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Velasquez v. City of Santa Clara

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

September 24, 2014

CITY OF SANTA CLARA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER TAXING COSTS (Re: Docket No. 304)

PAUL S. GREWAL, District Judge.

Following a jury verdict in this Section 1983 case in favor of Defendants City of Santa Clara, Steven Burress, Craig Middlekauff and Stephen Lodge ("City of Santa Clara"), [1] Plaintiff Victor Velasquez seeks further reduction to the Bill of Costs as assessed by the Clerk of Court.[2] City of Santa Clara opposes.[3] The court finds the issue suitable for disposition on the papers pursuant to Civil L.R. 7-1(b).[4]

Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1) provides that "costs other than attorneys' fees shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs." "Thus, Rule 54(d) creates a presumption in favor of awarding costs to prevailing parties, and it is incumbent upon the losing party to demonstrate why the costs should not be awarded."[5]

"District courts should consider the financial resources of the plaintiff and the amount of costs in civil rights cases."[6] Indigency may amount to a compelling "factor that the district court may properly consider in deciding whether to award costs."[7] The trial court must evaluate whether the imposition of significant "costs on losing civil rights plaintiffs of modest means may chill civil rights litigation"-an area that raises "important issues" without "obvious" answers.[8] Despite this, "a district court need not give affirmative reasons for awarding costs; instead, it need only find that the reasons for denying costs are not sufficiently persuasive to overcome the presumption in favor of an award."[9]

Here, Velasquez urges that taxing costs to the tune of $13, 938.20-as determined by the Clerk of Court-would be inequitable. Velasquez also disputes some of the costs under the local rules.[10]

Considering the stakes, the taxing of costs in this case will not chill civil rights litigation in this area. First, the assessed costs are less than half of those initially sought, and they are modest in light of the damages Velasquez sought at trial.[11] Second, although Velasquez's financial resources are relevant to this court's analysis, he fails to provide any evidence of his indigence, instead asserting merely that he "would, in all likelihood, be unable to pay the cost award."[12] Third, Stanley and Save Our Valley require this court to evaluate whether "severe injustice" would result from an award of costs in a civil rights case.[13] While every civil rights claim is important, Velasquez's case did not raise broad, Brown -level issues challenging "the boundaries of our laws" that overcome the presumption that Defendants are entitled to costs.[14] Velasquez instead challenged specific police action that was deemed reasonable and appropriate by a jury of his peers. The extended nature of the jury deliberations does not change this.[15]

The court's review of costs filed by Defendants and the amounts ultimately taxed by the Clerk show them to be, on-the-whole, warranted. The court agrees, however, with Velasquez's request for a reduction in costs associated with service of subpoenas. Civil Local Rule 54-3(a)(2) contemplates fees for service of process but not for service of deposition subpoenas or other court document.[16] The subpoenas at issue in the bill of costs were related to production of documents or witnesses. Because these costs were not associated with service of process, the total bill of costs will be reduced by $1, 236.55.

Costs in the amount of $12, 701.65 shall be taxed and included in the judgment.


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