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Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Management

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 26, 2013

PIT RIVER TRIBE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, et al., Defendants.

ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFFS' OBJECTIONS TO DEFENDANTS' BILL OF COSTS

JOHN A. MENDEZ, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Bureau of Land Management ("BLM"), Department of Interior ("DOI"), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Forest Service's (collectively "Defendants") Bill of Costs (Doc. #86). Plaintiffs Pit River Tribe, Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Save Medicine Lake Coalition, and Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed objections to Defendants' bill of costs (Doc. #87) and Defendants replied (Doc. #94)[1] For the following reasons, the Court overrules Plaintiffs' objections to Defendants' bill of costs.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts are well known to the parties and therefore the following is only a brief summary. On July 29, 2013, the Court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants on the first, second, third, and fourth causes of action and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the fifth cause of action. Order Granting Defendants' Motion ("Order"), Doc. #84, at 19. After judgment was entered, Defendants submitted their bill of costs requesting $19, 851.60 in costs for the filed copies and Plaintiffs' service copies of the Telephone Flat Administrative Record and the Fourmile Hill Administrative Record (Doc. #86).

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides, in pertinent part, "Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs-other than attorney's fees- should be allowed to the prevailing party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). This rule creates a presumption that costs will be taxed against the losing party, but "vests in the district court discretion to refuse to award costs" if the losing party shows why costs should not be awarded. Ass'n of Mexican-Am. Educators v. State of California , 231 F.3d 572, 591-92 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

If the court declines to award costs, it must "specify reasons" for denying costs. Id . (citing Subscription Television, Inc. v. Southern Cal. Theater Owners Ass'n , 576 F.2d 230, 234 (9th Cir. 1978)). However, it need not specify reasons for its decision to abide by the presumption and tax costs to the losing party. Save Our Valley v. Sound Transit , 335 F.3d 932, 945 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Ass'n of Mexican-Am. Educators , 231 F.3d at 592-93).

B. Discussion

1. Prevailing Parties

Plaintiffs argue that Defendants are not the prevailing party on the Fourmile Hill or Telephone Flats claims and therefore they are not entitled to costs incurred for filing the Fourmile Hill and Telephone Flats administrative records.[2] The parties agree that in this case there were no claims related to Fourmile Hill or Telephone Flats. Opp. at 1; Reply at 6-7. Plaintiffs argue that those claims were part of different litigation and that they were effectively the prevailing party in those claims. Defendants dispute Plaintiffs' argument, but more importantly, Defendants argue that they prevailed in this case. Generally, there is a "prevailing party" when there has been a "material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties." Miles v. State of California , 320 F.3d 986, 989 (9th Cir. 2003). As mentioned above, in this case, the Court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants on the first, second, third, and fourth causes of action and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the fifth cause of action. Order at 19. Therefore, because the judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment created a material alteration of the legal relationship in Defendants' favor, Defendants are the prevailing party.

Plaintiffs also argue that Defendants did not prevail because the judgment was premised on the lack of subject matter jurisdiction and costs are not recoverable when a case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit has held that "costs under Rule 54(d) may not be awarded where an underlying claim is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, for in that case the dismissed party is not a prevailing party' within the meaning of Rule 54(d)." Miles v. State of California , 320 F.3d 986, 988 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Harris v. Stonecrest Care Auto Ctr., LLC , 559 F.Supp.2d 1088, 1090 (S.D. Cal. 2008)("[A] defendant is not a prevailing party' for Rule 54(d) purposes when an action is dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, so the Court cannot award costs under this rule.") (citing Miles , 320 F.3d at 988). In Miles, the case was dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction under the Eleventh Amendment. Miles , 320 F.3d at 988. The court held that dismissal based on Eleventh Amendment immunity is not a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it is a "material alteration in the legal relationship of the parties" and therefore, the state was the prevailing party. Id. at 989.

Plaintiffs argue that the Court embraced all of Defendants' jurisdictional arguments. However, none of the claims were dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Plaintiffs' first cause of action was dismissed for lack of prudential standing, Order at 9, which is not a jurisdictional bar. Hilton v. Hallmark Cards , 599 F.3d 894, 904 n.6 (9th Cir. 2010) (noting that prudential standing is not a requirement of jurisdiction) (citing Allen v. Wright , 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984) (describing prudential standing as consisting of "several judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction"); City of Los Angeles v. Cnty. of Kern , 581 F.3d 841, 845 (9th Cir. 2009) (noting that the Ninth Circuit has "previously held that these requirements, commonly referred to as prudential' standing, can be deemed waived if not raised in the district court'"). Plaintiffs' second, third, and fourth causes of action under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), the National Historic Preservation Act ("NHPA"), and fiduciary duty respectively were dismissed because the lease continuation was mandatory, not discretionary, and therefore NEPA, the NHPA, and fiduciary duty did not apply. Id. at 13. These three claims were decided on their merits and not for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. As to Plaintiffs' fifth cause of action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), the Court granted summary judgment in Defendants' favor because the claim was time barred by the general statute of limitations for claims ...


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