Start here. Billionaire Matty Moroun Ordered to Jail
January 13, 2012 4:55 AM   Subscribe

The billionaire became inmate No. 12-981.

Matty Moroun is a Detroit businessman and the owner of Centra Inc, the holding company which controls the Ambassador Bridge - a the only privately managed U.S. / Canada Border crossing, and the #1 busiest North American border crossing. He was sent to jail early yesterday for defying a judge's ruling that he comply with a court order compelling him to complete his company's portion of The Gateway project, a joint construction project he agreed to in 2008 designed to ease border traffic. Instead of working on the ramps to ease congestion, his crews built built a roadway that took traffic past the company's lucrative duty-free store and fuel pumps, and that kept thousands of trucks bound for expressways lined up on surface streets in the area.

Growing up and living in the Detroit area, it's always floored me that something like The Ambassador Bridge could be privately owned.
posted by bricksNmortar (147 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Edwards ruled for MDOT in February 2010 and ordered the bridge company to rebuild according to the contractual design, even if it meant ripping out the duty-free facilities. But nearly two years later, the work remains unfinished.
Don't ignore a judge, is the moral here.
posted by smackfu at 5:19 AM on January 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Follow the concrete
posted by thelonius at 5:25 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Legal experts said it is well within a judge's discretion to order people jailed indefinitely on contempt charges until they comply with court orders -- a legal hammer used to coerce cooperation from those who have not shown a willingness to follow a judge's demands. Uncooperative defendants can be detained indefinitely until they comply or win appeal from a higher court.

Yes, but companies are not really people and imposing detention on a person - an 84 year old person - because of what his company fails to do seems to be a poorly thought-out stunt on the part of this judge. Why is imposing a daily fine on the company not the appropriate remedy here? They have an asset - a big ass bridge in the jurisdiction - why doesn't the judge put liens on that?

I don't like this throwing people in jail business. The ability for the government to keep someone "detained indefintely" without a proper trial and a jury decision is no more appealing when it is a billionaire CEO than when it is a terrorist suspect.
posted by three blind mice at 5:26 AM on January 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


What do you call a billionaire in jail?

A good start.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:26 AM on January 13, 2012 [40 favorites]


Free Matty Moroun! Holding a US citizen on contempt of court charges indefinitely is a violation of his civil liberties and our constitutional Bill of Rights! He is a business man - not a terrorist!




oh wait...

This is Metafilter - right rant, wrong person.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:27 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The locals in Windsor (where I spend some of my working time) are all incredulous the guy hasn't been locked up before. He seems to own all the land around both sides of the bridge and half the waterfront that'd prevent a different bridge being built. It's a proper monopoly of the crossing other than the tunnel, which you can't get much bigger than an SUV through because of its stupid entry and exit design (all twisty and very cramped) and stupid curves inside the tunnel itself.

The Ambassador bridge is a total mess, as are both ends of the access. The Canadian side is marginally better, but trying to get through the shitty unlit streets on the Detroit side (while the GPS gamely points to the defunct 'official' routing which doesn't exist) is pretty daunting the first time.

This guy seems to have been playing both sides of the coin for quite some time and hopefully this is the start of it all crashing down and some actual customer service and traffic flow coming into play.
posted by Brockles at 5:27 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm just being naive, but isn't it kind of freaky that the jail has a cell just for politicians?
posted by LN at 5:30 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, but companies are not really people and imposing detention on a person - an 84 year old person - because of what his company fails to do seems to be a poorly thought-out stunt on the part of this judge. Why is imposing a daily fine on the company not the appropriate remedy here?

You seem to have some confusion here. If companies aren't really people, why isn't jailing the CEO *exactly* what should be done? The corporation doesn't act on its own. It is in the charge of the person in charge.
posted by DU at 5:30 AM on January 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Matty Moroun is not being detained 'indefinitely'. He's being detained until his company upholds its end of the agreement it made with a public agency, the entire point of which was to get the trucks off of Detroit streets. Instead he completely reneged in order to make millions of dollars. Fuck Moroun, he should have been jailed long ago.
posted by ofthestrait at 5:31 AM on January 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm confused by how the bridge came to be privately owned. Was it always privately owned?

I don't like this throwing people in jail business. The ability for the government to keep someone "detained indefintely" without a proper trial and a jury decision is no more appealing when it is a billionaire CEO than when it is a terrorist suspect.

It's contempt of court. They've always been able to do that. It's nothing new. He can get out of jail as soon as he complies with the court order.

It would probably be better if the government just seized the whole company, though.
posted by empath at 5:35 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maroun has been blocking all efforts to build a second bridge and not complying with legal orders to fix this one. He owns an enormous amount of property in Detroit which he has not developed, fixed, maintained or sold -including the partially destroyed train station featured in many apocalyptic movies. He has probably done more to the detriment of Detroit than any other person and clearly believes himself to be above the law. Jailing him seems utterly appropriate to me as it's the only thing that has a chance of getting him to do what he is legally required to do.
posted by leslies at 5:36 AM on January 13, 2012 [23 favorites]


Vote Republican and you will get more of this "free" enterprise, unbridled capitalism and GREED.
posted by Sparkticus at 5:37 AM on January 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Live by the contract, die by the contract.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:38 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why is imposing a daily fine on the company not the appropriate remedy here? They have an asset - a big ass bridge in the jurisdiction - why doesn't the judge put liens on that?

Have you considered reading the article, where this point was addressed? I often find it helpful.

For your edification:

"Edwards said he considered which penalty would get Gateway completed the soonest. He considered but rejected the idea of appointing a receiver to take over the project from the bridge company. That would "only result in further delays," he said.

He also noted that financial penalties for civic contempt of court were limited to $7,500. He levied that fine but said it was not enough to win compliance."

posted by Diablevert at 5:38 AM on January 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


If I may be so bold, anyone that doesn't think the guy should have been jailed needs to read up on what this guy has done to Detroit/Windsor in relation to the crossing and experience the bridge and carnage for themselves.

This is not a faceless corporation. This guy is a tyrant, and I am quite sure that anyone not a direct employee around the Detroit/Windsor area will feel that a certain amount of "About bloody time" has been served here.
posted by Brockles at 5:42 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


My only question: Who is footing the bill?
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:46 AM on January 13, 2012


Charging prisoners to pay for themselves is a very dangerous precedent. Why not just impose fines in addition to jail time in the first place?
posted by DU at 5:49 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why this hasn't been solved via use of eminent domain long ago.
posted by humanfont at 5:49 AM on January 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


" Your honor, I'm very sorry my bus ran over those 150 people. But I'm not responsible, because I resigned as the bus driver a few miles back."
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:51 AM on January 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't understand why this hasn't been solved via use of eminent domain long ago.

That's just for poor fuckers who can't afford campaign contributions.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:51 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Charging prisoners to pay for themselves is a very dangerous precedent.

Not if they profited and/or continue to profit from the crime.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:52 AM on January 13, 2012


The ability for the government to keep someone "detained indefintely" without a proper trial and a jury decision is no more appealing when it is a billionaire CEO than when it is a terrorist suspect.

