CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

December 2012 Archives

Benghazi Report Blames State Dept. as 3 Top Officials Resign

An independent panel has sharply criticized the U.S. State Department in its report on the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate. The consulate was unable to defend itself thanks to “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at the State Department.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya. The Special Mission post was overrun by militants who used rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine-gun fire, the 39-page report states.

One day after the report as released, three State officials are reportedly resigning.

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell is resigning, NBC News reports. His deputy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb, as well as another unnamed official from State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs are resigning as well.

Data Stored on Cell Phones Not Protected, Fed. Court Rules

Data stored on personal cell phones is not protected by the Stored Communications Act (SCA), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled.

As mobile technology changes rapidly, legal questions remain about the extent of digital privacy protection.

The Fifth Circuit determined that the act does not protect information stored on personal devices such as cell phones, laptops and personal computers. The lawsuit was brought by a former police dispatcher who was dismissed after photos and text messages on her cell phone revealed that she was violating police department rules. The plaintiff's cell phone was removed from her locker and searched without her permission.

The SCA only protects "facilit[ies] through which an electronic communication service is provided" and not the device that is used to access those communication services, the court explained.

George Zimmerman has sued NBC for editing a 911 tape to make him sound like a racist.

Zimmerman's lawsuit states: "NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain."

He is suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks unspecified damages as well as a trial by jury.

NBC apologized for the editing back in April after the segment ran.

Zimmerman announced back in October plans to sue the network for allegedly editing a 911 tape to make it appear the former neighborhood watchman went after Trayvon Martin because he was black.

Now his legal team has filed suit.

Supreme Court Rules Government May be Liable for Flooding

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the federal government may be required to pay damages when it releases water from a dam that causes temporary flooding for a property owner downstream.

The 8-0 ruling carries potential significance for future cases involving temporary seizure (or” taking”) of property.

The case looked at the politically charged issue of when government activity that affects private property constitutes a “taking” that requires payment to a landowner.

The 5th Amendment states that the government must pay owners of private property that it takes for public purposes.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said temporary flooding of private land by the government is “not categorically exempt” from liability under the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause.