University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Hootkins v. Chertoff IM-CA-0056
Docket / Court 2:07-cv-05696-CAS-MAN ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration
Case Summary
On August 30, 2007, a group of individual plaintiffs, the surviving spouses of U.S. citizens, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District Of California to challenge the "widow penalty" provision in federal immigration law. The named plaintiffs included the ... read more >
On August 30, 2007, a group of individual plaintiffs, the surviving spouses of U.S. citizens, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District Of California to challenge the "widow penalty" provision in federal immigration law. The named plaintiffs included the surviving spouse of Bill Hootkins a U.S. citizen and Hollywood actor who appeared in the films Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen and civilian military contractor killed by a roadside bomb while serving in the Iraq war.

Each of the named plaintiffs alleged that they married U.S. citizens and then obtained status as an "immediate relative" of a U.S. citizen. Each plaintiff then sought lawful permanent residence status but had their immigration application denied upon the death of their spouse. In denying each application, the government determined that the surviving spouse was no longer an "immediate relative" of a U.S. citizen, because they had been married for less than 2 years.

Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1151, §1255; Administration Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701, Mandamus Act 28 U.S.C. § 1361, Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Plaintiffs also sought class action status.

On March 17, 2008, the court (Judge Christina A. Snyder) denied the government's motion to dismiss. A few days later plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to add allegations challenging the legality of 8 C.F.R. § 205.1(a)(3)(C)(3), which calls for automatic revocation of an I-130 upon the death of the citizen spouse in cases where: (1) the I-130 petition has been approved but (2) there has been no final decision on the alien's I-485 application.

On April 7, 2008, the court denied plaintiffs' motion for a class-wide preliminary injunction. Hootkins v. Chertoff, No. CV 07-5696 CAS MANX, 2008 WL 1735146 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 7, 2008).The Court also denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants from withholding Employment
Authorization Documents and Advance Parole Travel Documents.

A month later, the court denied plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants from commencing removal proceedings against plaintiffs without prejudice to the request being renewed if further adverse action is taken, or threatened to be taken, against named plaintiffs.

On January 6, 2009, the court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification for aliens residing in the Ninth Circuit whose United States citizen spouse died before the couple's two-year wedding anniversary, and whose citizen spouse filed an I-130 petition and a Form I-864 or I-864EZ affidavit of support on behalf of the alien spouse. Hootkins v. Chertoff, No. CV 07-5696 CAS(MANX), 2009 WL 57031 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2009). The Court further certified a subclass of alien spouses who entered the United States on fiancé visas.
Because some of the named plaintiffs reside outside of the Ninth Circuit and some in jurisdictions where the courts have not ruled in favor of plaintiffs' interpretation of the law, defendants moved for summary judgment as to those plaintiffs. The court denied defendants' motion with regard to the Sixth Circuit plaintiffs, but granted their motion with regard to the Third Circuit plaintiffs. Hootkins v. Napolitano, 645 F. Supp. 2d 856 (C.D. Cal. 2009). The court also granted in part plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, finding that based on precedent in the Ninth and Sixth Circuits plaintiffs in those circuits were entitled to "immediate relative" classification based on their status as surviving spouses of deceased United States citizens.

In June 2009, defendants appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the district court's summary judgment order. [09-56019]. In January 2010, the circuit court granted the motion to dismiss the appeal (Circuit Mediator Lisa J. Evans).

On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed H.R. 2892 into law, which addresses (1)self-petitioning rights for all widow(er)s of American citizens and their children; and 2) certain survivors' rights for other immigrants. On December 14, 2009, USCIS published a new guidance memorandum on the processing of applications filed by surviving spouses of deceased U.S. citizens.
In January 2010, the parties submitted a settlement agreement, which required adjudication of all cases of class members in accordance with the new USCIS Guidance. Separate from the settlement agreement, the parties agreed that defendants would pay $125,000 for attorneys' fees and costs. The settlement agreement was approved by the court on April 5, 2010, and was in effect for two years from that date.

Dan Dalton - 09/18/2007
Jennifer Bronson - 11/30/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Immigration
Admission - criteria
Family
Status/Classification
U.S. citizenship - acquiring
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of State
Plaintiff Description All beneficiaries of immediate relative petitions whose petitioning relatives died prior to beneficiaries’ adjudication and approval of lawful permanent resident status.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2008 - 2010
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Threats to the Future of the Immigration Class Action
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy
By: Jill E. Family (Widener University School of Law)
Citation: 27 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 71 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:07-cv-05696-CAS-MAN (C.D. Cal.) 04/05/2010
IM-CA-0056-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief - Class Action 08/30/2007
IM-CA-0056-0001 PDF | Detail
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Complaint 03/17/2008 (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0056-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus 03/20/2008
IM-CA-0056-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proceedings: Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (and Order) (Minutes) 04/07/2008 (2008 WL 1735146) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0056-0004 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proceedings: (In Chambers:) Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certificatio 01/06/2009 (2009 WL 57031) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0056-0005 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; Denying Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment 04/28/2009 (645 F.Supp.2d 856) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0056-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion and Joint Motion for Preliminary of Approval of Class Action Settlement, Proposed Settlement, Proposed Order 01/25/2010
IM-CA-0056-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Nagle, Margaret A. (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
IM-CA-0056-9000
Snyder, Christina A. (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0056-0002 | IM-CA-0056-0005 | IM-CA-0056-0006 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Diamante, Alan R. (California)
IM-CA-0056-0001 | IM-CA-0056-0003 | IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Renison, Brent W. (Oregon)
IM-CA-0056-0001 | IM-CA-0056-0003 | IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bruckner, Patricia E. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Devaney, John M. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-9000
Glaser, Sheri R. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-9000
Leibman, Melissa S. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-9000
Stevens, Elizabeth Jones (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
West, Tony (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0056-0007
Other Lawyers None on record

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