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Sawad v. Frazier: US District Court : IMMIGRATION - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudication independent of court order; plaintiffs not prevailing parties

Civil No. 07-1721(DSD/JJG)
Talib Sawad and
Shahlaa Ali,
Denise Frazier, District
Director U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services, Bloomington,
MN, Emilio Gonzalez, Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, Washington, D.C.,
Robert Mueller, Director Federal
Bureau of Investigation,
Washington, D.C.,
This matter is before the court on plaintiffs motion for
attorneys fees and costs. Based upon a review of the file, record
and proceedings herein, and for the reasons stated, the court
denies plaintiffs motion.
Plaintiff Shahlaa Ali filed an I-485 application for
adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency with the United
States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on March 1,
2004. Plaintiff Talib Al Sawad filed a similar application on
December 27, 2004. As of March 30, 2007, USCIS had not adjudicated
plaintiffs applications. As a result, plaintiffs filed this
action asking the court to compel defendants to complete the
required background checks and security clearances and to
adjudicate [p]laintiffs applications for adjustment of status to
legal permanent residency. (Compl. 21.)
On July 24, 2007, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs
complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court denied
defendants motion on October 9, 2007, holding that plaintiffs had
a right to adjudication of their applications within a reasonable
time. (Dismiss Order at 10.) The court, however, concluded that
it lacked the information necessary to determine whether
defendants delay had been reasonable and ordered defendants to
produce evidence relevant to reasonableness within 60 days. (Id.
at 12-13.) The court further ordered defendants to move for
summary judgment on the reasonableness issue within 15 days
thereafter. (Id. at 13.)
Defendants submitted the evidence required by the October 9
order on December 17, 2007, and moved for summary judgment on
January 2, 2008. On January 23, 2008, USCIS denied Al Sawads
application to adjust his status, and on or around February 27,
2008, USCIS approved Alis application. The court thus granted
defendants motion for summary judgment on April 23, 2008, and
dismissed the action as moot. Plaintiffs now seek attorneys fees
and costs pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
See 28 U.S.C. 2412(d).
The EAJA directs courts to award fees and other expenses to
prevailing parties unless the United States position was
substantially justified or special circumstances would make an
award unjust. Yarbrough v. Cuomo, 209 F.3d 700, 703 (8th Cir.
2000). A prevailing party is one who obtains a judicially
sanctioned material alteration of the legal relationship of the
parties to the lawsuit. N. Cheyenne Tribe v. Jackson, 433 F.3d
1083, 1085 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc.
v. W. Va. Dept of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 604-05
(2001)). In other words, a plaintiff must obtain relief that
modifies a defendants behavior in a way that directly benefits
the plaintiff. John T. v. Iowa Dept of Educ., 258 F.3d 860,
863-64 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-
12 (1992)).
In this case, the October 9 order denied the governments
motion and required the production of evidence permitting the court
to assess the reasonableness of the delay in processing plaintiffs
applications. The order did not alter the legal relationship
between the parties by requiring the government to adjudicate
plaintiffs applications within a prescribed time period. Instead,
USCIS adjudicated plaintiffs applications independent of a court
order requiring such action. Cf. Liu v. Chertoff, 538 F. Supp. 2d
1116, 1121-22 (D. Minn. 2008) (plaintiff prevailing party where
court ordered adjudication of application within specific time
frame); Aarda v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Civ. No.
06-1561, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29116, at *10-14 (D. Minn. April 8,
2008) (same); Haidari v. Frazier, Civ. No. 06-3215, 2007 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 97211, at *9-10 (D. Minn. May 10, 2007) (same). Therefore,
the court determines that plaintiffs were not prevailing parties
for purposes of the EAJA.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for
attorneys fees and costs [Doc. No. 40] is denied.
Dated: October 6, 2008
s/David S. Doty
David S. Doty, Judge
United States District Court


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