The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a Wayne County Circuit Court judge acted within his purview when he jailed Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) executives Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper.
The two were held in contempt by Judge Prentis Edwards last month for their failure to comply with his February 2010 order that DIBC fulfill its obligation to complete work on the long awaited $230 million Gateway Project.
In 2004 the bridge company entered into a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to share construction work on the project that, if finished, will provide seamless access to the DIBC’s Ambassador Bridge from interstate I-75 and I-96.
The bridge company promised that it would take no longer than four years to complete the work.
But DIBC has spent most of that time engaging in legal shenanigans, and the work that it did complete often deviated from what it had agreed to in the original plan.
The court ordered that the two executives would be held in the Wayne County jail until the project is finished, a process that could take as much as another year.
DIBC lawyers appealed the ruling, and the men were freed pending appeal.
While the appellate court didn’t have a problem with the fact that Edwards jailed the executives for contempt, it did agree in Monday’s ruling that the steps Moroun and Stamper need to take to be freed, their so-called “keys to the jailhouse”, were left vague and open ended by the judge.
It ordered that: “On remand, (Edwards) 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 the Feb. 1, 2010, order.”
Judge Edwards has scheduled a hearing for Thursday where he is expected to lay out the required particulars, after which he could order Moroun and Stamper back to the slammer…posthaste.
Edwards might consider telling Moroun and Stamper that they could “begin compliance” by immediately handing over a complete set of drawings that illustrate how the bridge company will complete the project consistent with the terms of the contract. (MDOT’s repeated requests that DIBC provide the drawings have been made in vain.)
He might further consider reminding them that they can “continue compliance” by referring to documents that already exist. The actions required for the bridge company to fulfill its contractual obligations were clearly spelled out in the November 2011 hearing that resulted in the bridge company being found in contempt.
Of course Moroun and Stamper could always appeal Monday’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, something they’ve already shown they’re more than willing to do.
The judge’s original (February 2010) order was appealed and rejected by both the appellate court and the state Supreme Court.
The bridge company’s attempt to have the case moved to U.S. District Court also failed.
In issuing its order that the case be remanded to Wayne County Circuit Court, the federal court did give the bridge company credit for one thing: “DIBC may be entitled to recognition as the party who has devised the most creative schemes and maneuvers (it has seen) to delay compliance with a court order.”
It seems that the court system has caught on to the legal antics of Matty and Co., and its patience for both has clearly worn thin.