United States District Court, District of Columbia
D. Bates. United States District Judge.
Jafarzadeh and Shahnaz Karami, husband and wife, have faced a
long and difficult path to becoming lawful permanent
residents of the United States. Karami waited for years for
her application for lawful permanent resident
(“LPR”) status to be granted. Jafarzadeh also
waited for years, only to have his application denied by U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
When Karami and Jafarzadeh discovered that their applications
had been subject to heightened review under USCIS's
Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program
(“CARRP”) policy, they filed this lawsuit. Their
amended complaint alleged that CARRP violates the
Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C.
§ 551 et seq., and they sought to have
Jafarzadeh's application for LPR status adjudicated
without the influence of CARRP. However, in March 2019, an
immigration judge granted Jafarzadeh LPR status in removal
proceedings. Defendants now move for dismissal of this case
as moot. Defs.' Renewed Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' Am.
Compl. as Moot (“Defs.' Renewed Mot. to
Dismiss”) [ECF No. 58] at 1. For the reasons that
follow, the Court agrees with defendants and finds that it
must dismiss the case.
is a citizen of Iran who has lived legally and continuously
in the United States with his wife, Karami, an Iranian
citizen and LPR of the United States, for over three decades.
Jafarzadeh v. Nielsen, 321 F.Supp.3d 19, 24 (D.D.C.
2018). Jafarzadeh applied for LPR status in January 2010, and
his application remained pending for years with USCIS, a
component of the Department of Homeland Security
(“DHS”). Id. at 25. During that time,
USCIS processed Jafarzadeh's application under its CARRP
policy, a separate, secret track for processing certain
applications that USCIS adopted in 2008. Id.;
Defs.' Notice of Serv. of Admin. R. & Mem. of P.
& A. (“Defs.' Notice of Serv.”) [ECF No.
45] at 2. CARRP was “unknown to anyone outside the
government until it was discovered in a court case that was
filed in 2010.” Jafarzadeh, 321 F.Supp.3d at
and his family members filed this suit in 2016 challenging,
inter alia, the legality of the CARRP policy under
the APA. Id. at 25. USCIS denied
Jafarzadeh's application and placed him in removal
proceedings in February 2017. Id.; Am. Compl. [ECF
No. 30] ¶ 27. At the conclusion of those proceedings in
March 2019, an immigration judge granted Jafarzadeh LPR
status. Order of the Immigration Judge, Ex. 1 to Defs.'
Renewed Mot. to Dismiss [ECF No. 58-1] at 1.
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). A court may only exercise jurisdiction
over actions presenting “Cases” or
“Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2,
cl. 1. “A case becomes moot- and therefore no longer a
‘Case' or ‘Controversy' for purposes of
Article III-‘when the issues presented are no longer
“live” or the parties lack a legally cognizable
interest in the outcome.'” Already, LLC v.
Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. 85, 91 (2013) (citation omitted).
When “an intervening circumstance deprives the
plaintiff of a ‘personal stake in the outcome of the
lawsuit,' . . . the action can no longer proceed and must
be dismissed as moot.” Genesis Healthcare Corp. v.
Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 72 (2013) (quoting Lewis v.
Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477- 78 (1990)). A
plaintiff's personal stake is lost when “a court .
. . cannot grant ‘any effectual relief . . .
.'” Calderon v. Moore, 518 U.S. 149, 150
(1996) (per curiam) (citation omitted).
exceptions to mootness are relevant here. First, an exception
exists for cases in which the question presented is
“capable of repetition, yet evading review.”
Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 399-400 (1975).
“[I]n the absence of a class action, the ‘capable
of repetition, yet evading review' doctrine [is] limited
to the situation where two elements combine: (1) the
challenged action [is] in its duration too short to be fully
litigated prior to its cessation or expiration, and (2) there
[is] a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party
would be subjected to the same action again.”
Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147, 149 (1975) (per
curiam). Second, “a defendant's voluntary cessation
of allegedly unlawful conduct ordinarily does not suffice to
moot a case.” Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw
Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 174 (2000). The
exception applies when a defendant “voluntarily changes
its allegedly unlawful conduct” yet remains “free
to return to his old ways.” Sharp v. Rosa Mexicano,
D.C., LLC, 496 F.Supp.2d 93, 99 (D.D.C. 2007) (citation
move to dismiss the case as moot on the grounds that
plaintiffs no longer have any legally cognizable injury, the
Court can no longer grant effectual relief, and there is no
live controversy in this case. Defs.' Mem. of Law in
Support of Their Renewed Mot. [ECF. No. 58] at 3-6.
Plaintiffs respond that, even if the case is moot, an
exception to mootness applies either because the harm caused
by CARRP is capable of repetition yet evading review or
because defendants are seeking to avoid liability through
voluntary cessation of unlawful conduct. Pls.' Resp. to
Defs.' Renewed Mot. to Dismiss (“Pls.'
Resp.”) [ECF No. 62] at 6-12. Alternatively, plaintiffs
propose two new forms of relief that the Court could grant,
which in their view would render the case not moot.
Id. at 12-16. Defendants reply that no exception to
mootness applies and that, even if the Court had authority to
grant the newly proposed relief, such relief is not sought in
the amended complaint and thus should be rejected. Defs.'
Reply [ECF No. 63] at 1-9.
Court first considers whether Jafarzadeh's newly awarded
LPR status moots this case. Finding that it does, the Court
considers whether an exception to mootness applies. Because
the case is moot and no exception applies, the case must be
The case is moot because the Court cannot grant effectual
have argued mootness at multiple stages in this case. After
USCIS denied Jafarzadeh's application for LPR status (but
before the immigration judge later granted Jafarzadeh LPR
status), the Court concluded that any claims for relief based
on USCIS's delay had become moot because the
agency had adjudicated plaintiffs' applications. Sept. 7,
2017, Mem. Op. [ECF No. 26] at 8. However, the Court noted
that plaintiffs' complaint also made out APA claims that
were not mooted by the denial of LPR status to Jafarzadeh and
for which the Court could still grant relief in the form of a
new adjudication of LPR status without the use of the
allegedly unlawful CARRP policy. Id. at 8-10.
Plaintiffs amended their complaint shortly thereafter to
conform their claims to these new factual circumstances.
See Am. Compl. [ECF No. 30].
months later, defendants moved to dismiss the amended
complaint. This time, defendants argued that the case was
moot because Jafarzadeh's application for status was
before an immigration judge, who could “make a de novo
determination of Jafarzadeh's eligibility for LPR status
‘that is not affected by either USCIS's decision or
CARRP.'” Jafarzadeh, 321 F.Supp.3d at 28
(citation omitted). Thus, defendants argued, Jafarzadeh was
essentially getting the relief he sought: adjudication of his
LPR application without the influence of the allegedly
unlawful CARRP policy. The Court concluded, ...