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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Judge to consider Cline's removal, or dismissal of case based on free speech

Posted by on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Attorney James Van Camp represents Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline.

For live coverage of Cline's hearing, follow @indyweek and #TraceyCline on Twitter.

Attorneys for suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline renewed a request Wednesday that a judge dismiss a petition calling for Cline’s removal from elected office. When Cline filed court documents last fall criticizing the rulings of a Durham judge, her speech was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one of Cline’s attorneys argued.

Cline was defending criticism of the District Attorney's office, argued Patrick Mincey, an attorney with Van Camp Meacham & Newman in Pinehurst. "She could have stayed silent. She could have done nothing," he said. "But Tracey Cline, as a last resort, spoke out on what she perceived ... was an abuse of justice." By shedding light on the perceived misconduct of Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, Cline's actions have actually strengthened the system, Mincey argued.

Durham attorney Kerry Sutton disagreed that Cline's speech was protected. In January, Sutton filed a petition to have Cline removed. She says Cline's lengthy written accusations, using language she described as "unjust and abusive," damaged public confidence in the court system in Durham.

Cline's writings were not a debate, quarrel or discussion, Sutton said. "This was merely [Cline] blasting out there her version of what she believed happened," and Hudson did not have an opportunity to respond. Cline knows there are strict rules on what lawyers may say about judges, and she knowingly violated them, Sutton argued.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood denied the other efforts Cline’s attorneys made to have the case dismissed, including arguments that the state law allowing a district attorney to be removed is “vague." But Hobgood said he would consider the free speech arguments, and will decide whether the case should be dismissed on those grounds as part of his final decision.

Hobgood could announce a ruling as early as Friday, he said. He’ll decide whether Cline, 48, has brought Durham’s justice system into disrepute because of written requests to have Hudson removed from her cases due to judicial misconduct. Cline used bold, sweeping language in the motions, saying Hudson has presided with the "reprobate mind of a monarch," and that a decision he made to dismiss sexual assault charges in one case was tantamount to raping victims all over again.

Cline has said in her testimony that although she regrets the harsh tone of the hundreds of pages she filed, every statement in the documents is true.

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    Judge could announce decision as early as Friday. If Cline is removed, she may appeal.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Was your home once a meth lab?

Posted by on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Ooh, what's that smell? Has there been more than mac 'n' cheese cooking on your stove?

The problem with meth labs—in addition to their tendency to explode—is that they leave hazardous chemical residue in the home. Unsuspecting new tenants or homeowners may live in the house with contaminants in the walls, appliances, plumbing, etc. Common household chemicals used in meth recipes are methanol, ether, benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane and toluene. Exposure to benzene, for example, increases your risk of leukemia.

To find out if your home is a former methamphetamine lab, check the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's National Clandestine Laboratory Register. Labs are listed by state and county. Here's the PDF for North Carolina, and addresses in local counties are listed below.

Chatham County

  • 50 ALLEN POND ROAD, BEAR CREEK (9/8/2007)
  • 155 SILK HOPE GUM SPRINGS ROAD, PITTSBORO (12/16/2004)
  • 576  LAURA JOHNSON ROAD, PITTSBORO (5/21/2009)

Durham County

  • 810 SOUTH MINERAL SPRINGS ROAD, DURHAM (6/3/2011)

Wake County

  • 116 PINE STREET A, FUQUAY-VARINA (6/9/2010)
  • 1504 CRANSTON ROAD, GARNER (2/23/2006)
  • 4605 BROCKTON DRIVE A, RALEIGH (7/14/2004)
  • 4020 YADKIN DRIVE, RALEIGH (7/15/2004)
  • 12541 BURCHFALLS DRIVE, RALEIGH (7/22/2004)
  • 502 SOUTH WEST STREET, RALEIGH (3/2/2010)
  • 1513 ROARING RAPIDS ROAD, RALEIGH (7/27/2010)
  • 9209 PIPPIN ROAD, ZEBULON (1/31/2007)

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Judge could rule by Friday on whether Durham DA keeps job

Posted by on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Lawyer Stephen Lindsay, left, questions suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline on the witness stand.

