University of Maryland Law Professor Jason Trumpbour at Friends of Duke Universityreminds us why Durhamites and justice-seekers everywhere should be concerned about the outcome of today’s primary for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Durham District Attorney to fill the remaining two years of the now disbarred Mike Nifong’s term.Trumpbour begins - - -
Today is election day in North Carolina and voters will choose the next District Attorney for Durham County. The Herald-Sun, the great defender of the status quo, predictably endorsed current Assistant District Attorney Tracy Cline. In doing so, it presented a variation of the Durham government party line that Mike Nifong and Mike Nifong alone is to blame for the Lacrosse Hoax stating, “[Nifong’s] actions did not reflect deep flaws within the DA's office.” On the contrary, the Lacrosse Hoax revealed some very deep flaws within the District Attorney’s office indeed.
Tracy Cline’s problems are well known. She was Nifong’s second chair in the lacrosse case and would have helped him try the case had it gone to trial. In October, however, she claimed that she had very little role in the hoax.
According to the Herald-Sun,
Some suggested during the lacrosse meltdown that Nifong’s assistants dropped the ball by not reining in their boss, halting the scandal in its tracks.First, the assertion that she did not know the facts of the case is almost certainly false. Having worked as second chair, I can tell you that the second chair knows as much about the case as the lead attorney and often knows more. In fact, in the normal course of things, the second chair handles the day to day chores and basic prep work. Evidence presented at Nifong’s bar hearings suggests that was the case here.
Cline agreed last week that attorneys have a duty to report unethical conduct among their colleagues.
But she said she lacked insights into what Nifong was doing.
“I didn’t have any personal information about what went on in the lacrosse case, other than what the media reported,” she said. “My job was to keep the courtrooms running. That is what I was focused on.”
More importantly, Cline did not need to know one thing about the Lacrosse case to know that Mike Nifong was an unethical attorney and that he should have been reported to the bar. From the very beginning of the hoax, I tried to make the distinction between Nifong’s conduct and the facts of the case. Even if one could plausibly claim not to know all of the facts of the case, all of Nifong’s misconduct took place in public for all to see. Anyone with a television set could watch him do it.
North Carolina Rule or Professional Conduct 8.3(a) states,
A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the North Carolina State Bar or the court having jurisdiction over the matter.
It is no exaggeration in the least to say that every single lawyer in the District Attorney’s office is an unethical attorney. Mitchell Garrell, another assistant district attorney who is running against Cline tried to make an issue of Cline’s involvement in the hoax at a candidates forum. However, Garrell has some explaining of his own to do. ...
The rest of Trumpbour's post is here. He has some very revealing things to say about the Durham DA's office and what needs to be done there. It's a "don't miss" post.
For more on Cline's well known problems, see these JinC posts:
Who owns that “toxic” NTO? (1/13/08)
NTO battle - Durham DA v. Police (1/17/08)
Durham ADA changes NTO story (2/2/08)
Durham DA Indy endorsement: be wary (4/25/08)
DA candidate Cline’s Duke lacrosse “explanations” (Post 1) (4/27/08)See also this Liestoppers post - Don't Get NIFONGED Again - which contains a poster with a photo of Cline campaigning for Nifong and the text of an ad by attorney Freda Black, one of Cline's opponents in today's primary race.