A Tip on Discovery When Contesting USCIS Denials in Federal Court

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The general rule is that discovery is neither permitted nor necessary in Administrative Procedures Act (APA) litigation. These cases are generally decided on the administrative record. However, this rule is not absolute. If the administrative record does not provide enough detail for the court to properly review it, the court can compel affidavits or testimony from the government to expand the record.

According to the Supreme Court case, Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe:

“Since the bare record may not disclose the factors that were considered or the Secretary’s construction of the evidence, it may be necessary for the District Court to require some explanation in order to determine if the Secretary acted within the scope of his authority and if the Secretary’s action was justifiable under the applicable standard. The court may require the administrative officials who participated in the decision to give testimony explaining their action. It may be that the only way there can be effective judicial review is by examining the decisionmakers themselves.”

Lower courts have also allowed discovery in the form of requiring document production where it appears that the deciding agency relied on documents that were not included in to the construction of the administrative record.