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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 and/or the Border
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.

In November 2007, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs responded with a cross motion for summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction.

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.

In July 2008, the parties asked the court to stay the case pending settlement discussions. The court held the case in abeyance and further stayed the case in August 2008 due to pending legislation that would affect the case.

On January 6, 2009, the court lifted the stay and provisionally granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification for noncitizens 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 noncitzen 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 noncitizen spouses who entered the United States on fiancé visas. The plaintiffs renewed their motion for summary judgment.

Because some of the named plaintiffs resided 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 (docket 09-56019). In January 2010, the circuit court granted the motion to dismiss the appeal without prejudice to reinstatement should the district court not approve the parties’ settlement (Circuit Mediator Lisa J. Evans).

On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed H.R. 2892 into law, which addressed (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. The settlement agreement also set up a dispute resolution structure and would remain in effect for two years. The court would retain jurisdiction for the duration of the agreement. In addition, 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 the court entered final judgment. There was no further action by the court and the agreement terminated after two years. This case is closed.

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/Border
Admission - criteria
Family
Status/Classification
U.S. citizenship - acquiring
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361
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.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
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 2010 - 2012
Filed 08/30/2007
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
C.D. Cal.
04/05/2010
2:07-cv-05696-CAS-MAN
IM-CA-0056-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
C.D. Cal.
08/30/2007
Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief - Class Action [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0056-0001.pdf | Detail
C.D. Cal.
03/17/2008
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Complaint [ECF# 36]
IM-CA-0056-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
C.D. Cal.
03/20/2008
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus [ECF# 37]
IM-CA-0056-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
C.D. Cal.
04/07/2008
Proceedings: Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (and Order) (Minutes) [ECF# 44] (2008 WL 1735146)
IM-CA-0056-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
C.D. Cal.
01/06/2009
Proceedings: (In Chambers:) Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certificatio [ECF# 108] (2009 WL 57031)
IM-CA-0056-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
C.D. Cal.
04/28/2009
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 [ECF# 151] (645 F.Supp.2d 856)
IM-CA-0056-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
C.D. Cal.
01/25/2010
Notice of Motion and Joint Motion for Preliminary of Approval of Class Action Settlement, Proposed Settlement, Proposed Order [ECF# 160]
IM-CA-0056-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Nagle, Margaret A. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-9000
Snyder, Christina A. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-0002 | IM-CA-0056-0005 | IM-CA-0056-0006 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Diamante, Alan R. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-0001 | IM-CA-0056-0003 | IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Renison, Brent W. (Oregon) show/hide docs
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) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
Devaney, John M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-9000
Glaser, Sheri R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-9000
Leibman, Melissa S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-9000
Stevens, Elizabeth Jones (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-0007 | IM-CA-0056-9000
West, Tony (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0056-0007

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