DURHAM – Durham County’s top prosecutor was stripped of her job Friday for job performance that raised public doubts about a fair justice system, making her the second district attorney in state history to lose her job for that reason.
Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood ordered that Durham District Attorney Tracey E. Cline, 48, be permanently removed because her public statements criticizing Durham Senior Resident Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr. undermined public confidence in the judicial system.
“By recklessly making blatantly false allegations against Judge Hudson in the public records, totally lacking in factual support, attacking his morality, honesty and asserting that he is corrupt, Tracey E. Cline has crossed the line of protected free speech under the First Amendment,” Hobgood, who is from nearby Franklin County, said Friday as he read his 14-page order into the record.
From the bench, Hobgood terminated Cline’s state salary, effective immediately.
Cline briefly thanked the judge for his attention to the case and left the courtroom without speaking, shaking her head “no” when a reporter asked if she wanted to comment. Her lawyer quickly filed notice of appeal.
Cline launched an acrimonious effort last year to remove Hudson from overseeing criminal cases involving her office after the judge determined the Durham DA’s office had withheld or destroyed evidence that could have helped defendants accused of child rape and murder. Hudson ordered the charges dismissed.
In hundreds of pages of court filings, Cline alleged Hudson was part of a wide-ranging conspiracy of defense lawyers, court personnel and a news reporter to make her appear incompetent.
Cline accused Hudson of causing crime victims to be “emotionally and repeatedly raped by this court’s rulings.” Cline wrote in court filings that Hudson had the “reprobate mind of a monarch” and was responsible for “kidnapping the rights of victims and their families, holding these rights for hostage.”
Other judges had previously ruled her accusations were meritless, including one who admonished her from the bench in December and warned her to be more careful with her statements. Cline didn’t take the advice and was suspended last month.