DISTRICT Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Tuesday found Imperial Pacific International chairwoman Cui Li Jie in contempt of court again, this time in the lawsuit of seven construction workers who are alleging labor violations and human trafficking.

Cui Li Jie

Cui Li Jie

Cui Li Jie is a third-party material witness in the lawsuit and, according to the judge, there is overwhelming evidence that the IPI chairwoman did not comply with the subpoena served upon her.

Through an interpreter, she told the judge, “I don't know anything, I don't understand English.”

As part of the sanctions, Judge Manglona awarded the plaintiffs attorneys' fees for time and costs associated with preparing for the deposition and for conducting the deposition on Feb. 5, 2021.

The judge also awarded the plaintiffs fees and costs for preparing the motion for the court to issue the order to show cause as well as for preparing responses and for preparing for Tuesday’s hearing.

Judge Manglona likewise added the fees and costs for the plaintiffs' attempt to serve Cui Li Jie the order to show cause.

The judge ordered the plaintiffs’ attorneys to submit certified contemporaneous timesheets by end of business, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

She said she will also issue an order instructing Cui Li Jie to pay the imposed fees by Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

The judge ordered Cui Li Jie to pay the full amount imposed by the court using the IPI chairwoman’s personal account by March 5, 2021.

She told Cui Li Jie: “Because you were summoned individually as a material witness, the amount that will be imposed will be paid by you, from your personal account. If you wish to liquidate some of your assets that is for you to decide.”

Represented by attorney Juan Lizama, Cui Li Jie, through an interpreter, objected to the imposed sanctions, but her objection was overruled by Judge Manglona who told the IPI chairwoman, “If you fail to pay, you could face additional sanctions including jail time for disobeying the previous subpoena….”

The judge also informed the plaintiffs’ attorneys that no further discovery involving Cui Li Jie is needed in the proceedings.

The judge likewise granted the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration for an entry of default judgment.

Attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline represent the seven construction workers who have sued IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor, MCC International and Gold Mantis, over labor and human trafficking allegations.

For the hearing on Tuesday, Halegua appeared via Zoom while Berline was present in court.

The plaintiffs — Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan — are asking the federal court to issue an order awarding them $3.86 million in compensatory damages and $7.72 million in punitive damages.

The plaintiffs have already reached a settlement agreement with MCC International and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration.

Last month, Judge Manglona found IPI,  IPI Holdings Ltd. and IPI chairwoman Cui Li Jie in contempt of court for violating the previously entered consent judgment, and not paying  current IPI employees for over two months.

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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