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Hexacta Inc. v. McAleenan

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 20, 2019

HEXACTA INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KEVIN MCALEENAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Application for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Costs Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act. Dkt. #44. Defendants, [1] after previously approving Plaintiff Jose Javier Lopez de Lagar (“Lopez de Lagar”) for L-1A immigration status, [2]denied his extension petition. Plaintiffs[3] sued, challenging what they maintained was an arbitrary and capricious decision. Dkt. #1. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief preventing Defendants from treating Lopez de Lagar and his family as unlawful residents. Dkt. #13. The Court enjoined Defendants from acting on their denial of Lopez de Lagar's extension petition and those of his family. Dkt. #37. Two days later, Defendants reversed course and approved Lopez de Lagar's, and his family's, petition. Dkt. #38 at 5-12. The action was thereafter dismissed. Dkt. #43. Plaintiffs now seek an award of $79, 505.83 for attorneys' fees and costs expended in this matter. Dkt. #44 at 2.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Hexacta, Inc. (“Hexacta”), an Argentina company, relocated Lopez de Lagar to the United States to establish and head its U.S. Hexacta subsidiary office located in the Seattle area. See Dkt. #1 at ¶¶ 32-33. In 2017, Hexacta successfully petitioned Defendant U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) under Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, known as an L-1A petition, for Lopez de Lagar. Id. at ¶ 33. USCIS granted Lopez de Lagar L-1A status under “new office” regulations for a period of one year-from January 8, 2018 through January 7, 2019-with an option to apply for extensions. See id. at ¶¶ 32-34; see also Dkt. #13; Dkt. #15 at ¶ 7.

         Because of Lopez de Lagar's L-1A status, his wife, Plaintiff Flavia Paola Sosa, and their three children were granted derivative L-2 status. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 34. The family moved to the United States in January 2018. Id. In December of 2018, Hexacta petitioned for a two-year extension of Lopez de Lagar's L-1A status. Id. at ¶ 41. USCIS issued a Request for Evidence on December 21, 2018, and Hexacta responded on February 25, 2019. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43. On March 11, 2019, USCIS denied Hexacta's extension petition, finding Lopez de Lagar was not a manager or executive in the U.S. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. USCIS also denied derivative L-2 applications for Lopez de Lagar's family. See id.

         B. Procedural History

         On April 12, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the Complaint, challenging Defendants' denials of the L-1A executive immigration petition filed on behalf of Lopez de Lagar and the derivative L-2 applications for Lopez de Lagar's family. Id. Plaintiffs sought, and were granted, a temporary restraining order preventing Defendants from giving effect to their petition denials during the pendency of this action. Dkt. #17. The temporary restraining order was later replaced by a preliminary injunction pending resolution of this matter. Dkt. #37. Two days later, Defendants reversed course and granted Lopez de Lagar L-1A status and his family derivative L-2 status. Dkt. #38 at 5-12.

         As a result, the parties agreed that dismissal was appropriate, but disagreed as to whether Plaintiffs should be awarded attorneys' fees and costs. Dkts. #39 and #40. The Court agreed that dismissal was appropriate and allowed Plaintiffs to seek attorneys' fees and costs. Dkt. #43. This Motion followed.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard for Award of Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act

         The Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) provides in relevant part:

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses, in addition to any costs awarded pursuant to subsection (a), incurred by that party in any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort), including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that ...

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