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San Diego Police Officers' Association v. Aruirre

August 24, 2007

SAN DIEGO POLICE OFFICERS' ASSOCIATION, ON BEHALF OF ITSELF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OF ITS MEMBERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL AGUIRRE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court

ORDER REGARDING COSTS

On May 18, 2007, the Court ruled on various motions for summary judgment filed by the parties. (Doc. No. 736.) On June 26, 2007, after supplemental briefing, the Court entered an order granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the remaining federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. (Doc. No. 753.)

On June 29, 2007, the Court entered an order allowing supplemental briefing regarding costs. (Doc. No. 756.) Plaintiff filed its supplemental brief on July 27, 2007. (Doc. No. 760.) Aguirre filed a supplemental brief on August 10, 2007. (Doc. No. 762.) The City, Individual Defendants, and SDCERS filed a supplemental brief on August 10, 2007. (Doc. No. 763.) Aguirre filed a notice of joinder in the City, Individual Defendants, and SDCERS' brief on August 13, 2007. (Doc. No. 764.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants are the prevailing parties in this action and are entitled to all of their recoverable costs incurred during this litigation. Additionally, neither party is entitled to recover its attorneys' fees.

Discussion

Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets out the default rule that costs are awarded to the prevailing party: "Except when express provision therefor is made either in a statute of the United States or in these rules, costs other than attorneys' fees shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs[.]" The Southern District of California Civil Local Rules explain when a defendant is the prevailing party for purposes of taxing costs: "The defendant is the prevailing party upon any termination of the case without judgment for the plaintiff except a voluntary dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)." Civ. L.R. 54.1(f). Here, Defendants are the prevailing party and Plaintiff has failed to overcome the presumption in favor of awarding Defendants their costs.

A. Defendants are the Prevailing Parties

1. Defendants Have Prevailed on the Entire Federal Action

If a court enters judgment in favor of a party, that party is the prevailing party under Rule 54(d). See generally Amarel v. Connell, 102 F.3d 1494, 1523 (9th Cir. 1996). A party need not prevail on every issue to be considered the prevailing party. See, e.g., Hashimoto v. Dalton, 118 F.3d 671, 677 (9th Cir. 1997) (interpreting prevailing party in context of a request for attorneys' fees). Additionally, as noted in the Local Rules, absent a plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of an action, the defendant is the prevailing party whenever the case is terminated without a judgment for the plaintiff. Thus, in cases in which courts have granted judgment in favor of defendants on federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over remaining state claims, courts have determined that defendants were the prevailing parties for purposes of Rule 54(d). See, e.g., Ogborn v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union, 305 F.3d 763, 770 (7th Cir. 2002); Head v. Medford, 62 F.3d 351, 353 (11th Cir. 1995); see also Sasser v. Amen, 57 Fed. Appx. 307, 309 (9th Cir. 2003) ("The district court denied costs simply because it concluded that the [dismissed] RICO claims are 'intertwined' with pendant state-law claims, which it dismissed without prejudice. However, the district court's decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state-law claims does not change the fact that Defendants are fully the prevailing party in this federal case.").

In its supplemental brief, Plaintiff argues that it may be considered the prevailing party. Plaintiff cites no authority supporting its position that it may be considered a prevailing party under the circumstances in this case. Rather, the cases upon which Plaintiff relies all involved settlements or a court granting a plaintiff some relief. See, e.g., Richard S. v. Dep't of Dev. Svcs., 317 F.3d 1080 (9th Cir. 2003) (settlement including permanent injunction); Barrios v. Cal. Interscholastic Fed'n, 277 F.3d 1128 (9th Cir. 2002) (settlement for $10,000); Fischer v. SJB-P.D. Inc., 214 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2000) (settlement providing for equitable relief). Additionally, Plaintiff references the results of a related state action. Plaintiff, however, cites no authority for the proposition that it may recover costs in this federal litigation based on involvement in a separate state court action. Accordingly, Plaintiff's contention that it should be considered a prevailing party is without merit.

Defendants are the prevailing parties in this case. As to Aguirre, the Court granted summary judgment in his favor on Plaintiff's claims. As to the remaining Defendants, the Court granted summary judgment as to the federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the supplemental claims. Accordingly, Defendants have fully prevailed as to this federal case.

2. Costs Should Not Be Apportioned

As noted, Defendants have prevailed as to all claims in this federal litigation. Additionally, courts generally decline to apportion costs even where the prevailing party is only partially successful. For example, in K-2 Ski Co. v. Head Ski Co., the Ninth Circuit upheld the trial court's refusal to apportion costs even though the plaintiff prevailed on only two of twelve trade secret claims. 506 F.2d 471, 476-77 (9th Cir. 1974). The court explained: "Although a plaintiff may not sustain his entire claim, if judgment is rendered for him he is the prevailing party." Id. Similarly, in Sorgen v. City and County of San Francisco, the court awarded all costs to the defendants after granting summary judgment in their favor on all claims except one state law claim, which the court remanded. Case No. 05-CV-03172, 2007 WL 1514432 (N.D. Cal. May 21, 2007). The court noted that "the federal litigation concluded in Defendants['] favor, and thus they are 'prevailing parties' within the meaning of Rule 54(d) irrespective of whether or not they prevailed on all issues." Id. at *2 (citing K-2 Ski Co., 506 F.2d at 477). Moreover, the cases Plaintiff cites do not support apportionment, but instead address what costs are recoverable under the federal cost statute. See, e.g., Sorbo v. United Parcel Svc., 432 F.3d 1169 (10th Cir. 2005) (district court improperly allowed reimbursement for items not within the scope of the federal cost statute); Thomas v. Treasury Mgmt. Ass'n, 158 F.R.D. 364 (D.C. Md. 1994) (same).

Here, the Court has granted summary judgment as to the federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction as to the state law claims. Thus, this federal litigation has concluded entirely in Defendants' favor, and Defendants are entitled to all of their costs in defending this case. Moreover, even were the Court to determine that Defendants did not prevail as to the state law claims, the Court would decline to apportion costs ...


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