Lawyer: IPI produced documents marginally relevant to litigation

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IN his declaration in support of his opposition to counsel substitution, attorney Aaron Halegua stated that “many of the documents produced by [Imperial Pacific International] are only marginally relevant to this litigation.”

Halegua and attorney Bruce Berline represent Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan. They sued IPI and its construction contractor and subcontractor, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI), over forced labor and human trafficking allegations.

Halegua filed an opposition to counsel substitution after IPI informed the federal court that it has terminated the services of two of its attorneys — Sean Frink and Catherine Cachero. IPI also asked the court to approve the substitution of Mike Dotts as IPI lead counsel in the litigation.

Halegua said the motion for substitution is just another attempt to delay the collection and production of discovery.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the District Court for the NMI recently found IPI in contempt of court for violating two of her previous orders. She also ordered IPI to pay attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs.

Judge Manglona gave IPI one month to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs. Failure to do so will subject IPI to a daily $2,000 fine until it produces everything.

The judge also granted the plaintiffs’ motion for sanction and gave IPI until April 30, 2020 to provide a 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. Failure to comply with the deadline will result in a monetary sanction of $2,000 a day until IPI complies, the judge added.

She likewise directed IPI to file a certification of compliance to avoid sanctions.

In his declaration filed Wednesday, Halegua stated that IPI provided the plaintiffs with a set of scanned and Bates-stamped documents on April 24, 2020.

“The documents were delivered as a single PDF document with 1,035 pages. There was no indication of the box or binder from which the documents came, such as a scanned image of the binder cover,” Halegua said.

“Based on Mr. Berline’s viewing of the boxes of paper documents in Marianas Legal Strategy Group’s office, and my review of the videos and pictures that Mr. Berline recorded of those boxes (some of which are included as Exhibit H), we estimate that there were roughly 15 boxes of paper documents and that the 1035 pages produced by IPI amounts to well-below 5% of the documents in those boxes,” Halegua added.

“On numerous occasions — including conversations with Ms. Kelly Butcher (another IPI attorney) about paper discovery and ESI, conversations with Mr. Frink and Ms. Cachero about the boxes of paper documents in their office, another conversation with Ms. Cachero about ACONEX documents, and during the April 16, 2020 hearing on plaintiffs’ sanctions motion — plaintiffs expressed that they were not seeking construction drawings or documents related solely to construction specifications,” Halegua said.

He added that many of the documents produced by IPI are “only marginally relevant to the litigation.”

Giving an example, Halegua said “the 1,035-page production includes: construction drawings and diagrams (over 40 pages); a Fire and Life Safety Report detailing the fire prevention strategy for the casino (132 pages); dorm attendance and meal records for a group of roughly 50 workers from after May 2017 (455 pages); records of construction plans, orders for construction materials, and construction quality inspections (over 180 pages); a May 2018 report on the progress of construction (30 pages); and local contractor invoices for construction administration and inspection services from after September 2017 (27 pages).”

He said the plaintiffs “had communicated to IPI several times, including in an email dated April 2, 2020, that many of the documents previously produced by IPI did not have Bates stamps. On April 7, 2020, IPI sent an email promising to correct this. On April 16, 2020, the court ordered IPI to correct this. As of the date of this declaration, IPI still has not addressed this issue.”

On several occasions, including in an email on April 7, 2020, Halegua said the plaintiffs informed IPI that it still had not produced the original contract between IPI and Gold Mantis or the English version of the original contract between IPI and MCC. “These documents still have not been produced,” he added.

Halegua said upon the plaintiffs’ request, IPI obtained a copy of its bank records from 2015 to 2017.

“IPI has been in possession of those records since roughly March 25, 2020, but still has not produced them to plaintiffs,” he added.

Halegua also noted that the proposed new counsel for IPI, Mike Dotts, previously represented Marianas Enterprise Limited.

The federal court on March 17, 2020 issued a subpoena for MEL to produce documents to the plaintiffs.

Halegua said the plaintiffs served it upon the most recent registered agent, “who stated that he passed it on to” Dotts.

In an email communication between Halegua and Dotts regarding the subpoena to MEL, Dotts is quoted as saying: “I provided legal advice and representation to Marianas Enterprises Limited…when I was with O'Connor Berman Dotts & Banes (now O'Connor Berman Horey & Banes, LLC). I did not take MEL with me as a client when I left my former firm two years ago. MEL is not my client now. I do not have any contact information for the shareholder.”

Halegua said Dotts also represented Castle Project (CNMI), LLC in a case brought by the CNMI Department of Public Works in the CNMI Superior Court matter (Civil Action No. 17-0076) alleging violations of the CNMI Business Safety Code.

Castle Project was accused of building safety code violations after the company allowed tourist construction workers to take up residency in one of their building properties in Tanapag before an occupancy permit has been issued.

Castle Project, through Dotts, has admitted the violations and was not prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for Guam and the CNMI in exchange for continuing to house the undocumented workers at their facility.

According to Gold Mantis Construction LLC’s articles of incorporation, attorney Mike Dotts was one of its organizers.

Based on the CNMI Office of the Registrar of Corporation records, MCC International listed the law office of O’Connor Berman Dotts and Banes as its agent in its 2016 corporate report filed on Jan. 23, 2017.



















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