Blight v. Manteca et al

Filing 152

MEMORANDUM and ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 11/27/2017 DENYING 146 Defendants' Bill of Costs. (Kirksey Smith, K)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 ----oo0oo---- 11 12 JOANNE BLIGHT, Plaintiff, 13 14 v. 15 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: BILL OF COSTS CITY OF MANTECA, et al., 16 CIV. NO. 2:15-02513 WBS AC Defendants. 17 18 ----oo0oo---- 19 Plaintiff alleged defendants unreasonably searched her 20 21 home and seized her in violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth 22 Amendment rights. (Compl. (Docket No. 1).)1 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 On October 19, 2017, In the initial Complaint, plaintiff alleged the following causes of action against all individually named defendants: (1) violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of federal and state constitutional and statutory rights under California Civil Code § 52.1; (3) false arrest; (4) false imprisonment; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) negligence; and (7) invasion of privacy. (Compl. at 1.) Against the City of Manteca, plaintiff alleged a failure to supervise and adequately train officers and detectives under 42 1 1 the court granted defendants’ City of Manteca, Armando Garcia, 2 Ian Osborn, Paul Carmona, and Chris S. Mraz (collectively 3 “defendants”) Motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s federal 4 claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and declined to exercise 5 jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law claims. 6 Re: M. for Summ. J. (Docket No. 144).) 7 was entered, defendants submitted a Bill of Costs totaling 8 $6,800.05 for the costs of 14 deposition transcripts. 9 No. 146). (Mem. and Order After summary judgment (Docket After defendants submitted a Bill of Costs, defendants 10 filed a Notice of Appeal.2 11 to awarding any costs for the depositions arguing that defendants 12 have not yet been conferred “prevailing party status”, and even 13 if they have, the court should exercise its discretion to 14 disallow costs. 15 (Docket No. 149.) Plaintiff objects (Pl.’s Opp’n at 2 (Docket No. 147).) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) and Local Rule 16 292 govern the taxation of costs to losing parties, which are 17 generally subject to limits set under 28 U.S.C. § 1920. 18 U.S.C. § 1920 (enumerating taxable costs); Fed. R. Civ. P. 19 54(d)(1) (“Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a court See 28 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 U.S.C. § 1983. 2 (Id.) Even though a Notice of Appeal was filed, this court may still decide whether or not defendants are entitled to their costs under Rule 54(d)(1) See U.S. ex rel. McLean v. County of Santa Clara, Civ. No. 05-01962 HRL, 2012 WL 4717793, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2012) (“[A]wards of fees and costs are considered collateral issues over which the district court normally retains jurisdiction even after an appeal divests the court of jurisdiction over the merits.” ) (citing Leslie v. Group ICA, 198 F.3d 1153, 1160 (9th Cir. 1999)); Masalosalo v. Stonewall Ins. Co., 718 F.2d 955, 957 (9th Cir. 1983) (“The district court retained the power to award attorneys’ fees after the notice of appeal from the decision on the merits had been filed.”). 2 1 order provides otherwise, costs--other than attorney’s fees-- 2 should be allowed to the prevailing party.”); E.D. Cal. Local R. 3 292(f); Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 4 441 (1987) (limiting taxable costs to those enumerated in § 5 1920). 6 I. Prevailing Party 7 To be a prevailing party, a party must “receive[] a 8 judgment on the merits, or obtain[] a court-ordered consent 9 decree.” Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Virginia Dep’t 10 of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 606 (2001) (internal 11 citations omitted). 12 has been a material alteration of the legal relationship of the 13 parties.” 14 Cir. 2003) (citing Buckhannon, 532 U.S. at 603)(internal 15 quotations omitted). 16 litigant need not prevail on every issue” in the case. 17 v. Dalton, 118 F.3d 671, 677 (9th Cir. 1997) (interpreting 18 discretion of court to award attorney’s fees)(citation omitted). “[T]here is a prevailing party where there Miles v. State of California, 320 F.3d 986, 989 (9th To be considered the prevailing party, “a Hashimoto 19 Defendants prevailed on the federal law claims, because 20 the court granted summary judgment to defendants on the merits of 21 those claims. 