by Joe Schwartz
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.”
“We need that accommodation to do an effective job for our client,” he said.
Cline, who took office in 2009, is suspended with pay amid claims that she is no longer capable of serving after she launched a public battle against Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson to have him removed from criminal cases. She did not speak during the hearing and did not provide comment to media.
Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton filed an affidavit Jan. 18 that began the inquiry.
Sutton is challenging Cline’s ability to administer justice and claiming that the district attorney’s actions reflect poorly on the Durham court system.
Sutton said during Friday’s hearing that Cline should have been preparing her response for weeks now and that further delay is not fair to the involved parties or to citizens. She called the request “disingenuous.”
“I’m a one-person law firm, this has been consuming my time for over a month,” she said. “I don’t have that much flexibility left, Your Honor.”
Van Camp requested the court delay Monday’s hearing so he could file pre-hearing motions Tuesday. He wanted the motions to be heard next Friday and the inquiry to begin March 5.
In denying that motion, Hobgood opted to hear evidence from Sutton at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 20, and from Van Camp on Friday, Feb. 24. He said the only items of relevance in the case are statements made by Cline regarding Hudson in pleadings or verbal statements in court.