrace to Durham. Oh well, she will get herself re-elected .....not because she is a competent worthy DA, but simply because she is black.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 1.12:

I don't believe this post even mentions Obama, nor at any point in the history of the blog have I discussed my "unswerving" loyalty to Obama. Indeed, I cannot think of a single US politician to whom I would pledge "unswerving" loyalty.

To the 6.43:

The fact that NCCU awarded Mangum a degree--an honors degree, no less!--tells you all you need to know about the institution's academic quality.

NCCU's law school is independent of its BA program, and actually doesn't have a bad reputation. That said: based on her filings in the Hudson case, how possibly could she have passed classes? This is a person who not only seems to struggle with basic legal reasoning but has trouble spelling, writing in complete sentences, etc.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Kline's skill with English and knowledge of law explain a great deal about the LAX case. No one in the Durham DA's office can comprehend anything as complex as the constitution of the US.

The Bill of Rights? I dont gotta show you no stinkin bill of rights.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, like Wendy Murphy and Nancy Grace before her, Ms. Cline may end up as a legal commentator for some network.

Anonymous said...

In addition to questions about her educational background and ability to pass the bar exam, one wonders how exactly Cline was able to secure (and maintain) employment at the DA's office.

You would think that the ability to spell and write complete sentences would be a requirement....then again we are talking about Wonderland here aren't we.

Anonymous said...

In addition to questions about her educational background and ability to pass the bar exam, one wonders how exactly Cline was able to secure (and maintain) employment at the DA's office.

You would think that the ability to spell and write complete sentences would be a requirement....then again we are talking about Wonderland here aren't we.

Anonymous said...

MSNBC Analyst: Respect of the Group of 88's Feelings!

"But, even though I was an Obama supporter in 2008 and will remain so for 2012..... After all, I have publicly expressed horror with the Obama administration’s hostility to due process in higher education and my deep disappointment with the President’s indifference to the 2009 plebiscite that annulled the marriage equality law in my home state of Maine."

Horror, hostility, disappointment and indifference do not seem to be adjectives one might use to openly describe the candidate they chose to faithfully support.

That is unless that support is "unswerving"... maybe?


kcjohnson9 said...

To the 12.48:

Actually, it's quite the reverse--"unswerving" support is something akin of James Carville for the Clintons, a figure who will casually and consistently change his mind on issues depending on what position his candidate appears to have adopted. As you note in the above, however, I have criticized Obama on issues where I disagree with him, and doubtless will continue to do so on issues where I disagree with him. At the same time, I disagree with someone like Mitt Romney (who's aggressively critical of most environmental regulations, and who backs an amendment to enshrine discrimination under the law into the Constitution) far more strongly on issues about which I care deeply, meaning I'll be voting for Obama in 2012.

I do try to use my words precisely in this blog--I don't always succeed, but I try. If I supported Obama (or any other candidate) "unswervingly," I would have written so. I have little interest in concealing my beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Durham District Attorney Cline has not impressed some legal heavy hitters in North Carolina.

The curious thing to me are the potential mechanisms to get rid of her. I guess it could play out like it did with Nifong-- she is disbarred, resigns and then Judge Hudson kicks her out immediately anyway. That would work and provide entertainment value for all. But other than an election, any other ways for her to be shown the door?

Anonymous said...

As proof that William Anderson is right when he wrote: "Durham voters will return this person to office again and again," here's the 2008 endorsement of the "progressive" Independent Weekly, Durham, newspaper:
"We think voters should support assistant district attorney Traey Cline. ...Cline is a great excellent role model for the young African Americans caught in the system." (

Anonymous said...

What amazes me is that some folks in local news websites leave comments saying Cline is merely vigorous in prosecution of criminals. How can they not see that if they were wrongly accused, she's be fabricating evidence against them and withholding proof of their innocence? What clown is next? And hire a proof reader.