22 1995) (stating defendants success defeating plaintiff’s federal 23 constitutional claims on summary judgment was a judgment on the 24 merits under Rule 54(d)).3 25 were not a prevailing party on the state law claims, because the 26 court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 27 28 3 See Head v. Medford, 62 F.3d 351, 356 (11th Cir. The court notes that the defendants Plaintiff does not dispute the defendants are prevailing parties as to the federal claims. 3 1 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3). 2 Early Develop., 541 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2008) (stating “a 3 defendant is not a prevailing party with regard to claims 4 dismissed without prejudice”). 5 change the court’s analysis. 6 See Oscar v. Alaska Dep’t of Educ. and However, this fact does not While the federal and state law claims rely on the same 7 set of facts, the court’s decision to decline to exercise 8 supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims does not 9 change the fact that defendants are the prevailing party in this 10 action and are therefore entitled to their costs. 11 Trona Ry. Co., Civ. No. 08-01766 VAPOPX, 2009 WL 10673182, at *2 12 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 20, 2009) (stating “Court’s use of its discretion 13 not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s 14 remaining state-law claim does not affect Defendant’s status as 15 the prevailing party.”)(citation omitted); Corridean v. Restore 16 Fin. Servs. Network, LLC, Civ. No. 06-524-HU, 2007 WL 1989622, at 17 *3 (D. Or. July 6, 2007) (“[A]lthough defendants are not 18 prevailing parties on the [state] claims, and although the state 19 and federal claims rest on identical facts . . . the dismissal of 20 the state claims based on this Court’s declining to exercise 21 supplemental jurisdiction . . . does not change the fact that 22 defendants are the prevailing party in this federal claim and 23 thus, are entitled to an award of costs . . . .”) (citations 24 omitted). 25 II. 26 See Stevens v. Discretion to Award Costs While Rule 54(d) creates “a presumption for awarding 27 costs to prevailing parties,” Save Our Valley v. Sound Transit, 28 335 F.3d 932, 944 (9th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted), 4 Rule 1 54(d)(1) “vests in the district court discretion to refuse to 2 award costs.” 3 California, 231 F.3d 572, 591 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing National 4 Info. Servs., Inc. v. TRW, Inc., 51 F.3d 1470, 1471 (9th Cir. 5 1995)). 6 instructed that: 7 8 9 10 11 Ass’n of Mexican-Am. Educators v. State of In exercising that discretion, the Ninth Circuit has Appropriate reasons for denying costs include (1) the substantial public importance of the case, (2) the closeness and difficulty of the issues in the case, (3) the chilling effect on future similar actions, (4) the plaintiff’s limited financial resources, and (5) the economic disparity between the parties. This is not an exhaustive list of good reasons for declining to award costs, but rather a starting point for analysis. 12 Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., 743 F.3d 1236, 1247–48 13 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotations omitted). 14 exercising its discretion, a district court must state the 15 reasons for denying costs to the prevailing party. 16 Subscription Television, Inc. v. S. Cal. Theatre Owners Ass’n, 17 576 F.2d 230, 234 (9th Cir. 1978). 18 In See The Ninth Circuit has instructed that “[d]istrict 19 courts should consider the financial resources of the plaintiff 20 and the amount of costs in civil rights cases.” 21 of S. Cal., 178 F.3d 1069, 1079 (9th Cir. 1999). 22 plaintiffs do not have to be currently indigent, “the proper 23 inquiry is whether an award of costs might make them so.” 24 v. NIBCO, 701 F. Supp. 2d 1135, 1143 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (Wanger, 25 J.) (citing Stanley, 178 F.3d at 1079-80). 26 approved denying costs for the reason that the losing party has 27 limited financial resources. Stanley v. Univ. While the Rivera The Ninth Circuit has Ass'n of Mexican-Am. Educators, 231 28 5 1 F.3d at 592. 