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In brief: Bingaman won’t seek re-election

Albuquerque, N.M. – New Mexico U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman intends to retire at the end of his term, his office announced on Friday, the latest in a string of departures to hit the Democrats as they look ahead to the 2012 elections.

Bingaman, 67, was first elected to his seat in 1982.

He is the third Democrat and sixth member of the Senate to decide to step aside at the end of their current terms. The others are Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jim Webb of Virginia; Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona; and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority, including two independents who side with them. But they must defend 21 of the 33 seats on the ballot next year, and face a struggle to retain control.

Ex-judge guilty of racketeering

Scranton, Pa. – A former juvenile court judge who sent large numbers of children to detention centers was convicted Friday of racketeering for taking a $1 million kickback from the builder of the for-profit lockups, in what prosecutors said was a “kids for cash” scheme that ranks among the biggest courtroom frauds in U.S. history.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, 61, left the bench in disgrace two years ago after he and a second judge, Michael Conahan, were accused of using juvenile delinquents as pawns in a plot to get rich.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has dismissed 4,000 juvenile convictions issued by Ciavarella, saying he sentenced young offenders without regard for their constitutional rights.


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