The point is that there is a proper trial -- in this case, a civil action -- that has been held, and the courts have already ruled that Mouroun has failed is contractual obligations and have already ordered that he hold up his end of the contract that he signed with the State of Michigan.

His response, having signed the contract, been ruled as willfully refusing to hold up his own end of the contract, and having refused, on court order, to do so, means he is in contempt of court.

This is exactly what due process is about. All he has to do is either follow the courts order, or show to the court why he cannot and how he will then make up for the contract default, and he's out. But he has refused, time and time again, to follow the rulings of the court, and he was held in contempt of court for doing so.

This is a longstanding power of the judiciary. They cannot use it without justification, but they do have -- and must have -- the power to make sure the rulings of the judiciary are followed. That's their check and balance, and if you posit a court without the ability to hold people in contempt, you now have a useless court and have lost that check and balance.

Contempt is unique in that the court specifies exactly why the person is being held in contempt, and the punishment disappears the moment the person complies. And, of course, such an order can (and in this case, is) being appealed up the chain, so there is also a check in the Judge's power to use contempt to enforce compliance with judicial orders.

If this isn't "due process," I do not know what is.
posted by eriko at 5:52 AM on January 13, 2012 [77 favorites]


I don't understand why this hasn't been solved via use of eminent domain long ago.

Silly, eminent domain is now for giving land to corporations, not taking it from them!
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:55 AM on January 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, I favorited three blind mice up there, but I also actually think he should be jailed. It's teh process I find uncomfortable. If he belongs in jail, then charge him with a crime, and bring him in front of a jury. Not "One judge says so, so he stays in jail until he dies or the judge says different."

I understand the judge's frustration if civil penalties aren't a big enough hammer, bu that doesn't make it OK. If he could have a appointed a receiver to take it over, he should have done,
posted by tyllwin at 5:59 AM on January 13, 2012


(My god, my fingers are getting old)
posted by tyllwin at 6:00 AM on January 13, 2012


I don't understand why this hasn't been solved via use of eminent domain long ago.

It might be that the cost they would have to pay him in exchange for the property is prohibitive. Otherwise, I agree, this looks like an excellent case for use of eminent domain.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:00 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point is that there is a proper trial -- in this case, a civil action -- that has been held, and the courts have already ruled that Mouroun has failed is contractual obligations and have already ordered that he hold up his end of the contract that he signed with the State of Michigan.

"He" signed with the State of Michigan or "the CEO of Centra Inc" signed with the State of Michigan?

Contempt is unique in that the court specifies exactly why the person is being held in contempt, and the punishment disappears the moment the person complies.

Thanks eriko. It seems to me that the company is in default here not the person employed as CEO. The company has failed to comply - perhaps because because the CEO has not ordered it to do so - but isn't it the company that should suffer the penalty.
posted by three blind mice at 6:01 AM on January 13, 2012


Free Matty Moroun! Holding a US citizen on contempt of court charges indefinitely is a violation of his civil liberties and our constitutional Bill of Rights!

Right after the 10+ breathless FPP's about how Congress is considering the NDAA, how the Dear Leader said it wouldn't pass and the 1000+ commented on FPP about the signing of the bill, followed up by the FPP showing the comments by other authors like Glen Greenwald.

Cuz that's the fair and balanced way the blue ball bounces 'round these parts.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:02 AM on January 13, 2012


It seems to me that the company is in default here not the person employed as CEO.

My god, you need to read. He is not an employee. He is the owner and the buck absolutely stops with him. He IS the company to all intents and purposes.
posted by Brockles at 6:05 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Please note that Moroun is not merely an officer of the company but its owner.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would sentence him to 10000 border crossings.
posted by srboisvert at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Maybe I'm just being naive, but isn't it kind of freaky that the jail has a cell just for politicians?

Yeah, it's Michigan, not Illinois or anything.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:10 AM on January 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


So at the end of the day, the problem is that the fines for ignoring a judgement are capped at $7500 a day, and that's not necessarily a large enough penalty for these large companies.
posted by smackfu at 6:13 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm just being naive, but isn't it kind of freaky that the jail has a cell just for politicians?

Apply the law evenly, and they'll be building a whole new wing

I actually thing eriko has a reasonable argument. But the fact that a practice has a long history does not make it a desirable aspect of a free society. Beheading at the whim of the king had a long history. Nor do I say the judge is acting outside the law. Hanging witches was also done inside the law. I don't argue that jailing him at his majesty's pleasure doesn't follow existing law, only that the existing law is unjust.
posted by tyllwin at 6:14 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please note that Moroun is not merely an officer of the company but its owner.

Hey I get this, but there is a corporate structure even in a privately-held company and it is not at all clear that piercing this umbrella is an appropriate solution to this commercial dispute. Yeah, I get the judge is frustrated, but ordering the sheriff to put someone in jail is just about the harshest penalty society offers. It's not something to be used lightly. He may be a tyrant but he is not being charged with a felony, yet he is sitting in a cell against his will.

Oh why bother?

1%'er IN JAIL. THE REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN. WHOOPPEE.
posted by three blind mice at 6:14 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the fact that a practice has a long history does not make it a desirable aspect of a free society. Beheading at the whim of the king had a long history.

Yes, and that is why they are not beheading him. Instead he is being held until he complies with a court order. Your comparison is irrelevant and any other comparison to people who are actually being held without due process is just insulting and generally dim witted.
posted by aychedee at 6:17 AM on January 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


Anyone who thinks he's merely the CEO of some big corporation needs to read up on the man. What he's doing is the equivalent of me incorporating myself as PJAUSTCO, going out and robbing a bank, then resigning as CEO with a hell of a golden parachute.

There is no one more deserving of jail than Moroun. The man is the slimiest creature in Metro Detroit, and that's saying something. If all you want is money, being a billionaire gives you the leverage to hurt people and make a killing without breaking any laws. Moroun is a special kind of asshole. He doesn't do shady stuff because he thinks hi won't get caught or no one will care. He goes and literally tells the government to fuck off with its rules and regulations and dares them to take action, 'cause, you know, he's making a profit here! And it's not a victimless crime. He's dumping major air pollution and noise on a neighborhood almost unimaginably poor and doing real damage to the State's economy by screwing with the border crossing.

This judge is a goddamn People's hero and the photo of Matty getting the bad news is my new desktop. I really wish he wound up in a cell with 20 people in for drug crimes, shivering in the corner with no mattress to sleep on, shitting in a bucket and clawing hopelessly at some junkie that just stole his moldy cheese sandwich.
posted by pjaust at 6:18 AM on January 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Okay, let's try this again: please read the links, three blind mice, and I suspect you will discover you are under-informed on this particular regional issue here in Detroit. Have a great day!
posted by joe lisboa at 6:19 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The judge considered appointing a receiver but thought that Moroun's jailing would be the most expedient course of action. I'm biased because I live in the affected neighborhood, but Moroun has made life here nothing but unpleasant. His plaza forces trucks onto Fort St, Rosa Parks, and Lafayette Street. These streets as well as the I-75 service drive continue to be plagued with massive potholes. At the same time, the air particulate rates in Southwest Detroit, a perpetual EJ community, are well above normal.

