Text messages

The resignation and prosecution of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick highlighted Michigan courts’ willingness to include text messages in the list of accessible open records, as well as the conflicts that can arise when the electronic communications in question are transmitted and maintained by private companies. The Michigan Court of Appeals in February 2008 ruled that text messages between Kilpatrick and a top aide were public records. The two had maintained an extramarital affair, lied about it under oath in a prior case, and were investigated for using city funds to pay off a fired police officer who had knowledge of the affair.

However, it remains an open question whether government agencies are required to maintain in-house records of officials’ text messages, as well as if state sunshine laws extend to the text-message records maintained by the private data carriers in such cases.