Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Updated: Cline Removed from Office

Former Durham County DA (and ex-Nifong ADA) Tracey Cline has been permanently removed from office, marking the second time in a half-decade in which a Durham County District Attorney has been removed as chief prosecutor for ethical misconduct.

Live commentary: Judge Hobgood is reading his opinion, which consists of running through Cline's most inflammatory statements from her various wild motions.

The judge concludes that a variety of Cline's statements are false, and brought the office of the DA into disrepute. Hobgood adds that Cline "knew the risk" of her actions.

The "knowingly false statement made with reckless disregard for the truth do not enjoy constitutional protection." Cline's statements were "not truthful." Hobgood adds that Cline's statements "unquestionably" violated Bar standards.

Hobgood says some of Cline's statements might be protected by 1st amendment or qualified immunity, but several of her statements "goes far beyond" any constitutional protections--statements made with "actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth."

Cline "has lost the confidence" necessary to continue as DA. "By recklessly making false allegations against Judge Hudson in the public record," Cline "has crossed the line of protected speech under the 1st amendment."

Rejects Judge Morey's claim that Cline's conduct has not impeded the administration of justice. Cline must be removed from office.

Live-stream is below:

Apart from the hearing, just before the filing deadline, and without informing his boss (interim DA Leon Stanback) Cline backer and ass't district attorney Jim Dornfried has filed to run against Judge Hudson.

A few observations on the hearing. The Cline attorneys argued that her remarks were protected by the 1st amendment. Cline attorney Patrick Mincey even cited Marbury v. Madison !!(1803), which he described, erroneously, as the "first" case "that the Supreme Court made after it was created." (It actually was the 12th decision made by the Court.)

This line of attack strikes me as weak--State Bar organizations in all 50 states have restrictions of various types on what can and cannot be said about judges, criminal cases, etc. Upholding the Cline argument would essentially require Judge Hobgood holding that the State Bar codes in all 50 states are unconstitutional.

One point on which I'd agree with Mincey: in his remarks, he claimed that if the court removed Cline, it would have a "chilling" effect on DA's. Such an action would have a chilling effect: that it, is would "chill" DA's from making unsubstantiated charges and inaccurate claims in court filings. Less persuasively, Mincey claimed that "those who live in Durham Co. who wish to speak out against judicial officials" would be chilled from speaking out by a removal of Cline. I don't see how, unless all the citizens of Durham County are somehow subject to N.C.G.S. § 7A-66.

Even more hilariously, Mincey asserted that Cline's behavior has made the administration of justice in Durham County "stronger." And I'm going to be elected the next Pope.

Boiled down to the essence, the Cline defense made two arguments: (1) discipline of her, if it should occur, should be done by the Bar and not through this procedure; (2) since she really believed what she was saying was always true (even though, of course, it wasn't), she had a right to speak out.


Anonymous said...

Professor, what are the judge's options? Is it either removal from her office or find her all A-OK? Can he sanction her and send her back to work? tell her to chill out? can he say that he won't rule at all, pending some kind of proceeding with the State Bar?

Anonymous said...

Cline's BFF Jim Dornfried, who was by her side throughout the hearings just went down to the Durham Board of Elections and filed to run against Hudson. He didn't even bother to let his current boss, Ret. Judge Stanback who is the acting DA, in on his intentions.

Durham is going batsh*t crazy.

Bumper said...

Is KC a Catholic?

Sorry, after all those "is ... a communist?"

Anonymous said...

Correction on the tense: Durham IS batsh*t crazy. They do indeed require adult supervision.

skwilli said...

From my perspective in Central PA, Durham has been batsh*t crazy for quite a while. It looks to me that Lawyers are just making crazy statements so that they can get paid to argue further on either side of the issue, and then make further crazy statements. But then I'm just a podiatrist, so what do I know? The Federal Government has my pay scale pretty much preordained.

Anonymous said...

Cline is the modern Cassandra, fated never to be believed.

silent_l said...

The remarks made by Cline's attorney on the 1st Amendment issues were impassioned and sincere.

However, Sutton's response pointed out that his remarks were also irrelevant, since Sutton is not facing either a criminal or civil trial. Nobody's threatening to fine her, or throw her in jail, over her speech.

Fundamentally, that argument comes down to a basic reality. She has a constitutional right to freedom of speech. She does not have a constitutional right to continue to serve as DA.