He's bought up most of the surrounding property, including the iconic Michigan Central Station, in an attempt to delay a planned upgrade of the Detroit-Windsor rail tunnel which would allow double-stacked cars to traverse the border. Thus he has no real interest in speculation, he is a rent-seeker pure and plain.

The framing of this as a 99%/1% issue is misleading. This is about a man who owns a company that thinks it has an exclusive franchise from the US Congress to operate all bridges between Detroit and Windsor, and the lengths that he's gone to in order to protect the millions of dollars he extracts from both countries. He's kept politicians in his pocket the whole way and only recently has he made any sort of public gestures in an attempt to stop a new planned crossing further south, near Zug Island. This issue is principally about a family company refusing to uphold their end of a bargain with the public to improve people's lives. Putting Moroun in jail is the quickest way to get them to uphold their end of the bargain. I hate 'indefinite detention' as much as the next guy but comparing this to Guantanamo completely obfuscates the issue.
posted by ofthestrait at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's not something to be used lightly. He may be a tyrant but he is not being charged with a felony, yet he is sitting in a cell against his will.

If you ignore a court order, you go to jail. It has ever been thus. He had his due process, he lost, and he refused to comply with a legitimate court order. The penalty for that is jail time until he complies.
posted by empath at 6:25 AM on January 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Whatta Maroun!

Whatta ignoranimus!
posted by orme at 6:26 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Moroun's jailing is not the solution to a commercial dispute. That solution has already been determined in a court of law. The question now is to the implementation.

I am amazed at the hubris of this guy. Sign a contract, breach the contract, and then ignore the judgment against you, thinking that you'll just pay a fine instead? That takes either some really big balls or a really tiny brain.
posted by cotterpin at 6:28 AM on January 13, 2012


He may be a tyrant but he is not being charged with a felony, yet he is sitting in a cell against his will.

Well, yes - It's his well to not do what he's been ordered to do by a judge. Jail is usually what happens when you do that.
posted by pupdog at 6:28 AM on January 13, 2012


Your comparison is irrelevant and any other comparison to people who are actually being held without due process is just insulting and generally dim witted.

So, if the judge is just tired of him, and over the course of prolonged litigation has taken a dislike to him, and now wishes to personally punish him out of bile rather than because that's the only way to get results? Suppose the judge is petty and vindictive, and looks for excuses to keep him detained? The prisoner's protection is what, exactly?

No, he is not being beheaded. Neither is he being afforded a trial before a jury of his peers. I'm sorry if thinking he deserves that is dim-witted. But because the prisoner is dislikable and probably would go to jail were it possible to try him before a jury doesn't mean he isn't entitled to that. (Note that I'd be fine if he were being held in jail awaiting trial on such a charge. I am not this guy's friend.)

I don't really love three blind mice's argument about "piercing this umbrella" either though: are there no circumstances where you'd hold him responsible for the actions of a company he owns and controls? My concern is process, but yours seems to be substance.
posted by tyllwin at 6:29 AM on January 13, 2012


Duh, will.

Also, tyllwin, there is no trial for contempt - contempt is because of some court action that's already taken place - do you really not understand the concept of contempt of court?
posted by pupdog at 6:31 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Contempt of court is part of american due process. It's the only tool the court has to enforce legal orders. Without that, you might as well throw the court system out.
posted by empath at 6:32 AM on January 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


The trial has already happened. He lost. This is the penalty for refusing to comply with the terms of the judgment. It's not that complicated!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:32 AM on January 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Personally, I love the "until he complies" part.

I feel terrible for those folks that live in the area near the bridge. With such a simple solution (Gateway project & new span), for the good of all, contempt and some jail time seems wholly inadequate for the damage this person has done to area.

He's certainly left his mark smudge on the City of Detroit.
posted by bricksNmortar at 6:33 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let's say, for example, you're ordered to pay a five of $5000.

You tell the judge to go fuck himself.

The typical court response to that would be to throw you in jail for contempt of court.

Do you propose that instead, they have a new trial for contempt of court, wherein witnesses are presented, etc? And if you tell the court to fuck off again? Perhaps another trial?
posted by empath at 6:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


Process? There has been process. I would be concerned if Maroun had been picked up off the street by some police and thrown in jail without ever seeing a judge. This case is the exact opposite.
posted by aychedee at 6:35 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The trial has already happened. He lost. This is the penalty for refusing to comply with the terms of the judgment. It's not that complicated!

Seriously. Is no-one fucking reading anything? Are they honestly saying that he should have a trial for ignoring the judgment of a previous trial? Where do you think that will go?
posted by Brockles at 6:36 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, I favorited three blind mice up there, but I also actually think he should be jailed.

That seems a little harsh. Would you jail three blind mice just until he reads the links, or for a set time?
posted by Floydd at 6:36 AM on January 13, 2012 [35 favorites]


What a Maroun.
posted by symbioid at 6:36 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, it should be noted that the judge briefly jailed Dan Stamper earlier last year in order to force the DIBC to start work. It's pretty obvious, however, that the decision-making authority in the company ultimately lies with Moroun and that's why he chose to incarcerate him now.
posted by ofthestrait at 6:37 AM on January 13, 2012


it should be noted that the judge briefly jailed Dan Stamper

Dan Stamper is the Bridge President, by the way. For those that don't read anything other than the comments and then argue the merits of the summary in the OP itself.

This argument and consequent damage to the Detroit/Windsor crossing has been going on for many, many years. There have been several attempts to get this issue and stranglehold resolved. This is not a knee jerk judgment from out of nowhere. This is the final comeuppance of someone that has royally fucked the system from both sides in two countries for years.

It was a long time coming.
posted by Brockles at 6:40 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't help but think this is mainly because one side is the state / public, and not another corporation.
posted by smackfu at 6:40 AM on January 13, 2012


A three judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals denied his appeal last night. The bridge company has repudiated his resignation, saying that he's still in charge. More in the Free Press article here. This did not come out of the blue and is the result of a long, drawn out and unsuccessful legal process.
posted by leslies at 6:41 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


there is a corporate structure even in a privately-held company and it is not at all clear that piercing this umbrella is an appropriate solution to this commercial dispute.

As much as I feel this man is seeing the results of his actions, you do have a point in that this makes a very serious threat towards corporate structure. However, I think it would be a very reasonable discussion to consider whether a majority owner of a privately held company should be held liable for blatant contempt and other intentional crimes. We're not talking about someone powerless to make changes here, the man has the power to comply with the court issue on his orders alone.

