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Did Immigration Services Violate FOIA? 9th Cir. Finds Case Moot

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 27, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Attorney James Mayock brought a suit against the Federal Agency claimed that USCIS had engaged in a "pattern and practice" of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for well over several decades. The Ninth Circuit, however, found that Mayock failed to prove standing and that the case was actually moot.

The ruling further suggests that any immigration attorney should think twice before bringing a suit alleging personal harm that is actually the harm of his clients.

Alien Registration Requests

James Mayock, an immigration attorney of over 30 years, brought a suit against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS" or just "IS") on behalf of both himself and his client, Misrad Hojro. In his role as an immigration lawyer, Mayock had been requesting alien registration files from IS, but the agency had allegedly never produced the requested documents within the 20-day statutory limit. IS moved for summary judgment in Mayock's 2008 lawsuit and was denied.

Mayock had previously brought a 1992 lawsuit alleging essentially similar counts against Immigration and Naturalization Services, the USCIS's predecessor. That '92 suit ended in a settlement with the INS agreeing to expedite requests for clients whose lives or safety were threatened by deportation. This later ended up in the case of Hasjro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs.

Applying Precedent

The Ninth Circuit applied the SCOTUS case of Kokken v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., reasoning that since the district court did not have jurisdiction over the prior 1992 lawsuit agreement, it had no power to enforce the terms of the agreement in 2009. The issue of whether or not a pattern was established was not a centralized issue. And as a result, the $318,568 award in attorney's fees were remanded.


The Court dismissed Hajro's claim as moot because Mayock's client did eventually obtain his citizenship. There was no ongoing ongoing case or controversy.

Lack of Standing

The three judge panel also found that the facts in the record, as developed, were enough to determine whether Mayock had a pattern or practice claim. The panel remanded Mayock's claims so that Judge Grewal in the lower court "can make the requisite factual findings" in order to see if Mayock has standing to bring his claim.

In her dissent, Judge Rawlinson considered whether or not Mayock had any possible standing to bring any such claim on his own behalf. Rawlinson determined that the record didn't show any harm to Mayock other than the harm ostensibly suffered by his clients. On this basis, Rawlinson would have recommended all claims be dismissed.

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