United States District Court, E.D. California
VALENTINA S. MAXWELL, Plaintiff,
ERIC S. HOLDER, JR., et al., Defendants.
FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS
ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.
On May 6, 2015, the court held a hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Valentina S. Maxwell appeared in pro per and Audrey B. Hemesath appeared for defendants. On review of the motions, the documents filed in support and opposition, hearing the arguments of counsel, and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was admitted to the United States on September 9, 2009, on a student visa. ECF No. 19-1 at 3. Shortly after her arrival in California, plaintiff was told by her family in Russia that her previous marriage had been declared void. ECF No. 22 at 3. Having learned that her marriage was no longer valid, she married Ryan Maxwell, a U.S. citizen, on November 21, 2009. Id. Her status was adjusted to conditional legal permanent resident on October 12, 2010. No. 19-1 at 3. Plaintiff applied for naturalization in July 2013. ECF No. 19 at 3; ECF No. 1 at 2. On October 18, 2013, plaintiff was interviewed for and ultimately passed her naturalization test. ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff was scheduled to attend her U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony on November 26, 2013, but two days prior she received a call informing her that her ceremony had been canceled. Id. It seems that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") suspected that her current marriage was invalid because she was already married, making her ineligible for naturalization. See id. at 2-3.
On November 27, 2013, plaintiff received a Request for Evidence ("RFE"), id., which is an administrative document USCIS issues when the existing record does not establish the applicant's entitlement to naturalization, ECF No. 19 at 3. Plaintiff responded to USCIS's letter on November 30, 2013. ECF No. 1 at 2. On March 20, 2014, two USCIS officers visited plaintiff at home to search the residence and ask her questions regarding her application and background. Id. In May 2014, plaintiff submitted additional documentation in support of her application, including a Russian court decision invalidating her marriage to her former husband. Id.
Over a year later, USCIS had yet to decide on plaintiff's naturalization application. Id. Accordingly, on November 25, 2014, plaintiff filed her complaint in this court. ECF No. 1. The complaint seeks judicial review of plaintiff's naturalization application pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b), which permits district court jurisdiction where USCIS fails to act on an application within 120 days of the interview. ECF No. 1 at 1. On December 3, 2014, the court granted plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 3. On December 18, 2014, USCIS referred plaintiff into removal proceedings. ECF No. 19 at 3.
On March 2, 2015, defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. ECF No. 19. Relying on 8 U.S.C. § 1429, defendants argue that the pendency of removal proceedings bars action on plaintiff's naturalization application and thus renders this matter moot. Id. At 4. Defendants also argue, in the alternative, that plaintiff has failed to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) because she cannot allege facts showing she is entitled to relief in light of § 1429. Id. On March 15, 2015, plaintiff filed a self-styled motion for summary judgment that responds to defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff's motion argues that there are no disputed issues of material fact in this matter, as she has already established that she is entitled to naturalization by submitting proof that her previous marriage was invalidated by the Russian courts. ECF No. 22 at 3-4. Plaintiff also argues that this court has exclusive jurisdiction over her application and accordingly, USCIS's efforts to refer her to removal proceedings on December 18, 2014, were improper. Id. Because plaintiff's motion both argues she is entitled to summary judgment and responds to defendants' motion to dismiss, the court construes it as a motion for summary judgment and opposition.
On March 19, 2015, defendants filed a reply to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and opposition, arguing that plaintiff misunderstands the governing statutory scheme. ECF No. 25. On March 25, 2015, plaintiff filed a reply to defendants' opposition. ECF No. 26. On April 13, 2015, plaintiff filed a self-styled response, requesting that the court not grant any more requests by defendants to continue this matter. ECF No. 30.
The court must dismiss an action if it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Rule 12(b)(1), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provides that a party may assert the defense of a lack of subject matter jurisdiction by motion. Where a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), "the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion." Kingman Reef Atoll Invs., LLC v. United States, 541 F.3d 1189, 1197 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Tosco Corp. v. Comtys. for a Better Env't, 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001)).
The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). "Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, a defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the court's ability to grant any relief on the plaintiff's claims, even if the plaintiff's allegations are true.
In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989).
The court may consider facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint. Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir. 1987). The court may also consider facts which may be judicially noticed, Mullis v. United States Bankr. Ct., 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987), and matters of public record, including pleadings, orders, and other papers filed with the court, Mack v. South Bay Beer Distributors, 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986). The court need not ...