Perhaps corporate liability shields are being abused to the point that their existence is a liability to the public interest and business in general. This is far from the ideal way to tackle the issue, but given that we're not going to see Congress take it on any time soon, such a stunt may be the only way to address the issue. I am uncomfortable with the way it's being done, but given what is happening here, I believe this is the closest thing the judge can do to putting the company in jail, something it would effectively have earned if it were a person.
posted by Saydur at 6:42 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't eminent domain only for taking land from poor people, humanfont? There should imho be another trial but this time to seize the bridge and waterfront from him.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:46 AM on January 13, 2012


I was so fucking happy when I heard this news yesterday.
Mouron is a terrible business man in this area. He has spread lies and propaganda regarding a new bridge, holds slum properties all over the city in shell companies, buys off the Michigan legislators, and generally is a piece of shit.
I hope the contempt charge holds and he finally carries out the contract for the city. If it does stay, I bet a dollar to a donut that the work gets done at an unbelievable pace.
posted by handbanana at 6:46 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Photoessay - some of Maroun's properties. Article about the proposed second, publicly owned bridge. The parade of slums. Article on cleaning up his property (which he doesn't do - over 400 empty parcels). Note the sidebar to this one listing supporters for second bridge.

Those of us who live in SE Michigan have watched this guy's abuse for decades.
posted by leslies at 6:56 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and if he hasn't done enough to piss people off, he's also illegally fenced off sections of publicly owned Riverside Park.
posted by ofthestrait at 6:59 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one to suffer a medieval flashback to trolls, tolls, Black Knights and bridges?

C'mere, I'll bite your legs off!
posted by likeso at 7:03 AM on January 13, 2012


[A couple comments removed. If you want to explain the local angle, go for it, that's great; if you want to tell everybody to shut the fuck up, step away from the thread for a while.]
posted by cortex at 7:09 AM on January 13, 2012


What in the hell is going on with the comments?

I am the CEO and owner of my company, which means that I am held ACCOUNTABLE for my company. If my company doesn't pay taxes, I am held responsible for it. If my company does something fraudulent, I am held responsible for it. If my company violates the law, I am held responsible for it. Which means that if my company is held in contempt of court, I am held in contempt of court. How is that hard to comprehend?

This is not a "rah rah pitchforks and torches! kill the 1%" situation. This is the legal system working, for once. How are companies supposed to be held accountable if not through the people who own and operate them? Companies are not people, they are governed by people. This is the responsibility you accept when found a company, or run one, or own one, or all of the above. It is put in place so you don't use your company for fraudulent purposes and then hide behind the fact that it's a paper entity and not a person who broke the law. You are your company. This is not discriminatory and I find it contemptible that there are comments comparing this case to people held without due process. Contempt of court IS due process.
posted by lydhre at 7:10 AM on January 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


1%'er IN JAIL. THE REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN. WHOOPPEE.

Wow. What a deliberately mean-spirited and ignorant take on what folks have been calmly stating in this thread.
posted by mediareport at 7:11 AM on January 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


What kind of lawyer writes a contract without an enforcement clause? It's fucking boilerplate, for chrissakes. The state's lawyer should go to jail along with Moroun, because he would have had to deliberately exclude the enforcement clause. Clauses, I should say because there are usually more than one.

Secondly, the entire concept behind letting a private agency complete a portion of your work is not a good idea, for exactly this reason. Have one agency do all the work; if someone is going to balk, it will be obvious up front. Best to have the public agencies finance, let, and manage the work. Public agencies do work on private lands all the time, through the use of temporary or permanent easements. If you limit the private agency's contribution to simple monetary contribution, then at least the work can proceed, and you can haggle about the money in court.

And of course there is the classic "public agency has no balls" problem. When a contractor, or in this case Moroun's contractors, don't perform, you shut down the project. Even without a performance clause, the state has no obligation to Moroun to allow traffic into or out of his land. Drop some fucking K-rail on the road and starve the sonofabitch out. Sure, people will be pissed, but that's what you pay lawyers and PR people for.
posted by Xoebe at 7:14 AM on January 13, 2012


Contempt of court is part of american due process. It's the only tool the court has to enforce legal orders. Without that, you might as well throw the court system out.

Absolutely this. The Court has to be able to enforce its orders if the Court's orders are to mean anything. It's a serious charge and serious penalty, but it has to be. Without it, a party could simply ignore an Order of the Court, have a new trial on whether they ignored an Order or not, ignore an Order again, have a new trial on whether they ignored an Order or not, over and over and over, effectively neutering the Court entirely.

Nevermind enforcing a Judgement of the Court, you couldn't even run a trial without the Court having this power. The Court has to be able to enforce its Orders immediately. The threat of immediate jail until compliance -- and thanks to the reverse onus, it's guilty until proven innocent -- yeah, it's a big, big power. It has to be. There would be no reason to follow an Order of the Court otherwise. Ever.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:15 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am the CEO and owner of my company, which means that I am held ACCOUNTABLE for my company.

The whole point of forming a corporation is to stop that accountability at some point.
posted by smackfu at 7:16 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems to be a situation ripe for the state utilizing eminent domain, no? Can anyone explain why this would not be possible?
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:17 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, and that is why they are not beheading him.

To belabor my point, in our society jailing someone is a harsh penalty. I understand the point empath that it's not cruel and unusual punishment, but don't diminish it as if it's like receiving a parking ticket.

If he is personally responsible - as a private citizen - which I question - but say if he is, then why not fine him, why not put liens on his personal property? This is a dispute about money.

Putting this detestable person in jail because the judge is frustrated with the pace of progress isn't how civil rights in America are supposed to work.

Perhaps it is because I have no informed prejudice with regard to this particular regional issue in Detroit - which I admit I do not have - that my point of view differs from yours joe lisboa. I don't mean to be offensive to the long suffering residents of the region.

I don't really love three blind mice's argument about "piercing this umbrella" either though: are there no circumstances where you'd hold him responsible for the actions of a company he owns and controls?

I don't love it either tyllwin. I'm just trying to understand what the rules of play should be.

The trial has already happened. He lost. This is the penalty for refusing to comply with the terms of the judgment. It's not that complicated!

It's not complicated at all. The company lost the contract dispute with the city and was ordered to comply.

So they make a commercial decision: don't comply. Fight. Appeal. Etc. The fines are tolerable.

They city turns back to the judge to force the company to comply - here there is no new trial - and the judge gets frustrated that justice takes so long and that the statutory fines are too low so he jails the CEO to force him to make a decision as CEO that would bring his company in compliance with the court's previous order?

It seems to me an over the top police state sort of penalty, but then again I do not live in Detroit - as if that should matter. Whatever the long suffering residents might think, this is not a crime, no one is begin charged with a felony, this is an ordinary commercial dispute and it ain't fair for one side to use imprisonment when negotiating a settlement.

Fine the company. Fine the owner. Sue him for all of his assets. Cancel the contract. Confiscate the assets. Force the liquidation of the company. But jail?

if you don't live here and have seen (and experienced) all the shit he's done to Detroit, shut the fuck up.

Hes a fucking terrible human being, and one really doesn't understand the extent of damage hes done to the region unless you've lived here.

No offense intended, but I don't see how that should bear on the man's civil rights.

What a deliberately mean-spirited and ignorant take on what folks have been calmly stating in this thread.

It's always interesting to see the limits of the commitment to civil rights when the subject is nominally detested.

But you must pardon me. I'm a loyal friend of the devil.
posted by three blind mice at 7:17 AM on January 13, 2012


Yeah, I really do think indefinite detention (as opposed to short-term detention) should require something more than "one judge says he's not compliant." There was a trial about contracts and property, not about a man's freedom.

