Unfortunately, some immigrants are saddled with such long delays in processing their immigration petitions that mandamus lawsuits are sometimes needed to get them a decision. Depending on the circumstances, the petitioner may have the option to file the lawsuit either individually or as part of a group. There are some advantages and disadvantages with both approaches.
When evaluating whether to join a group, the primary advantage is typically the cost savings. Group filings allow for some attorney efficiencies in drafting pleadings and negotiating. For example, the attorneys only have to prepare a single complaint with each plaintiff’s personal information added in one or two paragraphs. These efficiencies can translate into lower fees paid per client. For some, the cost savings could be the difference between being able to afford doing a case or not. There is also the benefit of a higher profile. Large group cases sometimes are able to garner enough attention to cause systemic change in case processing protocols.
There are some downsides to consider. First, depending on the size of the group, direct attorney communication may be limited. If you are filing a case alongside dozens of other plaintiffs, individual private communication with your attorneys will generally be limited. Second, and more importantly, your case could take longer to resolve. Large group cases will take the government and their attorneys more time to evaluate. Plus, the stakes are higher for the government given the larger amount of adjudications the group is asking for, so resistance is more likely. This could cause delays in resolving the case.
Individual cases, while not expensive relative to other types of federal litigation, are more expensive to bring than group cases due to their more bespoke nature. For example, an individual complaint is written with only one plaintiff in mind and will be customized and filed in a manner to maximize the odds of success for that one person. As a result, viable individual mandamus actions have better odds of a quick positive resolution. While there are no guarantees, it’s common for the government to settle or decide cases shortly after a viable individual lawsuit is filed. If you select the right attorney, you should also have the benefit of much more individual attention to your case and unique needs.
There is no one sized best option for all. Budget considerations, timing and outcome goals are all to be considered in deciding which route works best for you.