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The Montana Supreme Court was forced into quick action this week to settle a procedural dustup between a judge and a public defender. District Judge John Henson had ordered Colleen Ambrose jailed for contempt after she failed to give advance notice of her client’s need for immediate sentencing. But as it happened, the judge himself had violated procedure. His order was undone — and the jailed attorney sprung — when the state’s high court issued a writ of habeas corpus, finding the judge never allowed the attorney to speak in her own defense. The client, by the way, went free … The SEC should be celebrating: With the help of New York AG Eliot Spitzer, the commission convinced Alliance Capital to cough up $250 million — the highest fine ever paid by a mutual fund — to settle charges that it allowed VIP customers to make after-market trades. But, as usual, conflict with Spitzer is dampening the commission’s triumph. While the AG went on to force Alliance to lower its fees by 20 percent, the SEC denounced the deal, sniffing that fees were a question for the marketplace … Credit Lyonnais can thank Alliance for drawing attention away from its own $100 million apology to the U.S. Federal Reserve. The French bank will pay the civil fine — on top of a $100 million criminal fine — for concealing its illicit purchase of failed California insurer Executive Life. Two former chairmen of the bank were indicted Thursday on related criminal charges … In an unusual animal trafficking case, a Chicago-area butcher will spend six months behind bars for peddling meat from endangered animals. Richard Czimer admitted to labeling tiger and leopard cuts as “lion” meat, which is legal to sell. – Lori Patel

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