Are you still OK with that practice if the defendant is less loathsome?

It allows tremendous abuse:

"You say you've resigned and no longer control that company? Too bad."

"Pay this collection agency the $500 you owe. I reject your whining. Rot in jail until you cough up the cash somehow."

"I reject your claim that you are not a terrorist. You stay in jail until you name your terrorist associates."

"We have encrypted communication that we think came from you. You are detained until it is decoded."

Could process of law really not work if the judge had to say "I am placing your company in receivership and ordering you tried for criminal contempt. You are jailed pending that trial." ?
posted by tyllwin at 7:18 AM on January 13, 2012


It seems to me an over the top police state sort of penalty, but then again I do not live in Detroit - as if that should matter. Whatever the long suffering residents might think, this is not a crime, no one is begin charged with a felony, this is an ordinary commercial dispute and it ain't fair for one side to use imprisonment when negotiating a settlement.

It is a crime. It's 'contempt of court'. That's a crime.
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on January 13, 2012


And of course, the inevitable image macros have already begun.
posted by public at 7:21 AM on January 13, 2012


This is archetypal shit.

It's what the people who want to privatize more institutions (like education) are all about. Not people cooperating for their mutual benefit through elective legislation and representative government, but pig-heads ruling over their duchies.

Clearly Mr. Moron has enjoyed lucrative rewards from lording it over the 81 year-old bridge, returning none of it to the community. There will be a lot more Mr. Morons if the kind of people who elected Ricky Walker and Ricky Snyder keep having their way.

A century ago, before public transit, transportation in many major US cities was the responsibility of multiple duchies (sometimes dozens), each with its own schedule and incentive to stall on cooperation. Sane, civic-minded people back then learned to cut through the crap and get the job done by eliminating private interests in the favor of the public good.

Time to end the conversion of the US back into Pottersville.
posted by Twang at 7:22 AM on January 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


It allows tremendous abuse:

"You say you've resigned and no longer control that company? Too bad."


That's what they tried to do in this case.

"Pay this collection agency the $500 you owe. I reject your whining. Rot in jail until you cough up the cash somehow."

They have laws on the books to prevent that if you're bankrupt, but yes, they can put you in jail for refusing to pay debts after a court order, and they do it all the time.

"I reject your claim that you are not a terrorist. You stay in jail until you name your terrorist associates."

They do this all the time. Unless you claim fifth amendment protection against self incrimination, they can put you in jail for refusing to testify. And once they grant you immunity, you don't even have fifth amendment protections any more.

"We have encrypted communication that we think came from you. You are detained until it is decoded."

They put people in jail for this right now. You can claim fifth amendment protection i believe, however.
posted by empath at 7:23 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's funny that people who haven't the foggiest idea how American jurisprudence works are up in arms over a billionaire going to jail for something that regular people go to jail for every single day, under the exact same process.
posted by empath at 7:26 AM on January 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


It's always interesting to see the limits of the commitment to civil rights when the subject is nominally detested.

God, why do I bother. Never mind, three blind mice. You just keep on keepin on.
posted by mediareport at 7:27 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


but trying to get through the shitty unlit streets on the Detroit side (while the GPS gamely points to the defunct 'official' routing which doesn't exist) is pretty daunting the first time.

To the point that there are now big orange placards saying "IGNORE GPS, FOLLOW SIGNS" along the route when you come off 96.

Th' wife and I make this crossing every few months. Here I was thinking the ridiculous roundabout route was due to safety concerns or something. Nope, just being herded like cattle to the duty free by this corrupt bastard.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Applying the law equally to people with money and people without money appears to be the current definition of "class warfare."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


that regular people go to jail for every single day, under the exact same process.

What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?
posted by smackfu at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2012


I really feel quite strongly that rape jokes about prison and men are equally as disgusting as those about women (perhaps more so given their complete and utter lack of attempted irony), but no matter how hard I tried, I still found this absolutely hilarious.
posted by GoingToShopping at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No offense intended, but I don't see how that should bear on the man's civil rights.
The piece of shit's rights were not violated. The only violation was his actions or lack thereof to carry out court orders. The fines are nothing to his company or him. Simply the cost of doing business. What he is doing is disrupting traffic, and doing what he wants for financial gain dispite orders otherwise. He is basically aaying "fuck you" to the legal system.

His ass in jail is the best thing for the time being.
posted by handbanana at 7:29 AM on January 13, 2012


What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?

I'll defer to one of the lawyers to provide examples. Most people simply obey court orders so they don't end up going to jail.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Off the top of my head, though, Judith Miller.
posted by empath at 7:31 AM on January 13, 2012


"...this is an ordinary commercial dispute and it ain't fair for one side to use imprisonment when negotiating a settlement.

This isn't 'one side'. This is the Court. The Court is not a 'side' to the commercial dispute.

Could process of law really not work if the judge had to say "I am placing your company in receivership and ordering you tried for criminal contempt. You are jailed pending that trial." ?

The Judge isn't saying that. The Judge is saying that the Court's Orders have to be complied with, or else.

The finding of Contempt, here, is not part of the commercial dispute. It was born of it, yes, but it's essentially a new dispute, being 'I won't do what the Court orders me to' vs 'Oh yeah?'
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:31 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Could process of law really not work if the judge had to say "I am placing your company in receivership and ordering you tried for criminal contempt. You are jailed pending that trial." ?

Yes, it would really not work. Because showing up to trial is a court order. If they don't show up, do you want a new court order to have them show up to stand trial for not showing up for the last trial about not obeying a court order?
posted by empath at 7:33 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's amazing how many people in this thread don't comprehend the number one rule of the courtroom. It applies whether you're a defendant, a plaintiff, an attorney, a witness, a juror, a spectator, a bailiff... it doesn't matter who you are; if you're inside the courtroom the rule applies to you. And the rule is this: Don't piss off the judge.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it's funny that people who haven't the foggiest idea how American jurisprudence works are up in arms over a billionaire going to jail for something that regular people go to jail for every single day, under the exact same process.

Oh, I feel more for the regular people than for the scumbag. And yes, I kn ow it's frequently done. I was trying to use examples that people actually went to jail for on a regular basis. I just want people put in jail by juries, not judicial fiat, and am willing to extend it to the scumbag.
posted by tyllwin at 7:37 AM on January 13, 2012


What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?

My dad back when he didn't pay child support.
posted by carsonb at 7:42 AM on January 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yep, interesting. "If a judge puts a person in jail until he pays his child support, or some part of it, then it is considered civil contempt. If a judge puts a person in jail for a certain period of time whether or not he pays his child support, then it is considered criminal contempt because the purpose is punishment, not coercion into paying child support."
posted by smackfu at 7:47 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


When a contractor, or in this case Moroun's contractors, don't perform, you shut down the project. Even without a performance clause, the state has no obligation to Moroun to allow traffic into or out of his land. Drop some fucking K-rail on the road and starve the sonofabitch out.

The people advocating this are clueless as to the significance of what they are saying.

