O’Connor law firm wants out as IPI counsel in 3 suits


The law firm of O’Connor Berman Horey & Banes wants out as counsel for Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC in three separate lawsuits that had been filed against IPI by two former contractors in federal court.

Attorney Cong Nie, who is a member of the O’Connor law firm, asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI last Wednesday to allow the law firm to withdraw as counsel for IPI in the lawsuits filed by Pacific Rim Land Development LLC and U.S.A. Fanter Corp. Ltd.

Nie said that professional considerations warrant the withdrawal. He did not elaborate but said that the law firm may explain more if the court allows it to submit confidential client information under seal.

Pacific Rim, through counsel Colin Thompson, is suing IPI and five unnamed alleged co-conspirators for breach of contract (construction and promissory note), and unjust enrichment. Pacific Rim claimed to have substantially completed or completed the agreed upon construction work on Sept. 30, 2018, but remains unpaid by $5.65 million and is suing for about $10 million in damages. Pacific Rim also filed an application for a mechanic’s lien on IPI’s hotel-casino project and on the land that it sits on. A mechanic’s lien refers to a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property.

Another contractor, U.S.A. Fanter, is suing IPI for issuing statements published in two newspapers that allegedly contained libelous statements. U.S.A. Fanter asked the court to hold IPI liable to pay unspecified damages. The company also asked the court to require IPI to make a public retraction of the defamatory statements. U.S.A. Fanter also sued IPI for allegedly refusing to pay $2.08 million for construction work related to IPI’s hotel-casino in Garapan.

U.S.A. Fanter asked the court to attach mechanic’s lien to IPI’s interests in the real property on the project.

IPI recently terminated attorneys Sean E. Frink, Catherine J. Cachero, and their law firm as its counsel in a lawsuit filed in federal court by seven former workers against IPI, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and MCC’s subcontractor, Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC, over the alleged injuries they suffered during accidents at the worksite of IPI’s resort/casino project.

IPI recently hired Michael Dotts as its new counsel in this case filed by the seven former workers. Dotts is a former member of the O’Connor law firm.

The seven former workers opposed IPI’s decision to terminate lawyers Frink and Cachero and substitute Dotts as its fourth lead counsel roughly one year in this case.

The former workers, through counsel Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, said this is IPI’s bad-faith tactic designed to further delay the collection and production of discovery at a time when IPI is shedding personnel, moving offices, and shutting down operations. IPI has denied the allegations.

At a hearing Wednesday, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted IPI’s motion to withdraw Frink and Cachero as its counsel and motion to substitute Dotts as its new counsel in this case.

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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