Ex-IPI chair ordered to pay over $180K attorneys’ fees


The U.S. District Court for the NMI has ordered former Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chair Cui Lijie to pay over $180,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs no later than June 21.

According to an order by U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona, the former IPI chairwoman must pay a total of $182,637 in attorneys’ fees due to her “continuous violation” of the court’s orders regarding the preservation of her Electronically Stored Information or ESI data.

“The violations spanned for nearly a year—from the court’s initial preservation order issued on March 26, 2021, that was later amended, until [Cui’s] purging of her contempt on March 10. As a result of Ms. Cui’s consistent noncompliance with the court’s numerous orders, the court awarded plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and costs as part of civil contempt sanctions and permitted plaintiffs to submit fee petitions establishing their entitlement to the amount,” the judge said.

Manglona stated in her order that it is “unfortunate that the process to obtain a clear explanation from Cui about her ESI data from her various devices and accounts spanned nearly a year and exhausted countless resources” from plaintiffs, Cui, and the court.

Previously, Manglona ordered Cui to pay a total of $42,200 for court-imposed sanctions that stemmed from court’s repeatedly finding Cui to be not in compliance with a previous preservation order and contempt order regarding the ESI that she created or used, including emails, and ESI data sent or received by others on her behalf.

Cui is a third-party witness in the lawsuit of seven construction workers against IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor, MCC International and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, both of which have already settled with the plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleged forced labor and trafficking scheme.

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

Because the $5.4-million default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs against IPI remained unsatisfied, all ESI data held by the former IPI chairwoman remain relevant to the proceeding.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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