We find appellants’ due process rights were not violated and that the trial court was clearly acting within its inherent and statutory powers to order DIBC’s key decision-makers incarcerated pending DIBC’s compliance with the trial court’s order
Appeals Court says Matty Moroun’s due process wasn’t violated in Gateway contempt case, but ruling didn’t provide ‘keys to the jailhouse’
By Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com
The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated the contempt jailing of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper, but affirmed that Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards was within his rights to sanction the two men as part of the civil contempt finding against DIBC.
“We find appellants’ due process rights were not violated and that the trial court was clearly acting within its inherent and statutory powers to order DIBC’s key decision-makers incarcerated pending DIBC’s compliance with the trial court’s order,” wrote Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly in the lead opinion.
However, the court also ruled that Edwards’ ruling that Moroun and Stamper must remain jailed until the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project is fully completed because it did not provide the two men the immediate ability to purge the contempt ruling.
Both the DIBC and the Michigan Department of Transportation said completing the work required by the Gateway agreement would take a full construction season.
“Because the contempt order does not provide appellants with the “keys to the jailhouse,” we vacate that portion of the trial court’s contempt order which continues incarceration until DIBC has “fully complied” and remand the case to the trial court,” wrote Kelly. “On remand, the trial court shall craft an order, with particularity, of what “act or duty” appellants are required to perform both to ensure that DIBC will begin and continue compliance with its February 1, 2010, order as well as enabling appellants to purge themselves of the contempt finding against DIBC.”
Moroun and Stamper spent a night in Wayne County jail last month but were freed after the Appeals Court stayed the jailing pending an emergency appeal.
Judge Kurtis Wilder and Judge Karen Fort Hood issued their own opinions. Both agreed and disagreed with aspects of Kelly’s opinion. The collective majority opinion of the three judge panel, however, concluded that Edwards had the right to sanction Moroun and Stamper as part of the Gateway contempt case, but jailing the two men until the construction project was completed violated a basic tenet of civil contempt rules.
The case will now go back to Edwards. Based on this ruling, it is still within his rights to sanction Moroun and Stamper. Any new sanctions must specify particular “act[s] or dut[ies]” to be completed by Moroun and Stamper in order to purge the contempt citation.