IPI sanctions hearing rescheduled for today

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THE hearing to determine if Imperial Pacific International will pay sanctions amounting to $2,000 a day for violating previous discovery orders by the federal court will be held today, May 28.

The status conference was originally scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., but District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona reset the hearing for May 28 at 8:30 am. She did not say why.

The case pertains to the lawsuit filed by seven workers who allege that they were victims of labor violations and a human trafficking scheme while employed by the former IPI contractor and subcontractor, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI).

On May 6, 2020 Judge Manglona granted the plaintiffs’ counter motion to compel and order IPI to respond to discovery requests.

The judge also found IPI in contempt of court for violating two of her previous orders.

She 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 everything.

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

Attorney Aaron Halegua, who represents the seven workers in the lawsuit, stated in a status report to the court that IPI should be required to pay $2,000 per day to the court beginning April 30, 2020 — the first day it violated the sanctions order, he added.

These payments should be required on a weekly basis, Halegua said.

He said IPI continues to violate previous discovery orders, adding that the court should enter a default judgement against the casino investor.

But attorney Michael Dotts, who represents IPI in the lawsuit, said his client has “materially complied with all discovery request except for some cellphone download.”

In other news

Attorney Kelley Butcher, who also represents IPI in the lawsuit, told the court recently that she will file a motion to withdraw as IPI counsel.

“I am currently on the mainland United States, on leave due to my mother’s health issues, and I have been here since about March 17, 2020,” she told the court. “I have decided not to return to work with IPI and my last day of work will be May 29, 2020.  I will be filing a motion to withdraw with the court shortly.”

She said as she has been in the mainland, her ability to assist with discovery has been limited.

Halegua and attorney Bruce Berline represent the plaintiffs: Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

They named IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) as defendants in their lawsuit.

The defendants have stated that the workers knowingly entered the CNMI and worked here with a tourist visa and their claims are covered under the worker’s compensation program.

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