DESPITE DISTRICT COURT’S NUMEROUS WARNINGS
By FERDIE DE LA TORRE
Despite receiving numerous warnings from the U.S. District Court on the consequence of failing to retain a lawyer in connection with the lawsuit filed by its former foreign workers, an officer of the owner of the defunct Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino still appeared at a hearing last Friday without a counsel.
Chun Wai Chan, director of Tinian Dynasty’s owner, Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investment Ltd. (HKE), appeared telephonically at the status conference.
Chan informed U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy that they do not have the resources to hire a lawyer.
Kennedy reiterated that the law says a corporation must have counsel to represent them.
Kennedy stated that Eric F. Dona and co-plaintiffs have filed their motion to strike the answer of defendants HKE and Mega Stars Overseas Ltd. to the lawsuit.
The magistrate judge said plaintiffs also filed a motion for entry of default and default judgment.
Chan stated that he did not understand the wording and that he needed to find out more about the motions.
Kennedy advised Chan that he could not respond, but if he retains an attorney, that lawyer would have a certain time to respond to the motions and there may or may not be a hearing.
Kennedy explained that the court may issue a decision without a hearing.
The magistrate judge emphasized that HKE and Mega Stars could not proceed in this matter without an attorney and that the court may be left with little choice but to grant plaintiffs’ motion if there is no counsel to represent defendants.
Chan replied that he understood.
Kennedy told plaintiffs’ counsel, Samuel Mok, that she will file a report and recommendation to U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood about the matter.
In plaintiffs’ motion, Mok asked the court to strike defendants’ answers to the complaint and enter default and default judgment against HKE and Mega Stars in an amount of damages to be determined at a hearing.
Mok said HKE and Mega Stars are not represented by counsel despite receiving several warnings from the court that the consequence of failing to retain legal counsel could be the striking of their answers and entry of default and default judgment.
Further, Mok said, defendants have made clear they do not intend to retain legal counsel due to lack of funds.
Last February, Chan disclosed that the total outstanding liabilities of the owner of Tinian Dynasty has now climbed to over $250 million, excluding the $75 million in civil penalty assessed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
Chan revealed that HKE’s outstanding liabilities is continuously increasing due to late payment penalties and interest.
Chan disclosed Tinian Dynasty’s outstanding liabilities in his response to the court’s show-cause order directing HKE to explain as to why sanctions should not be imposed against them for failure to obtain a lawyer in connection with a lawsuit filed by foreign workers over the denial of their CNMI-only Transitional Worker (CW-1) petitions.
Kennedy issued the order to show cause after Chan, who appeared telephonically at the hearing, informed the court that they have not retained counsel and that they do not intend to do so because of financial inability.
Chan said Tinian Dynasty’s casino operation stopped in August 2015, and when the hotel operation halted in March 2016 no more income could be generated since then.
“We ran out of money and cannot pay to all departments of government, the staffs, the suppliers, the shareholder, and the attorney we used to hire,” he said.
At the Jan. 16, 2018 hearing, Daniel Guidotti moved to withdraw as counsel for HKE and Mega Stars as the companies failed to pay his attorney’s fees. Kennedy granted Guidotti’s motion.
Mok is counsel for Eric F. Dona and six other co-plaintiffs. There are 15 named plaintiffs in this case.
In their lawsuit, Dona and co-plaintiffs alleged that the owners and management of Tinian Dynasty lied to them about their immigration legal status.
Mok alleged that the owners and management of Tinian Dynasty lied that the workers were legally authorized to work notwithstanding the denial of their CW-1 petitions.