02:26 - Source: CNN
Judge praises Lohan in court Wednesday

Story highlights

NEW: Lindsay Lohan has "done well" on probation the past month, the judge says

NEW: The judge eased Lohan's travel limit once she does 12 shifts at the morgue each month

NEW: Judge: "The morgue seems to be pleased, as pleased as a morgue can be"

If she stays on track, Lohan's probation will be eased in March, judge says

Los Angeles CNN  — 

Lindsay Lohan’s judge apparently is so pleased with how well the actress is complying with her probation requirements in the past six weeks that she’s giving her more freedom to travel.

“Ms. Lohan, you’ve actually done well and done it not only on time but early,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner said during a five-minute-long hearing Wednesday.

Lohan worked 12 days at the county morgue and took part in five psychotherapy sessions over the past month as ordered, Sautner said.

“The morgue seems to be pleased, as pleased as a morgue can be,” Sautner said.

The judge offered an incentive for Lohan to finish her monthly community service work early: She can travel freely around the United States after she completes her required 12 morgue shifts between court dates.

If Lohan keeps up her compliance and completes 41 more days at the morgue – 12 shifts each month – and four sessions with a psychologist per month, the actress will have her supervised probation eased at the end of March.

If she fails, she will serve an additional 270 days behind bars, the judge warned her last month.

“This is what we really call putting the keys to the jail in the defendant’s hands,” Sautner told Lohan.

Lohan was found in violation of her probation last month when she admitted that she failed to comply with Sautner’s earlier order that she work at a women’s shelter. Her punishment – a 30-day jail sentence – translated into just a few hours behind bars because of measures to reduce overcrowding in Los Angeles County jails.

The atmosphere at Wednesday’s status hearing was much lighter than in any previous appearances before Sautner.

When Lohan’s attorney, Shawn Holley, asked the judge if Lohan was required to be in court January 17 for the next status hearing, Sautner said, “If I say no, she won’t complete everything. I’m just saying.”

The judge’s next comment made Lohan lower her face into her hands, laughing.

“I think she likes to come here and see me,” Sautner said. “I think that’s a motivation for her.”

The judge said Lohan’s trip to Hawaii over the past week was approved by her probation officer because of “some confusion” about her travel restrictions.

She is permitted to travel outside California only for holidays and work, she said.

“She thought your sister’s birthday was a holiday and said she could go to Hawaii,” Sautner said. “I don’t have a problem with it.”

Lohan missed her flight back home from her Hawaiian vacation Monday, causing her to miss Tuesday’s taping of an appearance on “Ellen.” The chat with talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres was the only planned interview to promote Lohan’s nude photo spread published this week in Playboy magazine.

The court-ordered community service is part of Lohan’s sentence imposed in May when she pleaded guilty to stealing a necklace from a Venice, California, jewelry store.

Lohan was already on probation for two drunken driving convictions from 2007.

“From what I see of you, you need a structure,” Sautner told Lohan last month, instructing her to return to court each month to show she is complying with the schedule.

Lohan’s legal woes, which began four years ago with two drunken driving arrests, have been compounded by her failure to attend counseling classes and alcohol and drug test failures.

Her probation is scheduled to end within a year unless Lohan breaks any laws before then. It has been extended several times because of violations, including the failed alcohol and drug tests.

CNN’s Jack Hannah contributed to this report.