For live updates during Cline's removal hearing, follow @indyweek on Twitter and join the conversation using #TraceyCline. Updates will resume beginning at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 29.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood expects to rule by Friday on whether suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline should keep her job, he said.

Cline and others, including a Durham lawyer, a judge and the chief of police, testified in her defense in court Monday. Cline could lose her job because of actions she took last fall to prevent Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson from presiding over her criminal court cases. Hudson is biased, Cline asserted in lengthy court documents, and had been retaliating against her by ruling against her in court.

It was the second day that Cline sat on the witness stand and recounted the events leading up to her decision to file court motions to remove Hudson from her cases due to a conflict of interest. Last week, she faced questions from her own defense attorneys. Monday, Cline faced tougher queries from attorney Stephen Lindsay on a cross examination.

Lindsay is assisting Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton, who filed a complaint in January saying Cline's actions had violated rules of conduct for attorneys, and that her actions brought Durham's justice system into disrepute. He, exclusively, questioned Cline, and the embattled prosecutor often gave long-winded and circuitous answers to Lindsay's yes-or-no questions.

Cline and Lindsay quibbled for several minutes even when Lindsay asked her whether she could agree that, generally, she had handled the responsibilities of her job well during her first few years in office. Cline disputed the assessment, saying it was a team effort, not just her own.

Lindsay often appeared frustrated, his eyes rolling up in his head as he walked back and forth between the witness stand and his seat. He frequently addressed Cline without looking at her. At one point, Cline questioned whether he was paying attention as he chatted with Sutton.

"Are you listening to me?" she asked.

Cline used her hours on the witness stand to repeatedly bring her comments back to her own defense, repeatedly stating that she did what she felt she had to do in the interest of justice. She said that although her words were harsh, she doesn't regret filing the motions—it had to be done, she said.

"Even though this has been difficult has been difficult, I promised to do what was right," Cline said from the witness stand. "And after doing all that I could do, I had to protect the people of Durham county.
"

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    Lawyers will reconvene Wednesday morning for last testimony, closing arguments.

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Duke students, faculty rally against Amendment 1

Posted by on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Jacob Tobia was just one of many enraged activists at the Duke Against Amendment One rally last Friday that spoke against Wake County Commissioners’ recent endorsement of the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Although same-sex marriage is already prohibited in North Carolina, the amendment would codify it in the state constitution. The West Campus Union Building is an early voting site for the primary election; students can vote—and register to vote the same day—from April 19 through May 5.

Among the bustling crowd of students, Tobia, chair of Duke Against Constitutional Discrimination (DACD) lightheartedly called them out, emphasizing the importance of this cause and how it affects both the LGBT and heterosexual communities.

“We don’t think our vote matters,” he said, “but we can’t just walk by anymore and not pay attention. We all have this wall up, and I encourage you to break this wall down.”

The rally’s objective was to raise awareness at Duke and, Tobia, said, get students, “jazzed up” about the amendment. DACD paired up with the Duke Medicine and other campus affiliates. “I never knew anybody from the medicine department,” Tobia said, “It’s great that we’re making connections.”

Sanjay Kishore, president for Duke Partnership for Service, also emphasized the importance of student and community involvement and understanding the injustice of the amendment.

“Duke won’t be able to do this alone, but we can play a part,” Kishore said. “What we’re doing right now is a ripple of hope.”

At the rally, speakers emphasized the discriminatory nature of the amendment, pointing out that marriage is a human right, not a political necessity. The government should not be meddling in marriage.

“What upsets me is that this is becoming a political thing when there is nothing political about it,” Tobia said, “How dare you infringe on my rights? On my parent’s rights?”

Pete Schork, Duke Student Government president told the crowd, “This is an intrusion to our lives by the government,” he said, “I hope and pray this amendment fails.”

