The North Carolina Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court order removing Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline from her office. In re Cline, __ N.C. App. ___, 749 S.E.2d 91 (2013). Patterson Harkavy attorney Burton Craige acted as court appointed counsel responding to Cline’s appeal of her dismissal.
The controversy has its roots in late 2011, when Cline began making numerous false and outrageous accusations against Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, Jr. in public pleadings. Cline’s behavior lead attorney Kerstin Sutton to petition for Cline’s removal under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-66, which establishes a number of grounds on which a district attorney can be removed from office. Sutton was appointed to present evidence against Cline at a hearing before Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood. On March 2, 2012, Judge Hobgood found that Cline had engaged in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute” under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-66(6), and removed her from office. Cline appealed.
The court appointed Burton Craige to manage the response to Cline’s appeal. Burton worked with Sutton and Patterson Harkavy attorney Narendra Ghosh to defend Judge Hobgood’s removal order. On October 1, a unanimous panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals published an opinion affirming Judge Hobgood’s order removing Cline from her office.
The News and Observer has engaged in extensive coverage of the controversy, including an investigative series entitled “Twisted Truth: a Prosecutor Under Attack.” More recent articles explore Burton’s role as court appointed independent counsel and discuss Monday’s Court of Appeals decision.