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Arkansas judge’s ‘debtors’ prison’ court jailed cancer patient over unpaid bills: lawsuit

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A judge in Sherwood, Arkansas is accused of running a “modern-day debtors’ prison” that victimized a 44-year-old cancer patient, among others, the Huffington Post reported.

“People are doomed for failure when they appear before the court, and most significantly trapped in this never-ending cycle of expanding debt,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “With the resurgence of debtors’ prisons, we will continue to see people cycle in and our of jails and prisons across our country merely because of their inability to pay fines and fees tied to low-level, nonviolent offenses.”

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Sherwood District Court Judge Milas “Butch” Hale’s conduct while leading the court’s “hot checks division” is the focus of a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. Acting in this capacity, Hale sentenced Lee Robertson to 90 days in jail for owing the court $3,054.51. Robertson has been living with pancreatic cancer since 2009, which has affected his ability to pay back past debts.

But according to the suit, Robertson and his fellow defendants unknowingly sign away their right to an attorney in order to be let into the courtroom. The court also bars defendants’ family and friends from witnessing the proceedings, and no transcripts are kept of the hearings.

“A single bounced check written 10 years ago for $15 can be leveraged into a debt of thousands and thousands of dollars in fines and fees for inability to pay the original check and then inability to pay the payments that were set up,” state ACLU executive director Rita Sklar told KATV-TV.

The Associated Press reported that the city raised $2.3 million from fines and forfeitures issued in Hale’s court, accounting for 12 percent of the city’s budget.

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Robertson is one of four plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit. Another plaintiff, 40-year-old Nikki Petree, has paid at least $640 in fines to the city in a case that started over a bounced check for $28.93. The suit stated that she was arrested seven times over that check and was also jailed for at least 25 days.

Hale denied any wrongdoing in a statement to KATV, saying, “We do not run a so called ‘debtor’s prison’ in Sherwood. If a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty, of writing a hot check we set up a payment plan. It is only after the third or fourth time that they fail to comply with a court order that we incarcerate.”

Watch KATV’s report, as aired on Tuesday, below.

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EU and Britain just struck a Brexit deal — here’s what’s in it

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"Fair and reasonable." That's how both Britain's Boris Johnson and the EU describe the new draft Brexit deal reached Thursday after days of intense haggling.

Here's what's in the accord -- and what each side gave up to get there.

- Northern Ireland -

Arrangements for the UK province of Northern Ireland were the trickiest part of the new deal, and the core of what has changed since last year's withdrawal agreement, which was rejected by British MPs.

The new protocol stipulates that Northern Ireland remains in Britain's customs territory, but in practice there would be a sort of customs border between the province and the mainland.

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Expect exodus of high-ranking Trump officials because they ‘no longer have anything to gain’ by staying: columnist

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Writing for the conservative Bulwark, columnist and author Robert Tracinski said Donald Trump's Syria debacle is likely the turning point for even the most hardened of his most avid defenders in the White House who will likely start leaving.

As Tracinski began, "Donald Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds is a moment that might be more important than it seems—one that is likely to have a far-reaching impact that goes well beyond what happens in Syria."

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Hosting the G-7 at Doral is still worth a million dollars to Trump — even if he donates all the profits: reporter

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President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that holding the G7 summit at Trump's Doral resort would not be a profit for the president. Reports about it fly in the face of the White House claims, however.

The Miami Herald reported in July, when Trump floated the idea, that Doral is in a financial rut and the G7 meeting could help Trump climb out of it.

"Hosting foreign dignitaries has been a financial boon for Trump’s private Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago Club, providing some insight into what financial gains might be expected from hosting the G7 Summit at Trump Doral," said The Herald.

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