Theater professor Jules Odenhall-James is married to her partner and they have a child. “Marriage will no longer be about growth,” she said, “it’ll be about loss, local government and institutions. This bill undermines the good name of the state.”

Katie Handerhan is an intern at the Independent Weekly.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Durham DA Cline defends actions, if not word choice

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Suspended District Attorney Tracey Cline testified in her own defense Friday

Suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline took the witness stand in her own defense Friday, as she testified in a hearing that will determine whether she may stay in office.

Last fall, Cline wrote several long court filings accusing Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of judicial misconduct. She said he was acting on a personal agenda against her instead of working in the interest of victims of crime and the justice system. On Friday, the fourth day of hearings on her removal, Cline defended the long filings regarding Hudson, which used fiery language that several witnesses have characterized as "inflammatory."

"What I said in those motions is absolutely true," Cline said. "How I said it could have been better."

Over several hours, Cline described the interactions she had with Hudson over the past year, both in court and in administrative matters, such as scheduling cases for court. Cline, 48, said she has had a good relationship with Hudson since they met in the mid-1990s, before Cline came to work in Durham. He has been a mentor and role model, and although they haven't always agreed, she has understood his reasoning and application of the law.

Things changed, she said, when Hudson recommended that Cline dismiss charges against Derrick Allen, a man who had served prison time in connection with the 1998 sexual assault and killing of a 2-year-old girl. Allen's conviction was one of numerous cases being reexamined because, a state report found, some reports by forensic examiners at the State Bureau of Investigation may have been incomplete in some cases, and some excluded evidence that might have helped defendants.

When Cline refused to dismiss the Allen case, Hudson dismissed the case himself, and issued an order saying Cline, former Assistant District Attorney Freda Black, and an SBI investigator intentionally misrepresented evidence in the case. Cline denies the judge's findings and spoke with Hudson several times about what he wrote about her, and he repeatedly told her that his findings placed the emphasis on Black and the SBI agent, and their wrongdoing, but that as an assistant to Black, she, too, was responsible. She considered asking Hudson to amend his order to exclude her from culpability, but says she didn't follow through.

"I knew in my heart what I had done, and had not done. So I let it go," Cline said on the witness stand.

But tensions continued to build as Hudson ruled against Cline and her prosecutors in several key cases, including criticisms of Cline's compliance with discovery laws. Then, last fall, The (Raleigh) News & Observer ran a series of critical articles on Cline, and Cline believed Hudson had been a source for the newspaper to discredit her. He also rearranged court dates, which complicated the ability of her office to operate efficiently. There came a point where Cline says Hudson wouldn't talk to her, nor would he respond to other attorneys she sent to the judge to help mediate.

So, Cline said, she contacted various administrative agencies, including the attorney general's office, to see what her options were. She filed a complaint with the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission, then also gathered her staff and told them what she was about to do—to file motions to prohibit Hudson from presiding over her cases because he was biased against her.

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    Everything in her statements about Judge Orlando Hudson is true, Cline said Friday.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Raleigh charter school applicant arrested for missing traffic court date

Posted by on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Kenan Gundogdu
  • Wake County City/ County Bureau of Identification
  • Kenan Gundogdu

An N.C. State University professor who wants to start a new charter school in Raleigh was arrested earlier this month for failing to appear in court on earlier charges.

Kenan Gundogdu, 34, has applied to start the Triangle Math and Science Academy, which would be a spinoff of the Triad Math and Science Academy in Greensboro. The physics professor serves on the Greensboro school's board.

According to court records, a Raleigh police officer cited Gundogdu on Dec. 3, 2011, for driving without insurance and for driving with a canceled, revoked or suspended tag. Raleigh police later arrested Gundogdu, who lives in Cary, for failing to appear in court, a misdemeanor. He was released from the Wake County jail on $500 bail, a spokeswoman said.

Gundogdu is scheduled to appear in court March 19, according to court records.

