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Judge loosens Lohan’s legal leash

Lindsay Lohan’s days as a criminal defendant could be over – if she can behave herself.

A judge on Thursday ended the long-running probation of the problem-prone actress in a 2007 drunken driving case after a string of violations, jail sentences and rehab stints.

The 25-year-old actress will remain on informal probation for taking a necklace without permission last year, but will no longer have a probation officer or face travel restrictions and weekly shifts cleaning up at the morgue.

Lohan, wearing a powder blue suit and black blouse, let out a sigh of relief as she left Judge Stephanie Sautner’s courtroom.

“I just want to say thank you for being fair,” Lohan told the judge. “It’s really opened a lot of doors for me.”

The judge said she wasn’t going to lecture the actress, but gave her some parting advice.

“You need to live your life in a more mature way, stop the nightclubbing and focus on your work,” Sautner said.

Her career is already showing signs of a comeback. She is due to guest star on an upcoming episode of “Glee,” recently hosted a highly rated but criticized episode of “Saturday Night Live,” and is set to star as Elizabeth Taylor in a TV movie.

Couric has fill-in morning gig

Katie Couric is returning to morning TV, for a week anyway. But what’s got people raising their eyebrows is where she’s doing it: ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Couric, who has a deal with Disney-ABC Domestic Television for a daytime talk show called “Katie,” which will debut in September, will be filling in for regular GMA co-host Robin Roberts, who is off on vacation.

The news can’t be welcome over at Couric’s old home at NBC. While “Today” is still the No. 1-ranked morning show, “GMA” is on the rise. According to the average ratings for the week of March 12, “Today” was just 260,000 viewers ahead of “GMA,” the smallest gap between the two since July 2008.

Couric made her name on “Today,” where she began as a national correspondent in 1989. She soon became the permanent co-anchor in 1991 when Deborah Norville didn’t return to the show.

In 2006, she left “Today” to become the anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” where she stayed for nearly five years.

The birthday bunch

Actor Warren Beatty is 75. Drummer Graeme Edge (Moody Blues) is 71. Musician Eric Clapton is 67. Actor Robbie Coltrane (“Harry Potter”) is 62. Actor Paul Reiser is 55. Rapper MC Hammer is 49. Actor Ian Ziering (“Beverly Hills 90210”) is 48. Singer Tracy Chapman is 48. Singer Celine Dion is 44. Singer Norah Jones is 33. Actress Katy Mixon is 31. Country singer Justin Moore is 28.