Last month, the Impact Fund provided a grant of $40,000 to the lawyers representing seven Chinese workers alleging they were victims of forced labor and human trafficking in Saipan.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys are Bruce Berline of Berline & Associates LLC, a law firm in Saipan, and Aaron Halegua of Aaron Halegua PLLC, a law firm in New York City. 

The case names a Saipan casino operator, Imperial Pacific, and two of its contractors, MCC and Gold Mantis, as defendants in the case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands (Case No. 18-cv-0030). 

The Impact Fund – a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, California – awards grants to legal services nonprofits, private attorneys, and/or small law firms who seek to advance justice in the areas of civil and human rights, environmental justice, and/or poverty law. Since its inception, the Impact Fund has awarded over $6.5 million, which has facilitated a wide range of impact litigation across the nation.

Bruce Berline, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, issued the following statement: “We are grateful for and encouraged by the grant from the Impact Fund. Although the defendants may deny the allegations made by the plaintiffs, this shows that others believe in the merit of our case. The grant will help ensure that we can take all the steps necessary to zealously litigate the case, including deposing all relevant parties and hiring highly-qualified expert witnesses.”

On June 24, the judge in the case denied the three defendants’ motions to dismiss the case, and ordered the defendants to file an answer to the plaintiffs’ allegations. On July 8, all three defendants filed an answer, largely denying the allegations and raising various affirmative defenses, a press release from the workers' attorneys states.

The website for the Impact Fund is: