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IPI found in contempt of court, ordered to pay attorney’s fees and costs

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CHIEF Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the District Court for the NMI on Thursday found Imperial Pacific International in contempt of court for violating two of her previous orders. She also ordered IPI to pay the plaintiffs attorney’s fees.

In addition, the judge gave IPI one month to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs; otherwise, it will be required to pay $2,000 per day until it produces everything.

Attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline represent seven workers who alleged that they were victims of a forced labor and human trafficking scheme while employed by IPI’s former construction contractor and subcontractor, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI). The plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

Halegua earlier asked the court for an order sanctioning IPI for failing to produce discovery that the court had previously ordered.

IPI, for its part, opposed the motion for sanction, saying none of its delayed production of requested documents or materials were due to willfulness or, bad faith, or its fault.

At the motion for sanctions teleconference hearing held Thursday, Halegua and Berline appeared on behalf of plaintiffs. Attorney Tiberius Mocanu appeared for Gold Mantis while attorney Robert Torres represented MCC International. Attorneys Sean Frink and Catherine Cachero appeared on behalf of IPI.

According to the minutes of the hearing, Judge Manglona granted the plaintiffs’ motion for sanction and gave IPI until April 30, 2020 to provide a status report on the requested documents.

Judge Manglona, moreover, ordered IPI to tender all remaining items in the prior stipulated discovery scheduling order by May 16, 2020.

Failure to comply with the deadlines will result in a monetary sanction of $2,000 a day until IPI complies, the judge said, adding that to avoid sanctions, IPI must file a certification of compliance.

As for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, Judge Manglona ordered Halegua and Berline to submit evidence of hours expended. She said a separate decision and order will be issued on the motion for attorney’s fees.

Halegua’s oral request to file an amended complaint to join new parties, with no objection from defense counsel, was also granted by the judge at the hearing. She ordered the plaintiffs to file the amended complaint on May 23, 2020.

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