This is the single biggest border crossing in the USA for trade traffic. It is the ONLY way to get commercial traffic across the border between Windsor and Detroit - your only other option (Sarnia) would be a 300km, 5 hour detour for the 10,000 odd trucks per day that cross at this border. The crossing, bridge and surrounding land is privately owned and controlled by this guy.

You think it is better to stop all that traffic (plus the 4000 odd private cars) than throw the guy responsible for holding the cities both sides of the border to ransom for decades into jail for ignoring his responsibilities? Shut down a massive international border crossing? Seriously?

Can you imagine the financial penalty alone for just the fuel for the trucks? It's over 1.5 million dollars per day just in additional fuel. Rather than send the person responsible for the stranglehold to jail until... when?

It's until he actually does what his company was required to do over two years ago. As soon as he gives the order, he's likely out of jail. Big deal. Cry me a river (That the guy won't let me cross anyway because he makes too much money).
posted by Brockles at 7:52 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


>What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?

>My dad back when he didn't pay child support.


Failure to appear is another big one. Someone doesn't show up in Court as ordered, the Judge makes a finding of Contempt and issues a Warrant for his arrest, the cops go out and find the guy and throw him in jail to make sure that he's going to be in Court when he's told to be.

I just want people put in jail by juries, not judicial fiat, and am willing to extend it to the scumbag.

So under something like a failure to appear, with a jury trial for Contempt, you would have the Judge issuing a charge of Contempt and issuing a bench warrant, the cops go out to find the guy and tell him to appear for his new jury trial (with the whole business of getting THAT arranged) and maybe or maybe not buddy will show up this time. Fingers crossed.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2012


As a point of reference, closing this bridge would shut-down almost all of the "domestic" three automakers production lines on both sides of the border within a few hours.
posted by bonehead at 8:03 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So under something like a failure to appear, with a jury trial for Contempt, you would have the Judge issuing a charge of Contempt and issuing a bench warrant, the cops go out to find the guy and tell him to appear for his new jury trial (with the whole business of getting THAT arranged) and maybe or maybe not buddy will show up this time. Fingers crossed.


No. I think short term contempt jailings are just fine. I just object to long term or indefinite jail for contempt. If scumbag were in jail for a few months by fiat while things geared up for a jury trial, I'd have no issues.
posted by tyllwin at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2012


In regard to the comments about "due process"... y'know, the guy's a billionaire. I'm pretty sure that he can afford lawyers who would be jumping all over any loophole they could find, if there were anything legally questionable about the judge's ruling.

I'm also pretty sure that in a case involving a product being built with complete disregard for the specifications of the contract, that has been dragging on since 2008 without any compliance from the contractor, "due process" has been well and truly done.

There are cases where it's prudent to determine whether the civil rights of the accused have been violated, regardless of the public's opinion of the accused. And then there are cases like this, where the accused is certainly more than capable of hiring a team to protect his civil rights, and has in fact gone out of his way to exploit the system guaranteeing those rights so well and truly that it seems fair to assume that he intends to continue to do so.

I really think that those concerned with matters of due process and civil rights would be better served by turning their attention to situations that would be benefited by their focus. I do not think this is that situation.
posted by mie at 8:13 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?

My dad back when he didn't pay child support.


Try googling "contempt of court" and you will goggle, then double check your search term: no I didn't search on "deadbeat dad", why'd I get all these hits?

It's enough, though to see that scores of people are jailed every day in the US for Civil CC and we don't hear about it because they are not billionaires holding international commerce hostage.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from wickuhpeedia on Contempt of Court:
Under American jurisprudence, acts of contempt are divided into two types.

1.Direct contempt is that which occurs in the presence of the presiding judge. . .

2.Indirect contempt occurs outside the immediate presence of the court and consists of disobedience of a court's prior order. . [Check.]

A person cited for indirect contempt is entitled to notice of the charge and an opportunity for hearing of the evidence of contempt and to present evidence in rebuttal. [Check.]

Sanctions for contempt may be criminal or civil. . . once the charge is proven, then punishment (such as a fine or, in more serious cases, imprisonment) is imposed unconditionally. [Check.]

The civil sanction for contempt (which is typically incarceration in the custody of the sheriff or similar court officer) is limited in its imposition for so long as the disobedience to the court's order continues: once the party complies with the court's order, the sanction is lifted. The imposed party is said to "hold the keys" to his or her own cell, thus conventional due process is not required. [Check.]

The burden of proof for civil contempt, however, is a preponderance of the evidence, and punitive sanctions (punishment) can only be imposed after due process.[Check.]

In civil contempt cases there is no principle of proportionality. In Chadwick v. Janecka (3d Cir. 2002), a U.S. court of appeals held that H. Beatty Chadwick could be held indefinitely under federal law, for his failure to produce US$ 2.5 mill. as state court ordered in a civil trial. Chadwick had been imprisoned for nine years at that time and continued to be held in prison until 2009, when a state court set him free after 14 years, making his imprisonment the longest on a contempt charge to date.

Again, the only unique aspect here is the wealth and power of the perp.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:14 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh, and tyllwin:

"I reject your claim that you are not a terrorist. You stay in jail until you name your terrorist associates."

"We have encrypted communication that we think came from you. You are detained until it is decoded."


You, uh, you do know they can do that now, right?
posted by mie at 8:15 AM on January 13, 2012


Vote Republican and you will get more of this "free" enterprise, unbridled capitalism and GREED.
posted by Sparkticus at 8:37 AM on January 13

Live by the contract, die by the contract.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:38 AM on January 13
Romney and Maroun would turn the commons into a slum -- both literally and figuratively.

(Don't wait until we have to pay Chinese business owners for access to jobs.)
posted by vhsiv at 8:21 AM on January 13, 2012


How is this a horrible punishment when the person being punished determines the length of the incarceration? As soon as he gives the order (or some sort of progress is made), he's out, right?
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right. It's not as if he can't fulfill the terms. He just won't. That's exactly what contempt is for.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


These are bold statements but I firmly believe that this man has:
- Cost Ontario and to an extent Michigan more in lost revenue and growth than any one other person.
- Has damaged my health more than any other person through the pollution caused by his blocking of the second bridge/streamlining the traffic at the first.

This is real justice.
posted by niccolo at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


tyllwin, contempt charges cannot be arbitrary. Judges' orders of contempt can be challenged on appeal for an abuse of the judge's discretion.

In other words, judges cannot issue contempt rulings based on personal dislike. They must show that the offender refused to comply with a lawful court order.

If they cannot show that, contempt rulings can be overturned.

I do not think this is an abuse of discretion, given the reported facts.

Also, it must be noted that in civil contempt proceedings - the only reason the charged does not go free is their own refusal to comply with court orders.

In the Chadwick case above, Chadwick could have walked out of jail at anytime simply by complying with the court's order.

It was Chadwick's choice to refuse to comply and stay in jail.

Such incarceration is not indefinite, because the means of ending it are known and available at any time to the charged offender.

They merely refuse to take it.
posted by Apollo's Favorite Mistake at 8:37 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not a "rah rah pitchforks and torches! kill the 1%" situation. This is the legal system working, for once.