Gundogdu has been the lead applicant in three attempts to start the science-and-math-focused charter school in Raleigh. His two previous applications were not approved during the time when the state had a cap on the number of charter schools.

Once the state lifted the cap on charters last year, Gundogdu applied again under the "fast-track" process. The State Board of Education is scheduled to approve a list of "fast-track" applications on Feb. 29 and March 1. If approved, the schools could open in fall 2012.

Applicants have told state officials that they're eying the former Exploris Middle School in downtown Raleigh as a possible site for the K-6 school with 270 students the first year.

Gundogdu couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

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    Charter school founder to appear March 19 for driving without insurance and with suspended or revoked tag.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Witness: Other lawyers regard Cline as "out of control"

Posted by on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM

N.C. Appellate Defender Staples Hughes - POOL PHOTO/CHUCK LIDDY/THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Three Triangle-area attorneys testified in a Durham courtroom Monday that the actions and media coverage of embattled District Attorney Tracey Cline have caused them to lose confidence in Durham's justice system.

Lawyers across the state are talking about the public accusations Cline has made against Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, said Staples Hughes, the N.C. Appellate Defender.

“Pretty much anywhere I go … if the subject of Durham comes up, the conversation focuses on Ms. Cline’s filing these motions and the extraordinary and singular character of those motions,” Hughes said. Cline’s behavior is the subject of discussion among lawyers, including some Hughes said he spoke with during a recent trip to Charlotte.

“It is regarded that she’s simply, for whatever reason, completely out of control,” Hughes said.

Cline’s actions could cost her job, maybe even her career. Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton filed a petition last month to have Cline removed from office because of her widely publicized conflict with Hudson, in which she has accused him of plotting with a defense attorney to ruin her reputation. The N.C. State Bar is also examining Cline’s conduct in a separate investigation.

Monday’s hearing was an opportunity for Sutton to bring forward evidence that Cline’s behavior has eroded public confidence in the Durham judicial system and brought it into disrepute.

For about an hour, Sutton had Hughes read excerpts from the hundreds of pages Cline has filed condemning Hudson’s conduct, questioning his character and objectivity and accusing him of retaliation against her by ruling against her in court. Cline has accused Hudson of creating “media mayhem” through a series of stories The News & Observer published last fall. The stories examined Cline’s conduct in court, and findings that she and others mishandled or failed to disclose evidence that might have helped defend people charged with crimes.

As Hughes read the passages from Cline’s missives, Sutton projected them onto a screen in the courtroom. From time to time, Cline looked up at her own words.

“For those who use this court for special situations outside the lines of right and wrong; Don’t hide your dirty hands,” Hughes said, reading Cline’s words aloud. “And to those who have seen, and know, yet turn a blind eye, acknowledge that your hands are covered with the blood of justice. And be ashamed.”

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    Monday was first day of testimony in removal hearing for Durham DA Tracey Cline.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Delay denied, Cline inquiry to go forward Monday

Posted by on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Attorney James Van Camp argues unsuccessfully for a second delay in the Tracey Cline inquiry as she (right) takes notes. Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton (left), who filed the affidavit in the matter, looks on.
  • Pool Photo/Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer
  • Attorney James Van Camp argues unsuccessfully for a second delay in the Tracey Cline inquiry as she (right) takes notes. Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton (left), who filed the affidavit in the matter, looks on.

The inquiry on whether to terminate embattled Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline will proceed Monday, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Friday afternoon at a special hearing.

Also during the 30-minute session, Cline’s legal team, hired Wednesday, released all of the standing subpoenas, including three seeking information from The (Raleigh) News & Observer staff members.

They reserve the right to re-issue them as they become familiar with the case, lead counsel James Van Camp of Moore County said.

Cline was seeking a second delay in the proceedings.

On Monday, Hobgood granted Cline a one-week extension to Feb. 20 after she struggled to project her voice in court, having suffered with pneumonia, she says, and after she could not find suitable counsel to represent her.