If you say terrible things on the job, your speech may be protected, but in many states your job is not.

That applies even when your employer is "the people".

In most (if not all) places, you CAN be terminated for cause for things you say on the job that violate existing policies. You have the right to speak, and they have the right to escort you off the premises to continue your speech.

Anonymous said...

Read the Independent assessment of the case at--

Please pass me a hanky. I want to cry for all the wrongs being done to poor Tracey Cline.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, there is great interest in Communism.

We have to know which public officials to follow.

Anonymous said...

Counsel's mistaken reference to Marbury v. Madison is understandable given the landmark nature of the case (the first where the Supreme Court exercised Judicial Review by overturning a law). Still, it's pretty sad that counsel was so sloppy as to label Marbury the first USSC decision.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, just perhaps, this will be the beginning of the cleansing of the Augean stable that is the Durham justice system.


William L. Anderson said...

Justice 2, Marcia Morey 0. Enough said.

A Duke Dad said...

1) Wonder if this website exists:

2) Durham must be the Bat Manure capital of the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Tracey can get a job as a researcher, either for Nancy Grace or for Wendy Murphy :-).

Anonymous said...

Now that Tracey is gone, we can look forward to the next Durham DA to go off the rails. Durham voters will only choose the likes of Nifong, Cline, etc. That is the reason for this ongoing, moveable debacle.

It will happen again. Stay tuned.

jim2 said...

I rarely watch vid streams, but I'm glad I made an exception for Judge Hobgood. I felt like I was listening to an avalanche, beginning as it did slowly and building up mass as it went, with each bogus Cline assertion joining as an additional boulder upon its recitation.

Thank you, Professor Johnson!

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering...Orlando Hudson was sitting on the bench during the time when Hardin was DA. Hudson was on the bench during Mike Peterson's criminal trial. Hudson went on to award damages in the wrongful-death case against Mike Peterson. Now, Peterson is out of jail. Do you suggest that Hardin be disbarred? Further, why not even consider Hudson has some bias. Alternatively, at least he isn't such a good judge. Why shouldn't cases Hudson presided over be scrutinized over how he handled them? He doesn't have such a great track record. I think the DA in Wake County has had some significant issues with cases being overturned too. Did any of you propose that DA be removed? For that matter, what should trigger a removal from office? I don't think people should just assume Cline didn't have some real reason to suspect Hudson was working against her. The criminal-defense bar wants all of their clients to get off. That doesn't make me feel so safe.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 6.30:

Many thanks for your comment. I'd urge you to examine the post above, looking at Judge Hobgood's order. The focus of this hearing was ex-DA Cline, not Judge Hudson.

A complaint was filed against Judge Hudson before the Judicial Standards panel; that is the venue that will pass any judgments, if necessary, against him.

Anonymous said...

The comment from 6:30 pm verges on the incoherent.

(1) As KC points out, whether Hudson has behaved inappropriately is before the Judicial Standards Board and was not an issue in this case, which was about Cline's behavior.

(2) It is possible (indeed probable) that the review of Judge Hudson by the Judicial Standards Board will now be pro forma at best. The new DA may not pursue that case strenuously and indeed may not pursue it at all. As for Cline, she is going to be fighting to be reinstated as DA and to prevent well deserved disbarrment, is a proven liar, and may no longer have standing before the Judicial Standards Board. So if Cline's objective was to disipline a rogue judge, she has almost certainly failed abjectly. She is incompetent.

(3) The general objection to Hudson has been that he is biased against the defense. That, if anything, is what the Peterson case demonstrates. The poster seems to be in favor of exactly that bias. If so, what is the poster's objection to Hudson? (It is of course possible that Hudson realizes as a result of the LAX case and others that the DA's office has been playing him like a fiddle and has suddenly remembered that he is supposed to be impartial. Unlikely but possible. Anyone can reform. Perhaps the poster objects to honest judges.)

(4) Cline is a proven liar and has been involved in suppression of exonerating evidence, prevention of speedy justice, and (perhaps) perversion of justice. Her job was to ensure justice, not to incarcerate innocent people. Hudson may be the worst judge in the world, but that does not vindicate Cline. As the proverb puts it, two wrongs do not make a right. Of course in Cline's case, there are many more wrongs than two.

Durham does indeed seem to be Wonderland: unethical and even illegal behavior by prosecutors seems to be what the populace wants.