The option of a lawsuit "is available because search is not the appropriate method in this situation," Thomas R. Burke, a media lawyer and partner in the San Francisco offices of Davis Wright Tremaine, told CNET. He said the search warrant violated a California journalist shield law designed to limit searches of newsrooms.
Burke added, however, that he has been in discussions with the San Mateo County district attorney's office and that he appreciated prosecutors' agreement not to search editor Jason Chen's seized computers, iPad, and iPhone while talks are in progress.
Gizmodo's parent company, Gawker Media, has said that the search warrant is "invalid," citing a California law curbing newsroom searches. So has the Electronic Frontier Foundation. On the other hand, if the Gizmodo employees who paid $5,000 for what they believed was a 4G prototype are targets of a criminal probe, it's likely that the law's protections do not apply and a civil lawsuit would be unsuccessful. But if Gizmodo is not suspected of violating the law, they would have a good case against the county, legal experts said.
For more on this story, read Gizmodo considers suing police after iPhone raid on CNET News.