Did rap tour promoters violate state eavesdropping law? Michigan Supreme Court to hear oral arguments this week

A dispute involving Michigan's eavesdropping statute -- and whether it was violated when rap tour promoters videotaped a meeting with Detroit officials -- will come before the Michigan Supreme Court in oral arguments this week.

The plaintiffs in Bowens, et al. v ARY, Inc., et al. went to Detroit's Joe Louis Arena in 2000 to express concerns about a sexually explicit video that was to be shown during the "Up in Smoke" tour performance that evening. Gregory J. Bowens, then press secretary to former Mayor Dennis Archer, was accompanied by Detroit Police spokeswoman Paula M. Bridges and police commander Gary A. Brown. According to the plaintiffs, they met with tour promoters in a backstage room and insisted on the conversation not being taped, but tour promoters videotaped them without their knowledge. Portions of that video later appeared in a "bonus track" entitled "Detroit Controversy," which was marketed with the "Up in Smoke" tour DVD. A Michigan Court of Appeals panel split on the issue of whether the plaintiffs can proceed with their eavesdropping claim; the majority held that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to go to a jury with their claim, while the dissenting judge maintained that there was insufficient evidence to show that the plaintiffs had "a reasonable expectation that their conversation with tour officials would be private, let alone that it would not be recorded." The defendants appealing that 2009 Court of Appeals decision include rap performer Dr. Dre, who organized and performed in the "Up in Smoke" tour.

The Court will also hear arguments in In re Investigative Subpoenas, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor v Meijer, Inc., et al., in which a county prosecutor is investigating whether Meijer, Inc, violated state campaign finance laws when it promoted a recall -- ultimately unsuccessful -- of Acme Township Board members who opposed the construction of a new Meijer store in the area. At issue is whether the county prosecutor has the authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, MCL 169.201 et seq. A circuit judge quashed subpoenas that the prosecutor directed to Meijer and employees of the Dickinson Wright law firm, saying that only the Secretary of State and Attorney General have the power to investigate campaign finance law violations. But the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the campaign finance law did not contain any language expressly indicating that the legislature intended to prevent county prosecutors from "entertain[ing] the criminal prosecution of campaign finance law violators."

The remaining 15 arguments involve issues of civil procedure, civil rights, criminal, governmental immunity, medical malpractice, property, tax, and worker's compensation law.

Court will be held on January 19, 20, and 21, beginning at 9:30 a.m. each day. Oral arguments are open to the public.

See Pages 23-25 for summaries of all the cases to be heard by the court.

Published: Mon, Jan 17, 2011