Thursday, June 21, 2007

Flashback: Greatest Hits of Jim Hardin, Vol. XIV

"Tag-team justice" - The News & Observer (May 21, 1999)

The marriage of convenience between District Attorney Jim Hardin and chief Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson may have begun as a straightforward attempt to clear a huge backlog of criminal cases in Durham County.

...

But the arrangement now suggests a too-cozy collaborative effort between a gung-ho prosecutor and a judge who must maintain his impartiality. The relationship also illustrates potential risks under the North Carolina law that gives district attorneys the power to say when and in front of which judge criminal cases are heard.

Hardin controls the scheduling of those cases, and Hudson in recent years has heard nearly all the major criminal cases in Durham County. (Since 1995, Hardin has channeled 11 of 12 high-profile murder cases to Hudson's courtroom.) ... other judges and defense attorneys indicated, in a News & Observer story, that they find the arrangement curious...

... Superior Court Judge Abe Jones of Wake County, recalling a Durham rotation, notes that he ruled against prosecutors on some occasions and wasn't assigned to hear criminal cases again...

One judge who seems to find the Hardin-Hudson arrangement less than ideal is state Chief Justice Burley Mitchell...

Is Hardin seeking an advantage? He says no, that he's a diligent prosecutor trying to move cases through the system. But Hudson said, "Jim Hardin doesn't put himself at a disadvantage." That's a disturbing statement, for it indicates that Hudson believes Hardin is indeed "judge-shopping," and that there's nothing particularly wrong with it. A judge should have a more ambitious hope for the system than the cynicism that statement conveys.

North Carolina is the only state that gives DAs the exclusive power to schedule cases. A bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Ballance Jr. of Warrenton would end that, but it has been gutted (again this year) by a powerful district attorneys' lobby that can't countenance letting loose the courthouse reins. The Hardin-Hudson partnership is a strong argument for reviving Ballance's bill.

It's also a phenomenon that, in the meantime, Chief Justice Mitchell should address in no uncertain terms - not for efficiency's sake, but for the sake of justice.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

District Attorneys get to decide which judges hear which cases and when? Dear God, no wonder the Durham judicial system is messed up!

RattlerGator said...

Unbelievable.

And folks in North Carolina think they have solved a problem by giving the Governor the authority to removed a disbarred D.A. from his position?

Ridiculous.