Can't it be both?
posted by LordSludge at 8:39 AM on January 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


The Chadwick case is a different story. He was ordered to produce money which he continued to claim, over his 14-year incarceration, that he did not have. There's a legitimate argument that his imprisonment was a miscarriage of justice if you believe his claims were credible. Maroun's claim to no longer be in control of the company he owns had no such credibility.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:41 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I might, indeed, actually own the Brooklyn Bridge.

Cool!
posted by Danf at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2012


Trial #1:

Judge: Do this thing.
Defendant: No.

Trial # 2:
Judge: Do this thing or I'm tossing you in jail until you do.
Defendant: No.

Trial #3:
Judge: That thing I told you to do? You still need to do it, or else.
Defendant: No.

----

How many hearings and trials do there need to be before due process is satisfied?
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many hearings and trials do there need to be before due process is satisfied?

20, same as in town.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:07 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry if I come across as wanting to throw sand into the gears of justice. Truthfully, I don't even want this particular guy out out of jail. I just think there ought to be a threshold -- 6 months? A year? -- beyond which a person held in a jail should get to to face a jury. If I knew that he'd eventually get a trial after he sat long enough, I'd be all OK with it. I'm just troubled that there's a top dollar limit of $7,500 but no top limit on how much of the guy's life we can keep him him jail.

I'm well aware that isn't the way it works today, and I'm less concerned about this guy, who's clearly trying to game the system with his "Nah, nah, I'm not the CEO any more!" than I am with the broader application of it.
posted by tyllwin at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


beyond which a person held in a jail should get to to face a jury

Face a jury... to decide what?
posted by muddgirl at 9:15 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I knew that he'd eventually get a trial after he sat long enough

What do you think the trial should be for? What would the trial be intended to achieve? What penalty could the trial threaten to demand compliance with its previous rulings other than jail?

The guy would only still be in jail because he was refusing to comply with a court order. If he complied, he would be out of jail. Because he hasn't complied, what should they do? Shrug and say "oh well"?
posted by Brockles at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2012


I understand's tyllwin's objection in principle, that there doesn't seem to be a check on a judge creating a requirement that you cannot comply with. If you sign a contract with a person whereby you will receive $10,000 to lay an egg, and you fail to do so, can you be kept in jail until you lay one?

(IANAL but) I believe that the appeals process covers this. The order must be something that you can comply with (but simply refuse to do so). If this doesn't hold, then you are free to argue that on appeal. Let's also not forget that there already was an entire civil trial, in which these sorts of issues including finding of facts should have already been hashed out.
posted by cotterpin at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2012


Time to end the conversion of the US back into Pottersville.

Happy Martin Luther King Day to you—in jail!
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2012


Stuff like this is the inevitable result of poorly thought-out privatization schemes.

I get that this particular asshole is, well, an asshole. But generally, I think private businesses should be able to run their affairs with as little governmental interference as possible (basic occupational safety, non-discrimination, that kind of thing), and this kind of privatization essentially asks private business people to ignore their incentives. Basically, even if Moroun were a nice guy, he'd still have incentives that run directly counter to maintaining a smooth, efficient border crossing. He wants people to shop in his stores, fuel up at the overpriced gas station, sit in front of the billboards on the Detroit side, etc.

So, blame the asshole, sure. But you can also blame the government that allowed a private company to run a key piece of infrastructure. And there's a lot more privatization where that came from.
posted by downing street memo at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that this bridge was always private. The wikipedia article isn't clear.
posted by empath at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2012


If you sign a contract with a person whereby you will receive $10,000 to lay an egg, and you fail to do so, can you be kept in jail until you lay one?

Not a lawyer either, but pretty sure such a contract would be unenforceable.
posted by downing street memo at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2012


If I knew that he'd eventually get a trial after he sat long enough, I'd be all OK with it. I'm just troubled that there's a top dollar limit of $7,500 but no top limit on how much of the guy's life we can keep him him jail.

You keep saying this, and people keep pointing out that he has had a trial; furthermore all he has to do to get out is fulfill some part of the contract he was already obligated to fulfill. What on earth would another trial even be about? Maroun hasn't fulfilled his contract, and continues to not fulfill it, and remains in jail, and gets to go to trail after a certain amount of time... just to uphold the status quo at the expense of taxpayers? That makes no sense.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2012


What do you think the trial should be for?

Insubordination. Non-compliance of a judge's orders. The fine should be a surrender of the Ambassador Bridge and any adjacent properties and holdings. Turn the property over to the State of Michigan and the Province of Ontario.

This guy has banked his BILLION. He never need work another day in his life unless he and all of his descendents figure out how to time-travel and spend it on hookers and booze. (Even then... )

IANAL, but isn't there some sort of nasty provision in the Patriot Act that allows property like Maroun's to be seized for the public good?
posted by vhsiv at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2012


Tried for what? In the broadest terms, to determine "is the prisoner, in fact, refusing to follow the lawful order of a court?"

In example:

Scumbag says he is not able to comply because he doesn't control that company. Is that the truth, or not?

Bob says he can't pay the collection agency because he is living on handouts, and has no money. Is he in fact, unable to pay?

George says that encrypted file on the old hard drive in the basement is just porn and he forgot the password years ago. Is that credible?

I don't say the court should shrug and say "oh well." Merely that eventually, a jury ought to say if the prisoner is actually able to do what the court demands.


You keep saying this, and people keep pointing out that he has had a trial

Sure. Bob in my example above, had a trial. He owes the collection agency $500. Even Bob admits this. Bob says he doesn't have it. The judge says "then you, Bob, can remain in jail literally until death, unless you cough up the money." Does Bob never get a jury to look at the facts of whether he can pay or not? No trial, and no jury, has ever addressed that. The judge guesses Bob can pay. Is that as much as is ever to be required?
posted by tyllwin at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2012


Forget the patriot act, it's right there in the constitution.
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2012


I think that this bridge was always private.

Yes, it was.
posted by Brockles at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2012


Sure. Bob in my example above, had a trial. He owes the collection agency $500. Even Bob admits this. Bob says he doesn't have it. The judge says "then you, Bob, can remain in jail literally until death, unless you cough up the money." Does Bob never get a jury to look at the facts of whether he can pay or not? No trial, and no jury, has ever addressed that.

It's called bankruptcy.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And in fact, merely by FILING for bankruptcy, the collection agency is enjoined from even contacting him to ask him to pay, let alone filing suit.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure. Bob in my example above, had a trial. He owes the collection agency $500. Even Bob admits this. Bob says he doesn't have it. The judge says "then you, Bob, can remain in jail literally until death, unless you cough up the money." Does Bob never get a jury to look at the facts of whether he can pay or not? No trial, and no jury, has ever addressed that. The judge guesses Bob can pay. Is that as much as is ever to be required?

If you watch the video you will hear the judge saying that he will be held until he complies with the courts order or until he proves that he cannot comply with the courts order. What you want already exists.
posted by aychedee at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Merely that eventually, a jury ought to say if the prisoner is actually able to do what the court demands.

