Top Prosecutor Tracey Cline was removed from her office as Durham County’s District Attorney today, in North Carolina. Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood permanently removed Ms. Cline from her position and revoked her pay, stating “her actions undermined public confidence.”
The ”actions” in questions were public statements Cline made about Durham’s Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Orlando Hudson. As reported by IndyWeek, Cline said, Judge Hudson “was guilty of misconduct, moral ineptitude, dishonesty and corruption” and that he had “kidnapped the rights of victims and their families.” Apparently, former District Attorney Tracey Cline’s comments are not protected under the First Amendment guaranteeing US Citizens the right of Free Speech.
Cline testified about her lengthy conflict with Judge Hudson, which began when Cline refused to dismiss charges against a suspect who was alleged to have sexually assaulted and murdered a two-year old girl. As the riff between former DA Cline and Judge Hudson intensified, Cline followed standard protocol and wrote a letter of complaint to the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission. The so-called inflammatory remarks in that statement resulted in Ms. Cline being ousted from office today.
Durham County community activists described Cline’s termination as a modern-day “lynching”. Unlike her predecessor, disgraced DA Michael Nifong, of Duke rape case infamy, Ms. Cline was not appointed to office. She was elected in 2008 by the voting population of her district. Cline is only the 2nd District Attorney in North Carolina history to be removed by a judge. A New Hanover DA was also removed 20 years ago for making a racial slur.
In related news, the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission has accused Forsyth County District Judge Denise Hartfield of “entering favorable judgments for certain defendants.” The allegations were brought by former Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith, who requested an SBI investigation. After reviewing the case, the SBI has concluded that their investigation is over and no criminal charges will be filed. However, that has not stopped Forsyth County prosecutors from charging Judge Hartsfield with 22 counts of “fixing tickets and fines for friends and fellow church members”.
Hartsfield is one of only two Black judges in Forsyth County District Court. She is said to be hard but compassionate, and is very active in the city’s Black community. The star witness against Judge Hartsfield is a former courthouse clerk, Jason Pollard, who was fired in 2008 after an investigation into allegations that he ”fixed” tickets in exchanged for sexual favors. Judge Denise Hartsfield was also duly elected by her community in 2002 and denies all allegations.
Equitable justice for Blacks in North Carolina has always been a misnomer. Now it appears that, even on the other side of law, with regard to elected Black women District Attorneys and Judges, Jim Crow Justice still exists in this southern state. The rampant racism in North Carolina reaches to the very heights of the judicial system, when a sitting Judge can be brought up on frivolous charges based on the testimony of an alleged sexual predator, and a hard-working District Attorney can be fired by one white male judge for “speaking out of turn.”
Judge Denise Hartsfield’s charges are still pending. District Attorney Tracey Cline is appealing her decision.