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Jefferson v. City of Fremont

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 19, 2015

CITY OF FREMONT, et al., Defendants.


EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Walter Jefferson's motion for the Court's review of the clerk's taxation of costs. Docket No. 124. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the Court finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS Jefferson's request for review and DENIES recovery of costs in this case.


Plaintiff Walter Jefferson, a pro se litigant, filed suit against the City of Fremont, the Fremont Tennis Center ("FTC"), and individual Jeff Gonce, alleging that Defendants subjected him to discriminatory treatment in connection with his use of the FTC. Following years of active litigation, the Court granted summary judgment against Jefferson. Docket No. 118.

Following entry of judgment, the Defendants timely filed a bill of costs. Docket No. 120. Jefferson filed two initial responses to the Defendants' bill of costs. Docket Nos. 121, 122. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, the clerk taxed costs after Mr. Jefferson filed these initial responses. Docket No. 123. Applying Civil Local Rule 54-3(c), the clerk reduced Defendants' bill of costs by eliminating expenses that are not recoverable under this Court's local rules. Id. Consequently, the amount of taxed costs is $10, 223.60.[1] Id. Following the clerk's taxation of costs, Jefferson filed the pending motion for the Court's review.[2] Docket No. 124.


A. Legal Standard

Rule 54 provides:

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. [...] The clerk may tax costs on 14 days' notice. On motion served within the next 7 days, the court may review the clerk's action.

Fed R Civ Proc 54(d)(1).[3] While Rule 54 imposes a "presumption" in favor of awarding costs to prevailing parties, the Court has discretion to consider whether that presumption is appropriate for the particular circumstances of a case. See Ass'n of Mexican-Am. Educators v. State of California, 231 F.3d 572, 591 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ).

The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, has approved the following non-exhaustive list of considerations for the Court to weigh: (1) the losing party's limited financial resources; (2) misconduct on the part of the prevailing party, (3) the "chilling effect" on prospective litigants; (4) whether the case "involves issues of substantial public importance, specifically educational quality, interracial disparities in economic opportunity, and access to positions of social influence;" (5) great economic disparity between the parties; (6) whether the issues in the case are close and difficult; and (7) whether Plaintiff's' case, although unsuccessful, had some merit. Id. at 592 (internal quotations omitted); Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., 743 F.3d 1236, 1247-48 (9th Cir. 2014). Many of the factors are relevant here and are discussed herein.[4]

1. The Substantial Public Importance of the Case

A civil rights case brought to remedy discriminatory treatment in a place of public accommodation, even if brought by a single plaintiff, involves broader protections against racial discrimination. Consequently, the Court finds such issues to be of substantial public importance. See Escriba, 743 F.3d at 1248 (finding no error where district court concluded that FMLA action brought by single plaintiff raised issues of substantial public importance, because, among other things, FMLA issues concern protection of civil rights for women in the workplace).

The nature of Jefferson's claims shows the public importance of this action. This case involved civil rights claims under Title II of the Civil Rights Act, under Section 1981, and under Section 1983. Under Title II, a plaintiff cannot obtain damages; "[i]f he obtains an injunction, he does so not for himself alone but also as a private attorney general, ' vindicating a policy that Congress considered of the highest priority." Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, 402 (1968). Moreover, the Court finds that Jefferson brought claims that sought to remedy "interracial disparities in economic opportunity" under Section 1981, raising issues of substantial public importance. ...

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