COA says Moroun/Stamper imprisonment improper

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the imprisonment of Detroit International Bridge Co. bigs Manuel “Matty” Moroun and Dan Stamper was improper.

Last month, Wayne Circuit Judge Prentiss Edwards imprisoned the two for failing to follow a court order to finish the Gateway Project that the state sank millions into a few years back.

In a majority opinion, Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly said the judge’s order wasn’t specific enough to keep Moroun and Stamper in jail.

We cannot uphold the trial court’s commitment order where the condition for release requires DIBC to “fully” comply with the February 1, 2010, order as it failed to identify “the act or duty” which must be performed before the incarceration may be terminated. MCL 600.1715(2). While appellants may have the present immediate ability to commence and continue construction, they do not have the present immediate ability to actually finish the construction in accordance with the directives set forth in the February 1, 2010, opinion and order for a period of six to twelve months. Therefore, the condition does not permit appellants to use the keys to obtain their release until the project is completed, or, in other words, “to avoid the sentence” and purge the contempt. Our decision does not preclude further civil contempt sanctions, including imprisonment that was similar to the one imposed by the trial court in January 2011. However, we leave this decision to discretion of the trial court to identify the act or duty appellants will be required to perform, that will coerce the initiation and continuation of compliance with the February 1, 2010, order within the confines of the case law and the statute for civil contempt sanctions.

Judge Kurtis Wilder concurred re: the imprisonment, but Judge Karen Fort Hood said she would have upheld the sanction.

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