The week ending March 4 had a great deal of online trending legal news on the national level, as well as two important stories coming out of the Sunshine State.
Perhaps the biggest legal story of the week was the U.S. Army's decision to charge Pfc. Bradley Manning with additional crimes for his alleged release of sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks, according to the Army News Service.
“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private First Class Manning is accused of committing,” said Army legal spokesman Capt. John Haberland.
Manning, an intelligence analyst in the Army, is accused of releasing 260,000 diplomatic cables and more than 90,000 intelligence reports.
As a result of his alleged actions Manning is now being charged with “aiding the enemy.” According to The New York Times, this charge can be considered a capital offense, although prosecutors said they would seek life in prison. Manning's charge sheet says that he “knowingly [gave] intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means,” although the Times reports that the military does not indicate precisely who that enemy might be.
Online searchers have been interested in the new charges the private is facing, with Google Trends showing that searches for “Bradley Manning” peaked this week on March 2.
Shifting gears, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a church's hurtful speech at military funerals was protected under the First Amendment, reports The Wall Street Journal. The specific case against the Westboro Baptist Church was made by the father of a dead Marine who objected to the church's protest at his son's funeral. Church members held signs at the funeral proclaiming, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and other such slogans.
The church, and the ruling related to it, have been on internet users' minds as searches for “Westboro Baptist Church” peaked on March 1.
Staying on the theme of judges, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida, who had earlier this year deemed President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law unconstitutional, said that state's should continue to implement the law pending the outcome of litigation. The St. Petersburg Times reports that Vinson's ruling came after the administration asked him to clarify his earlier decision, which some states had taken as the go-ahead to stop implementing healthcare reform.
In another story involving the Sunshine State's judiciary, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Governor Rick Scott did not overstep his bounds when he rejected $2.4 billion from the federal government to build a high-speed rail system, according to The St. Petersburg Times. The internet was abuzz about the decision, with “Florida Supreme Court” being one of the hottest topics on Friday morning, according to Google Realtime.
That's the online legal news for the week ending March 4.