IPI terminates 2 lawyers, law firm


A day after the federal court found Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC in civil contempt for violating the court’s two orders regarding discovery in connection with a lawsuit against IPI and two others by seven former workers, IPI terminated their two lawyers—Sean E. Frink and Catherine J. Cachero.

Following this development, Frink, Cachero and their Marianas Legal Strategy Group LLC law firm have asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to withdraw as counsel for IPI.

On the same day, April 17, IPI sought to substitute Michael W. Dotts and his law office as its new counsel in this case.

Dotts, Frink, and Cachero filed last Friday joint motions to withdraw as counsel and to substitute as counsel. IPI representative Tao Xing approved the motions. They said IPI has been given enough time to find another counsel because last Tuesday, April 21, it sought Dotts and his law firm to substitute as counsel for Frink, Cachero, and MLSG. Frink, Cachero, and MLG have surrendered papers and property in this case to IPI and Dotts. The lawyers said advance payment of fee or expenses is not at issue.

In his declaration, Dotts said he is aware that Frink was discharged as counsel by IPI in this case and that subsequent to that happening he agreed to substitute into this matter. Dotts said he is aware of the discovery deadlines in this case.

In fact, Dotts said, he has met the April 20, 2020, discovery deadline by transmitting the first set of scanned Bates-stamped paper production to the plaintiffs’ counsel in this case last Friday, April 24. Dotts said he is currently working to meet the April 30, 2020, discovery deadline by transmitting the first set of data already processed by Litigation Edge and data from eight phones.

He said plaintiffs’ counsel requested that he confer with them by phone last Friday over discovery and his substitution and that he agreed. Dotts said plaintiffs’ counsel then cancelled the phone conference.

Dotts said he remains willing to work with plaintiffs’ counsel to get this case on track. “There is a possibility that IPI will need additional time to comply with the production of deadlines, but my substitution will not be the cause of the need for additional time,” he said.

Dotts said he has sufficient resources and ability to “zealously represent the interests of IPI in this action.”

Last April 16, Manglona granted the former workers’ motion to sanction IPI. Manglona informed the parties in this case that if IPI fails to comply with the deadlines ordered that day, April 16, a monetary sanction of $2,000 a day will be imposed until IPI complies. The judge ordered IPI to file a certification of compliance to avoid sanctions. Manglona granted the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs for the motion for sanctions. The plaintiffs were ordered to submit evidence of hours expended. Manglona will issue a separate decision and order on plaintiffs’ motion for attorney’s fees and costs.

The plaintiffs—Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Quingchun Xu, and Xiyang Du—are suing IPI and its contractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and subcontractor Gold Mantis Construction (CNMI) LLC over the alleged injuries they suffered during accidents at the worksite of IPI’s casino/resort project in Garapan. The plaintiffs are now based in China and are represented by Bruce Berline and Aaron Halegua.

IPI, which is also represented in this case by IPI counsel Kelley Marie Butcher, concedes that IPI may have missed some discovery deadlines, but said that its doing so is not due to willfulness, bad faith, or the fault of IPI.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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