That step was already taken, in this example, and is that not what appeal is for anyway? To counter a ruling on the grounds you are unable to comply?
posted by Brockles at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2012


When I start to sound like a broken record even to myself, it's time to go outside. Hopefully, no one will compel me to walk past their gas station or duty-free shop
posted by tyllwin at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2012


Interestingly, tyllwin by insisting on a jury trial, you are actually increasing the likelihood that the person in contempt will be found even more guilty
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2012


To break this down by analogy:

Let's say I'm trying to cook dinner, and my five year old daughter is playing with her My Little Ponies in the kitchen. I ask her to please move her play to the living room, because she's disrupting my ability to get dinner on the table.

"OK!" she says, and then proceeds to keep playing exactly where she is.

"Lillian!" I say. "Please move your ponies to the living room."

"Oh, sorry, Mommy, I forgot to do that," she says, and continues to play exactly where she is.

"LILLIAN. Move your ponies, NOW."

"MOOOOOM!"

"Lillian, I am going to count to three. If you are not moving your ponies by the time I get to three, you are going into timeout. One. . . two. . . three. OK, timeout!"

"Nuh-uh! I am NOT GOING INTO TIMEOUT!"

So, at this point, do I:

a) count to three again, or

b) pick her up and haul her kicking and screaming into timeout?

I gave the order, I informed her of the consequences, she chose not to comply. Now the consequences come into play, period. Otherwise, she'll be playing ponies in the kitchen forever and dinner will be either burned or cold.
posted by KathrynT at 10:22 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What regular people are you thinking of that go to jail for civil contempt of court?

Once again My Cousin Vinny demonstrates its true nature as an instrument of legal education
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:27 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Contempt. Of. Court.

His lack of action is contemptuous. He has actively disobeyed the court. Multiple times. He should be held. His company should start acting...now...to fix this. The scale of the fix is irrelevant. Start fixing it or let him sit. Period.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2012


He already appealed and was turned down by the State's Appellate Court - which I linked to a long ways above.... guy's a billionaire - do you really think he hasn't thrown lots of money at this to try to forestall the state? A fine of $7600/day seems to be chump change to him [must be nice eh!?] so this is the only way to get his attention.
posted by leslies at 10:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of years back, I got a weird phone poll from a bored operator querying the environmental impact of improving the Detroit crossing. It had lots of questions that would have allowed an enviro type like myself to fall for not approving improving the crossing, either through the new on-ramps or the new public bridge. I suspect it was from Maroun's company, in an effort to form an astroturf campaign.
posted by scruss at 10:47 AM on January 13, 2012


Does Bob never get a jury to look at the facts of whether he can pay or not? No trial, and no jury, has ever addressed that. The judge guesses Bob can pay. Is that as much as is ever to be required?

The judge doesn't "guess." The judge orders a forensic accountant to look at Bob's assets, and then report to the court.

You are hypothesizing yourself out of reality. While abuse and maltreatment certainly exist in the judicial system, you have not offered a scintilla of reality-based evidence that there was abuse or maltreatment in this particular case. The one right here in the fpp.

I hope your walk is nice.
posted by rtha at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So much stupid about the poor jailed billionaire in thread, must have lunch.

Part of what the 1% championed by the 3BM of the world has done is make civil non-compliance just a cost of doing business. If the fine is $7500 a day and ignoring the fix that will make that fine go away nets you an extra $100,000 a day in profit, the fine just becomes another tax. Companies do this all the time with environmental regulations.

Fines should either (a) represent the actual cost of the violation or (b) be tied to a percentage of the violator's net worth. If his company was being fined 1% per day of their gross revenue, you can bet it would be fixed toot sweet.
posted by maxwelton at 11:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


maxwelton: flagged as obvious, true, will never happen.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2012


I wonder why there was such a big gap in time between finding them in contempt (Nov. 4) and jailing them (Jan 13)?
posted by smackfu at 12:11 PM on January 13, 2012


smackfu wrote: The whole point of forming a corporation is to stop that accountability at some point.

Yes, when you comply with your legal duties, the corporation form protects you. Limited liability is not absolute, thank $DIETY.

tyllwin wrote: I just object to long term or indefinite jail for contempt.

It's not indefinite. He can comply at any time. If he feels the order is abusive, there are appellate courts. If that doesn't work, he could file a habeus corpus petition in federal court. It's not as if the order of contempt is unreviewable. We aren't talking about immigration court, after all.
posted by wierdo at 12:22 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of what the 1% championed by the 3BM of the world has done is make civil non-compliance just a cost of doing business.

This.
posted by davejay at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2012


And they're going to be released. Expedited next hearing, no signs of construction.
posted by leslies at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2012


And by "expedited" we mean "February."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:53 PM on January 13, 2012


Smackdown!!

'Bout time.

Now, if the courts will follow through. Or will it be business as usual?
posted by BlueHorse at 3:34 PM on January 13, 2012


Way, way up there, empath said:

"It would probably be better if the government just seized the whole company, though."

This is an excellent idea. Not precisely seizing the company, but this: If the company which has availed itself of the privilege of doing business without personal liability for the acts of the company violates the law in an egregious manner like this, then revoke its charter. The officers and the shareholders are no longer entitled to the protection from liability that incorporation brings. The company would be put into receivership, with its assets and liabilities collected, and its obligations met, then the remaining assets are to be distributed to the shareholders - without any bonuses or preferences for the executives whose misdeeds led to this fiasco.
posted by yclipse at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


And they're going to be released.

I KNEW IT. This was all part of Moroun's elaborate plot to fulfill his lifelong fantasy of shitting in a doorless toilet while being watched.

"Everybody loves to watch an old man shitting," I bet he said. I bet he turned to Dan and said "Right, Dan? You enjoyed watching me shit, there in the prison? Didn't you?"

"You bet, Marty," I'm sure Dan said, "I dug the hell out of that shitting you did."

"Boy oh boy," I imagine Marty added, "I'm gonna get my horrible old ass locked up more often, if it means I can shit in front of Dan here again."

And then maybe he threw a brick at a baby or something.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:22 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a fine explanation for pretty much all the blatant wrongdoing we see from the 1%. It must be a dominance thing, this shitting in our collective cereal.
posted by wierdo at 11:00 PM on January 13, 2012



T: I don't like this because [obvious misunderstanding of the situation].
MF: [explainantion of situation].
T: We'll, I don't like this because [obvious misundersanding of the situation, couched in irrelevant example].
MF: [increasingly detailed explaination of the situation].
T: We'll, I still don't like it because [obvious misunderstanding of the situation, through even more irrelevant example, and complete disregard for explainations].
MF: WTF?
T: We'll, I don't like it, and since you guys don't agree, I'm out.

Welcome to MeFi. Enjoy your stay.
posted by kjs3 at 2:19 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "1%'er IN JAIL. THE REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN. WHOOPPEE."

You know, it's funny. I don't take from the comments that people are happy he's in jail because he's rich. They're happy he's in jail because he's a really horrible person.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:46 PM on January 17, 2012


three blind mice: "Fine the company. Fine the owner. Sue him for all of his assets."

Of all of the things a corporation is good for, preventing someone from ever being able to do the last thing you mentioned is right up at the top of the list.

Also, can I just add that chicken-fried steak is delicious. This jerk should be eating this.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2012


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