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Steshenko v. McKay

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 16, 2015

THOMAS McKAY, et al., Defendants.


RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge.

Plaintiff timely filed a motion seeking review of the Clerk's taxation of costs in favor of the College defendants. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1) ("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."). The College defendants' opposition included a purported "cross-motion, " asking that certain costs disallowed by the Clerk be reinstated. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the matter has been submitted without oral argument.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides that "costs-other than attorneys' fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party." Accordingly, "Rule 54(d) creates a presumption for awarding costs to prevailing parties; the losing party must show why costs should not be awarded." Save Our Valley v. Sound Transit, 335 F.3d 932, 944-45 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Stanley v. Univ. of Southern California, 178 F.3d 1069, 1079 (9th Cir. 1999)). The 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." Id. at 945. A district court reviews the Clerk's taxation of costs de novo. See Lopez v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 385 F.Supp.2d 981, 1000-1001 (N.D.Cal. 2005); Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms, 2012 WL 174847, at * 1 (E.D.Cal. Jan. 20, 2012).

Plaintiff first argues that he should not be responsible for costs incurred during discovery conducted by his pro bono appointed counsel, Jones Day. Plaintiff contends both he did not consent to the appointment of Jones Day, and that the discovery its attorneys pursued did not ultimately benefit him in his presentation of his case at trial, in pro se. These arguments are frivolous. At a status conference held on March 6, 2014, plaintiff was asked if he were interested in obtaining counsel through the court's pro bono program, and he responded in the affirmative.[1] Thereafter the Court was advised that the highly reputable and competent Jones Day firm had agreed to represent plaintiff, and the appointment was made. See Dkt. No. 672. While the Court is not privy to any communications among the pro bono project, plaintiff, and Jones Day, if plaintiff in fact objected to the appointment, it was incumbent on him to make that known to the Court.

Plaintiff has repeatedly demonstrated over the course of this litigation that he is capable of expressing objections directly to the Court, even when represented. At no time between April 1, 2014, when Jones Day was appointed, and mid-August of 2014 did plaintiff ever suggest he did not consent to the representation. Rather, plaintiff knowingly allowed Jones Day to act on his behalf to obtain an order re-opening discovery, to take multiple depositions, to engage expert witnesses, and otherwise diligently to prepare for trial. While plaintiff ultimately formed the view that his interests were not being adequately represented by Jones Day, his contention that the firm was appointed without his consent is without factual basis.

Additionally, while it is clear that plaintiff and Jones Day had differing views on the most effective manner of pursuing discovery and presenting his claims, the argument that plaintiff derived no benefit from the discovery pursued on his behalf is not factually tenable, nor would it be a legitimate basis for denying costs. Accordingly, plaintiff's challenges to the cost award based on such arguments must be rejected.

Plaintiff further requests that costs be disallowed entirely given his claimed lack of financial resources and the entirety of the circumstances.[2] While a court has discretion to deny costs to a prevailing party in appropriate situations, plaintiff has not shown such an outcome is warranted here, nor has he established any other grounds to eliminate or reduce the cost award.[3] Defendant's untimely request for review of that portion of the Clerk's determination that disallowed certain costs likewise fails to demonstrate relief is warranted. Plaintiff's motion and defendants' purported "cross-motion" are both denied.


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