IPI terminates services of 2 lawyers

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IMPERIAL Pacific International has terminated the contracts of two of its attorneys after the federal court found IPI in contempt of court for violating two previous orders.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the District Court for the NMI also ordered IPI to pay the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees.

IPI terminated the services of attorneys Sean Frink and Catherine Cachero of Marianas Legal Strategy Group or MLSG on April 17, 2020, and they were replaced by attorney Michael Dotts, according to a joint motion for granting of withdrawal and substitution filed Friday.

In a memorandum in support of the motion, Dotts said, “IPI terminated MLSG on April 17 and on the same day substituted Dotts Law Office to represent” the Saipan casino investor.

Dotts asked the federal court’s approval for his substitution to represent IPI in the lawsuit of seven workers who alleged that they were victims of forced labor and human trafficking while employed by IPI’s then-construction contractor and subcontractor — MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI). IPI has denied the allegations.

Dotts told that court that he has agreed to substitute for the MLSG firm, adding that he is aware of the discovery deadlines applicable to the case.

“I, in fact, have met the April 24, 2020 discovery deadline by transmitting the first set of scanned Bates-stamped paper production to the plaintiffs’ counsel in this case earlier today,” he said.

Dotts said he is currently working to meet the April 30, 2020 discovery deadline by transmitting the first set of production from the 0.5 terabyte of data already processed by Litigation Edge and data from the eight phones.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel requested that I confer with them by phone on April 24 at 11:30 a.m. over discovery and my substitution, and I agreed,” Dotts said. “Plaintiffs’ counsel then cancelled the phone conference. I remain willing to work with plaintiffs’ counsel to get this case on track for a resolution on the merits.”

Dotts said there is a possibility that IPI will need more time to comply with the production deadlines. “But my substitution will not be the cause of the need for additional time,” he added.

Dotts said if “additional time is needed, and if opposing counsel will not agree to provide that time, I understand the procedure for obtaining additional time from the court. I am also aware of the sanctions that have already been imposed and the additional sanctions that will be imposed if discovery deadlines are not met.”

He added that he has sufficient resources and ability to zealously represent the interests of IPI in the lawsuit.

In a previous order, Judge Manglona gave IPI one month to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs. Otherwise, IPI will be required to pay $2,000 per day until it produces the documents, she added.

The judge also granted the plaintiffs’ motion for sanction and gave IPI until April 30, 2020 to provide status report on the requested documents.

She directed IPI to tender all remaining items in the prior stipulated discovery schedule order by May 16, 2020.

The judge reiterated that failure to comply with the deadlines will result in a a monetary sanction of $2,000 a day until IPI complies.

To avoid sanctions, Judge Manglona ordered IPI to file a certification of compliance.

The judge told the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, to submit evidence of hours expended.

She said a separate decision and order will be issued on the motion for attorney’s fees.

The plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

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