On Wednesday, she retained Van Camp, Meacham and Newman of Pinehurst. The law firm filed documents Thursday asking for a second delay so that they can have time to review and prepare for the inquiry.

The case is “unique” and “special” and “an unnecessarily expedient hearing can only risk Ms. Cline being merely prepared to offer a mercurial defense based on emotion rather than a calm, rational defense based on facts,” the motion states.

In court Friday, Van Camp argued for another delay “in the interest of justice and interest of fairness to all parties.”

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Attorneys for Cline to appear in emergency hearing, 3 p.m. today

Posted by on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Attorneys for suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline are scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. today to ask a superior court judge for more time to prepare for a hearing that could result in her removal from office. A Durham defense attorney filed a petition with the courts last month that Cline lose her job because her conduct in a highly publicized conflict with Judge Orlando Hudson has brought the court system into disrepute.

Because she was recovering from pneumonia, and because of the nature of the case, Cline was unable to secure a lawyer to represent her, she said in a hearing Monday. That day, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood granted Cline a delay until Feb. 20.

Two days later, Cline hired a group of attorneys from the Pinehurst firm Van Camp, Meacham & Newman, according to court filings (PDF). Those attorneys now seek to delay the hearing further, since they just got the case Feb. 15.

Because of the gravity of the accusations and the fact that Cline could lose her job, "Ms. Cline effectively must be afforded every opportunity and reasonable allowance of time to prepare an adequate presentation of her merits and the case," her attorneys wrote in their request for more time.

Under state statute, the judge has the authority to delay the hearing until March 1, according to the request.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mike Woodard, Kerry Sutton running for Durham state senate seat

Posted by on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 8:23 AM

This post was updated at 8:23 a.m. on Feb. 16 with comments from Mike Woodard.

Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard and Durham attorney Kerry Sutton, both Democrats, have filed to run in State Senate District 22.

The new district, which, according to state documents is 54 percent Democratic voters and 21 percent Republican, includes parts of Durham, Person and Caswell counties. The district is predominantly white.

Woodard was elected to Durham City Council in 2005 and is in his third term; it expires in 2013. Sutton ran for Durham District Judge in 2010.

I know the range of issues the Legislature deals with," Woodard said. "I can hit the ground running."

Although both candidates are well-known in Durham, they will need to build name recognition in Caswell and Person counties. "There is a lot of sharing between Durham and Person counties in terms of economic development and jobs," Woodard said. "And there's a strong Person-Caswell link. I can be an effective advocate for them."

Sutton announced her intention to run last December at the urging of several women activists. "one of the main things that gets to me is the phenomenal and disturbing dearth of women in the Legislature and government in general," Sutton told the Indy today. "I can be an asset to the Legislature. I’m not afraid of the old boy's club."

WRAL's Laura Leslie reported last week that women legislators have been the hardest hit by the GOP's redistricting maps.

"Mike is a great guy I’ve considered him a friend and I will continue to do so," Sutton said. "He's been great on City Council. But I think people need to consider if we need more of the same in Raleigh. If anybody looks at the Legislative pictures, they'll see middle-aged and retired white guys. I don’t think that what's the people of North Carolina need."

Woodard cites his experience with women's issues, including his chairmanship of the city's domestic violence task force and his work in rape crisis centers. He is also pro-choice. "I can be just as effective as any person, man or woman," he said. "the question is, Who can be the most effective state senator? I'm stressing my experience, knowledge and skill."

The long legislative sessions are an obstacle to most prospective officeholders who have to also work day jobs. This has been especially true during the last year when Republicans have run the General Assembly, calling extra mini-sessions that sometimes lasted just a day or two—or holding votes well after midnight.

"The way the Legislature is set up discourages women, single mothers like me and people who aren’t financially well off," Sutton said. "I see myself a little closer to the ground than the average legislator."

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    Two Durham progressives: How will they fare in Person and Caswell counties?

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