IN THE CASE OF SEVEN CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

IPI chair could face new contempt charges

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Cui Li Jie, who chairs Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited, the parent company of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, is facing possible contempt charges again for allegedly evading and violating a subpoena in the case filed by seven construction workers.

According to memorandum filed by Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, who are the lawyers for the seven construction workers that are suing IPI, in light Cui’s failure to comply with a subpoena and pattern of disregarding the authority of the U.S District Court for the NMI, plaintiffs request that the court issue an order to show cause why Cui should not be held in contempt, and why the court should not impose a $10,000 per day fine as a contempt sanction against her.

In addition, Halegua and Berline want Cui to show cause as to why she should not be deemed to have waived all objections to the subpoena, and why Cui should not pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs arising from her disobedience.

Berline said he properly served third-party witness Cui with a subpoena to produce documents and appear for a deposition on Jan. 26 at his office.

However, after serving Cui with the subpoena, an IPI executive allegedly immediately sent text messages to intimidate the process server that he would face “legal trouble” if he did not take back the subpoena. The next day, an IPI employee returned the subpoena to Berline’s office.

“Neither this attempt at intimidation nor the act of returning the physical subpoena negates its legal validity. Cui never moved the court to quash or modify the subpoena. On Jan. 26, Cui then failed to appear for the deposition or produce any documents. Thus, Cui clearly violated her legal obligations under the subpoena,” Berline said.

According to court documents, on Jan. 10, plaintiffs issued a subpoena for Cui, to produce documents and appear for a deposition at the law office of Berline, Jan. 26 at 9am.

Plaintiffs first asked IPI’s attorney, Michael Dotts, if he would accept service on behalf of Cui but Dotts declined. Plaintiffs then arranged for Thomas S. Salas to effect personal service of the subpoena, along with a $45 check as a witness fee. On Jan. 18, Salas physically handed Cui the subpoena and the check while she stood by a car outside the Flame Tree apartment complex. Cui allegedly accepted the subpoena and check and then handed them to a woman sitting inside the car. Cui then invited Salas inside a house, where he explained the subpoena to Cui and the other individuals sitting with her.

Another IPI executive then appeared at the house and asked Salas to take back the subpoena but Salas stated that he could not do so. After Salas left the house, the IPI executive allegedly called him several times but Salas declined to answer. He then sent a series of text messages to Salas stating that Cui “didn’t take the subpoena” and that the subpoena would be returned to the attorneys’ office and it would be “your words against her words.” The IPI executive also said Salas might “get into legal trouble” because Cui would insist that she didn’t take the subpoena and “you didn’t do your job properly” and that Salas would be responsible if she fails to show up.

The next day, IPI employee Remy Mafnas returned the subpoena and check to Berline’s office, telling his staff that Cui did not accept the document.

After learning that Juan Lizama was representing Cui in another case, on Jan. 22, plaintiffs sent Lizama a copy of the subpoena and informed him that Cui had been served. Berline also asked for confirmation that Cui would attend the Jan. 26 deposition and would produce the requested documents.

Lizama responded that he was aware of the service made for Cui’s deposition and that there was a good possibility that she would retain his office.

Lizama later told Berline that he did not actually represent Cui but plaintiffs informed him that they intend to proceed with the deposition as scheduled and expect the requested documents to be produced.

On the evening before the deposition, Lizama again emailed plaintiffs to request an adjournment, but stated that he still did not represent Cui.

However, the deposition could not be delayed.

On the morning of Jan 26, a notary public, the Chinese interpreter, and counsel for IPI arrived at Berline’s office by 9am but neither Cui nor Lizama appeared.

As of Jan. 28, neither Cui nor Lizama has contacted Berline concerning the subpoena, nor has either one clarified whether Lizama represents Cui in connection with the subpoena.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista 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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