Skip to Content
Domina Law Group pc llo Domina Law Group pc llo
Call Us Today! 888-387-4134

Michigan Court for Appeals Reverses Lower Court - Rules for Businessmen


Last month, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentiss Edwards imprisoned Manual “Matty” Moroun and Dan Stamper, the Directors of Detroit International Bridge Co., for their company’s failure to finish the Gateway Project on the approaches and ramps to and from the Ambassador Bridge—which links the United States and Canada. Their failure to finish the project left them in violation of a court order.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has since ruled that Moroun and Stamper’s imprisonment was improper. In a majority opinion, Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly explained that the judge’s order was not specific enough to warrant the imprisonment of these two men. David Domina presented oral argument on behalf of Moroun and Stamper last Thursday in an expedited appeal. Rodger Young also argued for Moroun.

Three separate opinions were delivered from the three-judge panel of Michigan’s Court of Appeals. One of the issues in this case is the contract between the privately-owned bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The Ambassador Bridge currently facilitates more than one-fourth of all commerce between the U.S. and Canada, serving as a major commercial thoroughfare.

The U.S. portion of the bridge is owned by Detroit International Bridge Co., while the Canadian portion is owned by Canada Transit Co.—both of which are owned by the Moroun family’s interests. The private ownership of the Ambassador Bridge has caused a great deal of controversy over the years, having been acquired by the Moroun family in the early 1970s from a previous private owner.

In order to approve the purchase, actions by the U.S. Congress, the Parliament of Canada, and the Queen of England were required. Recently, there have been talks about adding an additional stretch of the bridge, and even about a possible new, competing bridge. While the current governor of Michigan and the Prime Minister of Canada both favor a new bridge, there may not be a need for it.

Part of the controversy between the Michigan Transportation Department and Detroit International Bridge Co. is that, if a second span of the current bridge is built, it will weaken the argument for a new, competing bridge. The lawsuit before the Michigan courts was most likely triggered by the Moroun’s decision to start construction on the second span of the existing Ambassador Bridge.

Michigan’s Transportation Department won a partial victory in February 2010, which is not an order that can be appealed as a matter of right. The Michigan appellate courts declined to hear a discretionary request for an immediate appeal, which set the stage for enforcement of the partial decision. Although the bridge company wants to appeal the ruling, contempt proceedings were used as a means of forcing them to comply, even without an appeal, asserting that they have not complied with the order.

The bridge company states that it should not be forced to comply with the order until their appeal is heard, noting that the lower court’s decision was based on a single affidavit that they dispute. Ultimately, the contempt proceedings led to Moroun and Stamper’s imprisonment. The Court of Appeals then reversed this decision by a narrow ruling, announcing their opinions on February 6.

Share To: