Moroun, Stamper headed back to court, maybe back to jail


By Curt Guyette

If we were in the well-polished shoes of Manuel “Matty” Moroun and Dan Stamper, we’d be packing a toothbrush and some soap-on-a-rope in advance of Thursday’s Wayne County Circuit Court appearance before Judge Prentis Edwards.

Given Monday’s ruling by a three-member panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals, the stage is now set for a return visit to the slammer for the two Detroit International Bridge Company officials.

As explained in an opinion written by Kristen Frank Kelly, the appellate court ruled that Edwards was entirely within his rights to jail Moroun and Stamper for contempt of court. In doing so, the court struck down claims from defense attorneys that their clients were being denied the constitutionally protected right to due process.

From the outset, that struck us as a particularly ludicrous claim.

This issue has its roots in a contract signed by the bridge company and the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2004. The two agreed to work together on the Gateway Project, which was intended to improve freeway access to the Ambassador Bridge and get truck traffic off of surface streets in southwest Detroit.

The problem is that the bridge company hasn’t lived up to its part of the deal, unilaterally changing plans in a way that interferes with completing the project as originally intended.

The state filed a lawsuit in 2009. Prentice ruled against the company in January 2010 and ordered it to remove what shouldn’t have been built — including fuel pumps and a portion of a duty free shop, as well as an approach ramp leading to a hoped for second span adjacent to the Ambassador — and complete the project as originally agreed to.

In 2011, after a year of delay, Edwards briefly jailed Stamper for contempt.

After another year of inaction on the part of the bridge company — and many hours spent in court with the bridge company arguing that there is no real plan for it to follow — Edwards, rightfully fed up with the company’s persistent refusal to obey the court’s order, threw Moroun and Stamper back in the pokey.

So there was plenty of due process. If anything, their jailing last month was an overdue part of the process.

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