‘Give me more time to find a competent lawyer’

Posted on Jun 02 2021

Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. president Cui Li Jie has asked the court to give her more time to find “a responsible and competent lawyer” to represent her in future court proceedings.

Cui was formerly represented by lawyer Juan T. Lizama until Lizama resigned last May 29. Cui’s translator, Howyo Chi, submitted a “request for extension of time to obtain legal representation” to the U.S. District Court for the NMI yesterday, June 1.

Cui has been involved in a lawsuit filed by seven construction workers who sought millions of dollars in damages, citing labor law violations and human trafficking among other things. According to a press release published by the court last May 26, a $5.91-million default judgment was ordered by the court in the lawsuit Tianming Wang, et. al vs. Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC, et. al.

In a phone call with Lizama last night, he said he was “caught by surprise” to hear that Cui’s translator is acting like a representative for Cui, officially submitting documents to the district court. “He’s a translator, not a lawyer,” said Lizama.

He said that Cui’s claim that he resigned as her lawyer on May 29 is false, and remains Cui’s lawyer in Tianming Wang, et. al vs. Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC, et. al and two other cases.

“Clients are entitled to say whatever they want to say,” said Lizama. He said that given the recent turn of events and Chi’s filing on the behalf of Cui, he feels that he “now has no choice but to file a motion to withdraw [as Lijie’s lawyer].”

In the June 1 filing, Cui told the court that many of her alleged failures to cooperate with legal proceedings in the past were “caused largely, if not all of them, by Mr. Lizama, who for some reason beyond my comprehension had failed to inform me of everything communicated to him by the opposite lawyers.” Previously, there have been legal complications regarding a court order for Cui to surrender and preserve her phone data.

Cui provided an example of Lizama’s alleged incompetence, citing an instance where opposing counsel Aaron Halegua, who represented the seven former construction workers, passed over a request to Lizama for Cui to submit “written answers to many questions” by May 21, 2021, at 5pm. Lizama allegedly shared these documents with Cui on May 25. “How could I be able to comply with such request?” asked Cui in the court filing.

Cui further mentioned that a detailed explanation of her alleged past “failures” will be provided as soon as she is able to find a “responsible and competent” lawyer.

Cui, through her translator, ends her request to the court by saying she has been “honest and cooperative” with the court thus far, and further asks the court to understand her situation: she does not speak English well, nor does she know the U.S. legal system that well. As a result, she had to “trust and rely hundred percent” on Lizama for legal advice. Cui maintains that her and Chi have “cooperated to the best we can with all instructions and requests from Mr. Lizama.”

As of press time Tuesday, Cui is still without a lawyer.

Joshua Santos | Reporter
Joshua Santos is a Mount Carmel School AlumKnight and University of Florida Gator Grad with a passion for writing. He is one of Saipan Tribune’s newest reporters. Josh enjoys golf, chess, and playing video games with friends in his spare time. Reach out to him @rarebasedjosh on all socials.
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