A Michigan Court of Appeals panel is expected to decide sometime next week whether Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun should be returned to jail on a contempt citation for failing to build a ramp from the bridge to two interstate highways.
Moroun and Detroit International Bridge Co. President Dan Stamper spent about 36 hours behind bars after a Wayne County District judge jailed them Jan. 12 for flaunting a state order to complete the their share of the $230 million project. The jailing was the latest battle in the on-going war between Moroun and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Moroun is fighting efforts to build a public bridge nearby that would compete with his site between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, the busiest U.S.-Canada commercial crossing. The $5.3 billion New International Trade Crossing is being supported the state, the Canadian government, cities and political leaders in both countries, chambers of commerce, and several large manufacturers including Ford Motor.
The Detroit Free Press reported Thursday that attorneys for Moroun and Stamper appealed the incarceration arguing that Edwards had abused his authority, and that there was no immediate action they could take that would allow them to be free. MDOT estimates it will take nine months to a year to finish the project that would provide direct access to the bridge from I-75 and I-96 on the southwest side of Detroit.
Two appeals judges questioned if the indeterminate amount of time Moroun and Stamper would have to spend in jail was a proper sanction in a civil contempt case. A state assistant attorney general representing MDOT said that the clear way out of jail for the two was to finish the project. He said Edwards jailing them for contempt was within the range of permissible actions.