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Hilao v. Estate of Ferdinand Marcos

filed: December 17, 1996.


Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. D.C. Nos. MDL 840 MDL 00840. Manuel L. Real, Chief District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Betty B. Fletcher, Harry Pregerson, Pamela Ann Rymer, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Fletcher.

Author: Fletcher

FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

Imelda R. Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos, substituted under Rule 25 as representatives of the Defendant Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos ("the Appellants"), appeal from orders of the district court holding them in contempt. We affirm.


This appeal arises out of post-judgment orders in a case involving nearly 10,000 class plaintiffs (referred to hereinafter collectively as "Hilao") who suffered (or are family members of those who suffered) torture, "disappearance", and summary execution during Ferdinand E. Marcos' tenure as president of the Philippines. In 1991, anticipating that Hilao would succeed on the merits, the district court entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Defendant Estate, and its agents, representatives, aiders and abettors from disposing of any assets of the Estate.*fn1 Hilao subsequently obtained a verdict of liability and an award of nearly $2 billion in damages. The district court's final judgment of February 3, 1995 made the preliminary injunction permanent.*fn2

In January of 1995, Hilao moved for contempt, claiming that agreements made in 1992 between the Republic of the Philippines and Imelda Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos, on behalf of the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos and themselves as heirs, violated the preliminary injunction by (1) agreeing to transfer artworks beneficially owned by the Defendant Estate from the United States to the Philippines; and (2) agreeing to divide all assets owned by the Estate between the Republic and the Appellants.*fn3

The district court ordered Hilao to conduct discovery regarding the allegations in the contempt motion. Depositions of Imelda Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos were scheduled for March 16 and 17, 1995. Deponents were instructed to produce all agreements with the Republic (including but not limited to the 1992 agreements) at their deposition, but they failed to appear and to produce the documents, and Hilao moved for sanctions.

In April 1995, additional agreements between Appellants and the Republic were publicly revealed. These agreements had been signed in 1993 and provided more specifically for the division of the Marcos Estate: 75 percent would go to the Republic, and 25 percent to Appellants, with Appellants receiving their share free of Philippine taxes.

Hilao filed a Supplemental Motion for Contempt identifying the 1993 agreements as additional violations. Hearings were held in April and May 1995. As a sanction for Appellants' failure to appear, testify, and produce documents at their depositions, the Court deemed established Plaintiffs' factual allegations in their contempt motions, and further found that those facts were substantiated by evidence produced by Plaintiffs.

With the facts in Hilao's motions deemed established, the Court concluded that those facts constituted a violation of the injunction. The Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Contempt was filed May 26, 1995.

A hearing on additional sanctions was held in June of 1995 resulting in an order granting additional relief for the contempt. The additional relief consisted of requiring Appellants to execute an assignment to the Plaintiffs of enumerated Swiss bank accounts containing Estate assets.

Appellants appeal from the orders of contempt, denying that Imelda Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos are appropriate subjects of a contempt motion and denying that any violation of the Injunction occurred.


The district court in Hawai'i had jurisdiction over the class action that resulted in the nearly $2 billion judgment under 28 U.S.C. § 1350. See Trajano v. Marcos (In re Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos Human Rights Litigation), 978 F.2d 493, 501-03 (9th Cir. 1992) (" Estate I "), cert. denied, 508 U.S. 972, 125 L. Ed. 2d 661, 113 S. Ct. 2960 (1993); Estate II, 25 F.3d at 1472-74. In its final judgment, the district court expressly retained continuing jurisdiction over the motion for contempt, the permanent injunction and other matters. The post-judgment orders of contempt appealed here are within this court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 as final and appealable orders. Shuffler v. Heritage Bank, 720 F.2d 1141, 1145 (9th Cir. 1983) (a post-judgment civil contempt order imposing sanctions acquires the "operativeness and consequence" necessary to finality under § 1291).


A district court's civil contempt order is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Reebok Int'l Ltd. v. McLaughlin, 49 F.3d 1387, 1390 (9th Cir. 1995). The imposition of discovery sanctions pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is also reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Commodity ...

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