September 29, 2022An HHR team led by Kevin Abikoff and Jim Boykin scored a victory for Imperial Pacific International against the Casino Commission of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in a dispute over whether the force majeure provisions of an exclusive license agreement were triggered by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The team also included Alex Bedrosyan, Evan Cooper, Sam Salyer and Jonathan Zygielbaum.

On September 26, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands issued a decision compelling arbitration pursuant to the dispute resolution provisions of the casino license agreement between IPI and the Commonwealth. IPI will now be able to assert a force majeure defense to regulatory actions brought by the Casino Commission that sought termination of IPI’s casino license for failure to pay license fees, notwithstanding the fact that the global COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions effectively shuttered its casino operations.

The court found that “IPI would be irreparably and imminently injured without injunctive relief, that the equities tilt in favor of IPI, and that public policy favors that this matter go to arbitration.”

On May 23, the court issued a temporary restraining order that barred the Commonwealth Casino Commission from conducting proceedings to revoke an exclusive casino license issued to IPI, based on claims that it failed to pay tens of millions of dollars in annual license and regulatory fees. The firm has represented Imperial Pacific since March 2021.