Past Due: With 44 states facing budget deficits totaling $90 billion this year, 25 state court systems already have budget shortfalls. As Florida’s budget has tightened with the economic crisis, efforts to step up the collections of court fees and fines have intensified, and court clerks say the pressure is on them to bring in every dollar, The New York Times reports. Judges themselves dun residents who have fallen behind in their payments, but unlike other creditors, they can throw debtors in jail -- and they do, by the thousands. Other states are intrigued by Florida’s success, and several have also cracked down on people who owe fines.
No Place to Go: Lawyers for 17 Chinese Muslims held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to order their clients' release into the United States, The Los Angeles Times reports. The Muslims, members of the Uighur minority from China's Xinjiang region, have been held without charge at Guantanamo Bay for more than seven years despite their military jailers' concession years ago that they posed no threat to the United States. The Uighurs were originally ordered to be released into the United States four months after a June 2008 high-court decision, Boumediene vs. Bush, but in February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the lower court's decision.
Feeding the Beast: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Monday sued J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent financier who sat on the boards of many well-known charities, for feeding his investors' money into the "largest Ponzi scheme in history." Cuomo's complaint, which raises six civil claims under the state's securities and not-for-proft laws, tallies the losses at $2.4 billion and accuses Merkin of collecting $470 million in fees for placing with Bernard L. Madoff, in whole or in part, assets from three funds Merkin managed. The New York Law Journal has the story.
Torture: Medical officers who oversaw interrogations of terrorism suspects in CIA secret prisons committed gross violations of medical ethics and in some cases essentially participated in torture, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a confidential report that labeled the CIA program "inhuman," The Washington Post reports. Health personnel offered supervision and even assistance as suspected al-Qaeda operatives were beaten, deprived of food, exposed to temperature extremes and subjected to waterboarding, the relief agency said in the 2007 report, a copy of which was posted on The New York Review of Books Web site yesterday.