Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yet Another Cline Embarrassment (Updated)

[Updated, Thurs., 5.56pm: "Ahab" Cline will continue her quixotic quest against Judge Hudson, the N&O reveals. Cline--the person who, it's worth noting, wouldn't recognize the truth if it bopped her in the head--wrote that "it is truth telling time" for Durham County.]

[Updated, Wed., 4.22pm: Durham attorney Kerry Sutton (who played a minor role in the lacrosse case) has filed an affidavit urging the removal of Tracey Cline as Durham DA. In the affidavit, Sutton accuses Cline of "habitual intemperance" and conduct "prejudicial to the administration of justice." Sutton, not unreasonably, characterized Cline's "inflammatory" filings against Judge Orlando Hudson as filled with "venom" and "paranoid" language, lacking in "fact or evidence, other than Ms. Cline's personal beliefs." Sutton goes into considerable length about how Cline's obsession with Hudson has both harmed the Durham DA office's reputation and consumed the Durham legal community's resources. (She also points out that the grammatically-challenged Cline also has a tendency to misspell "affidavit" in her legal filings.)

The N&O's Andrew Curliss reports that the gambit employed by Sutton is rarely used, and is believed to have resulted in the removal of only one DA in North Carolina history.]

Durham County’s minister of justice was last heard from penning a bizarre e-mail to the Herald-Sun in which she misspelled a judge’s name and asserted that “truth should be intimidated by the pressure of the powerful or the fear of failure.” This morning’s N&O exposes as false a central claim made by Tracey Cline in her quixotic crusade against Judge Orlando Hudson—that Hudson had demonstrated his anti-Cline bias by entering an August order before the prosecution even had the chance even to present all of its witnesses.

Reporter Andrew Curliss did what Cline failed to do—he actually investigated the seeming anomaly. And he discovered a benign explanation: “The clock at the courthouse that stamped the document was more than two hours slow that day.” In a situation that would seem more likely in a small town courthouse than in North Carolina’s fifth-largest city, the clock in the county clerk’s office seems to malfunction with some regularity. Curliss spoke to assistant county clerk Angela Kelly, who commented about the clock, “It is a machine that's plugged up in the wall that runs constantly. When things are filed, we stick it in there, and we always hope and pray it's correct. But there have been times when we notice that it's not correct."

Curliss confirmed Kelly’s recollection by checking into legal documents filed the next morning—which the clock erroneously stamped at 7.18am, rather than after 9.00am, when the clerk’s office actually opened. (Times public editor Arthur Brisbane might just call Curliss a “truth vigilante.”) The N&O website has a photo of the relevant filings.

Rather than assuming the worst and thereby leveling wild, unsubstantiated allegations against a sitting judge, Cline might have checked to see if there were problems with the clock in the clerk’s office, something that would have taken her only a few minutes to do. The N&O presented Cline with the information, but she declined comment, and thus did not take the opportunity to say that she would withdraw her charges against Hudson. Jim Coleman summarized the problem to Curliss: "She has made a serious allegation, and it warranted serious review by her before this filing. It is now just more evidence of a lawyer who is barreling down a hill totally oblivious to the damage she is causing to the judicial system. She is undermining confidence in the system. It's disgraceful."

Such cavalier disregard for the truth and professional behavior from his county’s “minister of justice” might be enough to cause “shame” and “anger” even from the likes of Duke professor William Reichert. But I suspect not.


Anonymous said...

Coleman said, "She is undermining confidence in the system."

Uhum (throat clearing sound), we who live here have not had confidence in the system in Durham (aka the DA's office) for quite a while now.

Tracey Cline's 'professional' behavior is in keeping with the status quo in Durham.

(P.S. I am not a legal guy but doesn't her behavior give openings to anyone convicted of a crime in Durham to appeal-- at least for another trial? It looks like prima facia evidence of generic, legal malfeasance at this point-- to and for everyone. To assume that the DA's office has biased, distorted, screwed up, etc. every Durham prosecution seems reasonable to me.)

William L. Anderson said...

Can anyone doubt that Cline would have been a full-throated advocate had the lacrosse case gone to trial? She was the second chair, and while she has lied about her role in the case, I have no doubt that she would have been joined at the hip with Mike Nifong in presenting the case.

This is unbelievable, yet the unbelievable seems to be the norm in Durham.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the "legal expert" cited by the N&O, as I've personally dealt with a similar situation. (Mine actually happened, though, and isn't a figment of a fevered imagination like Cline's "conspiracy."). I'm referring to a Judge who has a "draft Order" ready to sign after a hearing.

At a hearing in one of my cases, I asked to see the official court file for one reason or another.

On top of the pages secured in the file was a loose "Order" by the Judge finding against my client. Of course, I hadn't had a chance to present evidence or argue the law.

As soon as the hearing started, I marked the "Order" as evidence, requested a new trial and saw charges filed against the judge with the Judiciary Board in my state. I got a new Judge, and the first one received a written sanction.

There is absolutely nothing right about a Judge pre-judging a case. That's about as un-American as it gets. (Perhaps the "legal expert" meant that a Judge can have "draft Orders" prepared rendering ALL POSSIBLE VERDICTS?). Otherwise, that procedure is as unfair as a Nazi or Stalinist trial, and the appearance of impropriety cannot be matched.

On a couple of other notes, sounds like the Durham Clerk's office needs a new clock. They better get one before the place goes bankrupt. Also, it sounds like the county needs a new prosecuting attorney. They better get one before the place goes bankrupt. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

I agree that Cline's behavior after being made aware of the clock malfunction was poor - she should have immediately withdrawn the complaint. However - I don't think it was unreasonable for her to make her initial conclusion given that it was based on the official timestamp.

How could she have known (in advance) that the clock malfunctioned ?

Anonymous said...

Finally. We may be rid of Cline one day. If I was betting, though, her replacement will probably be as bad but not so graphically crazy.

Gary Packwood said...

I doubt seriously Ms. Cline is grammatically challenged and I do find her grammar and spelling entirely consistent with examples used in the national debate over the definition of standard and non-standard English.

Non-standard English is not necessarily wrong and may be quite appropriate for a target audience of voters, for example.

Setting our hair on fire when someone in rural West Virginia is talking about 'store boughten bread' is the first step towards perceived racism and elitism.

And DA Tracey Cline knows that so very well as do members of The Group of 88.

Let us allow the legal pleadings to move forward as issues of law.