2 at Davis, Civ. No. 03-2591 FCD EFB, 566 F. Supp. 2d 1168, 1171 3 (E.D. Cal. July 15, 2008) (Damrell, J.) (denying costs to 4 University where student plaintiffs demonstrated they had limited 5 financial resources and could barely cover their monthly 6 expenses); Nat’l Org. for Women v. Bank of Cal., Nat’l Ass’n, 680 7 F.2d 1291, 1294 (9th Cir. 1982) (stating district court did not 8 abuse its discretion by denying the bank costs by considering the 9 plaintiff’s limited budget); Knox v. City of Fresno, 208 F. Supp. See Mansourian v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Cal. 10 3d 1114, 1117 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2016) (Grosjean, J.) (denying 11 costs and noting that while plaintiffs “did not proceed in forma 12 pauperis and are not completely indigent, Plaintiffs have 13 submitted declarations attesting to their limited financial 14 resources.”). 15 Here, plaintiff’s argument that she has limited 16 financial means is both compelling and supported by evidence. 17 See Tubbs v. Sacramento County Jail, 258 F.R.D. 657, 661 (E.D. 18 Cal. Aug. 21, 2009) (Karlton, J.) (denying costs where 19 plaintiff’s argument that he is indigent was compelling and 20 supported by evidence.) 21 woman who lives with her husband in a mobile home, and is unable 22 to work due to a tumor behind her eye. 23 husband supports the family with his retirement pension and his 24 full-time driving job. 25 in her declaration that it is difficult to stretch their finances 26 on a monthly basis and itemizes her estimated monthly expenses. Plaintiff is a seventy-seven year old (Decl. at 13) (Pl.’s Opp’n at 8.) 27 28 6 Her Plaintiff represents 1 (Decl. of Joanne Blight 7-11).4 2 about her finances, the court agrees that plaintiff’s limited 3 financial resources weigh against awarded costs in this action. 4 Additionally, the Ninth Circuit has expressed concern Given plaintiff’s representation 5 that the “imposition of such high costs on losing civil rights 6 plaintiffs of modest means may chill civil rights litigation in 7 this area.” 8 award costs against low-wage workers, finding that awarding costs 9 would be a significant disincentive to bring meritful suits. Stanley, 178 F.3d at 1080. Courts have hesitated to See 10 Rivera, 701 F. Supp. 2d at 1145 (finding that for a low wage- 11 worker the threat of a $3,600 cost bill was a significant 12 disincentive to bring suit and risked a chilling effect); Escriba 13 v. Foster Poultry Farms, No. 1:09-CV-1878, 2012 WL 174847, at *6 14 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 20, 2012) (O’Neill, J.), aff'd sub nom. Escriba 15 v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., 743 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir. 2014) 16 (finding the threat of a $13,958.16 cost bill, to a low-wage 17 worker, was a strong disincentive to bring a meritful suit). 18 Here, the court believes the imposition of costs against the 19 plaintiff may have a chilling effect on others with limited 20 financial means alleging unreasonable searches and seizures. 21 Therefore, the court finds this factor weighs against awarding 22 costs to defendants. 23 24 The court may also consider the economic disparity between the parties. See Escriba, 743 F.3d at 1248. The court 25 26 27 28 4 Plaintiff further represents that she cannot afford to replace her front door that was damaged by the police or the roof on her mobile home, which needs to be replaced. (Decl. of Joanne Blight ¶ ¶¶ 11, 12.) 7 1 agrees that there is a stark economic disparity between the 2 parties that weighs in favor of denying costs. 3 Rosario, 836 F.3d 1072, 1089 (9th Cir. 2016) (noting the 4 comparison between plaintiff’s limited resources-–having no money 5 in his prison account, no income, no assets, and owing 6 restitution--with the resources of the State of California.); 7 Mansourian,566 F. Supp. 2d at 1171 (noting a significant economic 8 disparity between student plaintiffs with limited resources to a 9 University with a substantial budget); Knox, 208 F. Supp. 3d at See Draper v. 10 1117 (noting economic disparity between plaintiffs who submitted 11 declarations attesting to their limited financial resources and 12 the City of Fresno). 13 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants’ Bill of Costs 14 (Docket No. 146) be, and the same hereby is, DENIED.5 15 Dated: November 27, 2017 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 Because the court denies costs based on equity considerations, the court does not discuss whether the depositions taken were reasonably necessary. 8

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