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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last chance for Tracey Cline

The Durham County Courthouse is the Triangle's own little Peyton Place that keeps journalists sated with material. There was the sensational murder trial of Mike Peterson and then the shocking revelation that one of the prosecution's principal witnesses, SBI agent Duane Deaver, was so incompetent that Peterson deserved a retrial. Peterson is no longer under house arrest; it seems unlikely that he will be prosecuted again. Deaver's firing was upheld last week.

Durham DA Mike Nifong, who as an assistant DA had played a minor role in Peterson's trial, corrupted the Duke lacrosse cases and accordingly was disbarred, removed from office, and jailed for a day on criminal contempt of court. His successor as DA, Tracey Cline, was also removed from office after fallacious, vituperative, and bizarre attacks on the judge who had presided at Peterson's trial.

That's a lot of controversy at one courthouse in less than fifteen years!

The North Carolina Bar initiated disbarment of Cline, but the matter was suspended while she appeals her removal from office. Having no recourse remaining in North Carolina, she filed a certiorari petition at the U.S. Supreme Court. Soon the Court will consider her petition. I believe the probability that the Court will accept her case is microscopic. If they do, the case would be docketed for argument in 2015 or 2016.

Justice in the Cline matter is slow. I'm ok with the pace for two reasons. She is out of office, and one would think that in the interim no sane person would engage her to perform legal services. But until the Disciplinary Hearing Commission reaches a decision on disbarment, Cline can practice law.