Leon Stanback, who was a judge from 1989 until his retirement in 2009, was appointed today by Gov. Bev Perdue to serve as the interim DA in Durham.
Stanback also is a former member of the state’s parole board, and was an assistant district attorney in Guilford County in the 1970s. He has also been in private practice as a defense lawyer. He retired in late 2009, and has been a court mediator since.
“Judge Stanback has served North Carolina and the Durham community with distinction as a prosecutor, parole commissioner and Superior Court judge,” Perdue said in a statement. “He is the ideal person to bring strong leadership to the district attorney’s office at this challenging time.”
Stanback said in a brief interview that he did not have much to say about the appointment because he did not yet know what his approach would be in the office.
He said he would not seek the office permanently if it were to open up.
“I’m not going to run for the office,” he said. “I’ll serve at the pleasure of the governor as long as I am needed.”
He said he did not yet know when he would be sworn in, but thought it would take several days.
State law required Perdue to appoint an interim DA after a judge last week suspended Cline on a finding of probable cause that she has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brought her office into disrepute.
Over the past three months, Cline launched attacks in court documents against Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that legal scholars and lawyers have described as unprecedented and beyond acceptable. Reports in the News & Observer have shown substantial errors of fact by Cline in the filings.
Citing Cline’s writings and actions, a Durham lawyer filed an affidavit to begin a removal process under state law, leading to review of the issue last week by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood of Franklin County.
Hobgood suspended Cline on Friday and set a hearing for Feb. 13 to make a final decision about her removal from office. Separately, the state agency that regulates lawyers has been obtaining the filings made by Cline.
The appointment of Stanback is through at least the Feb. 13 hearing.
If Cline is removed, it is expected that Stanback would remain as the acting DA until voters choose a new district attorney in November.
According to state law, Stanback would hold the office on an interim basis as a replacement district attorney until the next election is held for members of the General Assembly, which is in November this year. (This assumes that all appeals of any removal decision are final within 60 days of the November election.)
An election would be held to fill out the rest of Cline’s term — which was to run through 2014.
When Stanback retired, he was praised for his depth of experience, including spending two decades in legal roles prior to becoming a judge.
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