Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Up In Smoke" Eavesdropping Lawsuit Reaches Michigan Supreme Court Today

The Michigan Supreme Court is hearing appellate arguments today in a case that arose out of events back in 2000 at Detroits's Joe Louis Arena. During a backstage consultation with organizers of the Dr. Dre "Up in Smoke" tour, several officers and city officials told the organizers that the talent performed a particularly explicit introduction, power would be cut to the stage. The organizers agreed the introduction would not be performed. When the DVD of the tour was released, however, portions of the backstage conversation were included. The officers and officials sued under Michigan's eavesdropping statute, alleging that their privacy had been invaded. A lower court sided with the defendants, but an appellate court reversed.

The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court, saying that there were outstanding questions of material fact as to whether the video was secretly taped and whether the plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation that their conversation would be private. On remand, the trial court again granted summary disposition to the defendants, finding as a matter of law that the plaintiffs had no reasonable expectation of privacy. In 2009, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals majority affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The majority held that there was sufficient evidence to allow the plaintiffs to move forward with their eavesdropping claim, and that “a jury must make the determination whether plaintiffs’ expectation of privacy under the circumstances presented here qualified as a reasonable one.” The dissenting judge would have affirmed the trial court in total. He concluded that “[a]n objective view of the evidence establishes no genuine issue of material fact that plaintiffs lacked a reasonable expectation that their conversation with tour officials would be private, let alone that it would not be recorded.” The defendants appeal.

Links to the background of the case, briefs, and reply briefs here.

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