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Walcheff v. Napolitano

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


July 12, 2010

BOYAN WALCHEFF, POLYA TSVETANO WALCHEFF, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JANET NAPOLITANO, PAUL PIERRE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER: DISMISSING CASE AS MOOT

On June 24, 2010, Defendants filed a notice of changed circumstance informing the Court that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services "reaffirmed the approval of the Petition for Alien Relative (I-130 visa petition) filed by Plaintiff Boyan Walcheff on behalf of Plaintiff Polya Walcheff." (Doc. No. 21 at 1.) The Government also provided a declaration as evidence of this approval. (Villasenor Decl.) Having received this evidence, the Court must DISMISS this matter WITHOUT PREJUDICE as moot.

Article III, section 2, clause 1 of the United States Constitution limits the "judicial Power" to "cases or controversies." See Cook Inlet Treaty Tribes v. Shalala, 166 F.3d 986, 989 (9th Cir.1999). This provision requires a live "actual controversy . . . at all stages of review." Seven Words LLC v. Network Solutions, 260 F.3d 1089, 1095 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67 (1997)).

When that "actual controversy" goes away during the course of the litigation, the case is referred to as "moot." See Cook Inlet Treaty Tribes, 166 F.3d at 989 ("Mootness can be characterized as the doctrine of standing set in a time frame: The requisite personal interest that must exist at the commencement of the litigation (standing) must continue throughout its existence (mootness)." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In other words, "[a] claim is moot if it has lost its character as a present, live controversy." Am. Rivers v. Nat'l Marine Fisheries Serv., 126 F.3d 1118, 1123 (9th Cir. 1997); see also Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Bergland, 576 F.2d 1377, 1379 (9th Cir. 1978) ("Where the activities sought to be enjoined have already occurred, and the [court] cannot undo what has already been done, the action is moot."). Federal courts lack jurisdiction to consider moot claims. Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992).

In the context of a claim against a federal administrative agency, once the action sought in the suit has been taken the claim is moot because a federal court "lacks the ability to grant effective relief." See Pub. Util. Comm'n v. FERC, 100 F.3d 1451, 1458 (9th Cir. 1996). That is the case here. Plaintiffs ask this Court to: (1) "Require Defendants to adjudicate Plaintiffs' Petition for Alien Relative (I-130)" and (2) "Require Defendants to reverse their adverse and unjust decision denying Plaintiffs (sic) petition for alien relative as a direct result of the delay in adjudicating his petition." (Doc. No. 3 at 8.) Since USCIS has now reaffirmed Plaintiff Boyan Walcheff's I-130, there is no longer any relief left to grant and this case is therefore outside of the constitutional limits which bind the Court.

At oral argument, Plaintiffs asked this Court to nonetheless retain jurisdiction over this matter in order to (1) direct the State Department to act promptly on the reaffirmed I-130 petition and (2) order USCIS to allow Plaintiff Polya Walcheff to enter and live in the United States pending the approval of her visa application. The Court, however, cannot do so. Plaintiffs requested neither form of relief in framing their complaint. Morever, even were such a request made, there is no legal or factual basis which would allow the Court to act in the manner requested.

Therefore, for the reasons stated, this matter is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE AS MOOT. The Clerk shall close the file.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20100712

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