As Court of Appeals considers Gateway contempt appeal, consider this: Should the state ever again do business with Matty Moroun?

By Jeff T. Wattrick |

Two Michigan Court of Appeals Judges expressed some concern during oral arguments yesterday that the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project contempt sentence handed down by Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards—jailing Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper until the project is finished—was too open ended.

Feb. 3, Detroit Free Press: Two of the three judges on an appeals panel said they were troubled by what appeared to be the open-ended nature of incarceration ordered for the pair last month by Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards.

The two judges’ questions and apparent reservations do not necessarily mean they objected to Edwards’ sentence or that they will vote to override him. There’s no timetable for a decision, but attorneys said later they expected a ruling quickly, possibly by next week.

The premise of civil contempt is the jailed party has the keys to his own jail cell. That is to say, if he simply does what the judge orders, he can walk free immediately. Moroun and Stamper would be free to walk free once they finally fulfill their end of a contract.

It seems pretty straight-forward regardless of the players.

Judge: The contract says you agreed to do X, so I’m ordering you to do it.
Defendant: No.
Judge: Yes, you have to do it.
Defendant: You’re not the boss of me.
Judge: Actually, in this matter, I am. It’s called contract law. Will you honor your obligation?
Defendant: No.
Judge (23 months later): Fine, then sit in jail until you’re willing to do what you said you would have done four years ago.
Defendant: Shut up, you are so unfair. I hate you!

Moroun and Stamper further claim that, golly, they just plum don’t know what they’re supposed to do to finish the Gateway.

This is duly adjudicated hokum.

Judge Edwards’ ruled in February 2010 that DIBC was in violation of the Gateway contract, and he ordered them to complete several specific tasks to fulfill that contract.

That ruling was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, and twice to the U.S. District Court. DIBC lost in every court. Often, judges determined the appeals weren’t even worth a hearing on their face.

Moroun and Stamper, as DIBC’s chief decision makers, have had 23 months of opportunities to fulfill their obligation to Michigan taxpayers and complete this project according to the law. They didn’t.

Instead they filed failed appeal after failed appeal—as is their right—while ignoring a valid court order, something they wasn’t their right.

If a contempt jailing, after nearly two years of failing to follow the law, is the consequence then so be it. Even if it means jailing “a man of this stature,” as Moroun’s dimwit lawyer called his client in court earlier this month.

Compelling Moroun and Stamper to, at long last, complete the Gateway by any legal means necessary isn’t enough.

Michigan taxpayers, at a time when Lansing was forced to make cuts to critical programs, spent a lot of money to improve connections between our public roads and Moroun’s bridge. We did that because international trade and travel serve a vital economic purpose. Transportation is a public good. We deserve to get what we’ve paid for without being subjected to endless nuisance litigation.

Frankly, whatever the outcome of the Gateway contempt appeal, the state has a fiduciary obligation to taxpayers here. Lansing should never again do business with DIBC, its affiliated companies, or any firm managed, owned, or controlled by the Morouns and/or Dan Stamper.

These are people who have consistently proven they can’t be trusted with our tax dollars. Ever.