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Portman v. Andrew

September 17, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Plaintiff Carey Portman filed a pro se lawsuit against Citibank N.A., Citigroup Corp., and several other defendants. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of Citibank and Citigroup (collectively, "Citigroup") on Portman's claims against them. Citigroup seeks an award of costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) and 28 U.S.C. § 1920, and it has moved for imposition of sanctions against Portman pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 on the ground that his claims against Citigroup were unsupported by fact or law and/or were filed for an improper purpose. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1-3).


Portman made two sets of claims against Citigroup. The first set of claims was premised upon an alleged certificate of obligation issued by Citigroup in the amount of $4.698 billion, which Portman claimed was owned by the Republic of Panama, and which he claimed he had been retained to try to redeem in return for a fee. Portman sued Citigroup for failing to pay on the certificate. Portman's second set of claims against Citigroup was premised upon an alleged Citigroup bank draft, issued to Portman himself, in the amount of $12.425 million.

On January 9, 2006, the Court dismissed Portman's claims regarding the supposed $4.698 billion certificate. The Court ruled, first, that Portman had failed to show that he had a right to sue on the certificate in his own behalf. The Court went on to state that it would have dismissed Portman's claims based on the certificate even had it concluded that he had the right to bring them. The Court stated that the certificate "is patently phony and thus does not provide a basis for Portman to sue the Citigroup defendants to collect on the certificate itself or on the commission he was supposedly promised." Order of Jan. 9, 2006 at 2-3 (docket no. 127). The basis for this statement was discussed in the Court's order and in an earlier order dated October 14, 2005 (docket no. 93).

On March 19, 2007, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Citigroup on Portman's claims regarding the $12.425 million draft. The Court ruled that Citigroup had established the inauthenticity of the draft and that Portman had offered no admissible evidence indicating otherwise. See Order of Mar. 19, 2007 (docket no. 279).

In short, the Court has ruled that all of Portman's claims against Citigroup were deficient because they were premised upon phony documents. For the reasons the Court has discussed in its earlier orders, the documents were patently phony -- in other words, no reasonable person could have believed they were genuine.


1. Citigroup's Request For Costs

Citigroup filed its initial request for costs on April 18, 2007, but the Court struck that request because it was filed without using the prescribed form and lacked the support called for on the form. See Order of Apr. 19, 2007 (docket no. 284). Citigroup refiled its request, using the proper form, on April 20, 2007. Portman objects that the request is untimely. The Court overrules Portman's objection. Local Rule 54.1(a) gives a prevailing party thirty days after entry of judgment to file its bill of costs. Though the Court entered summary judgment in Citigroup's favor on March 19, 2007, thirty-two days before Citigroup filed its amended request for costs, the entry of March 19, 2007 was not a "judgment" within the meaning of the Rules of Civil Procedure 54(a), because it was not an "order from which an appeal lies," Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(a), as it did not finally dispose of the case.

In its amended request for costs, Citigroup seeks $1,243.60 for court reporter fees, $1,375.00 for witness fees for the attendance of its expert witness at a deposition, $369.34 for photocopying charges, $1,250.00 for the services of its expert witness, and $144.55 for delivery charges. The delivery charges are not recoverable as costs because they are not among the taxable costs itemized in 28 U.S.C. § 1920. The same is true of the two charges sought by Citigroup for its expert. Unless the expert is court appointed, see 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6), the only fees that are recoverable as witness fees under § 1920(3) are those allowed by statute for a witness' attendance at court or a deposition. See 28 U.S.C. § 1821. This amounts to $40 per day, plus subsistence. With regard to the $1,375.00 charge, Citigroup lists all of it on its bill of costs under the heading "attendance"; it has not identified or documented any charges for the witness' subsistence. Only $40.00 of the amount claimed is properly recoverable as costs; the remainder, and the entirety of the $1,250, are not recoverable.

The modest amount that Citigroup seeks for copying pleadings and other documents, $369.34, is adequately supported and recoverable. With regard to court reporter fees, Local Rule 54.1(b) provides that the maximum amount recoverable is the regular copy rate established by the Judicial Conference of the United States at the time the transcript was obtained. That amount is $3.30 per page. For this reason, the maximum amounts recoverable are $511.50 for the deposition of Bruce Meitzler, $250.80 for the deposition of Ellen Mulcrone Schuetzner, and $145.70 for the deposition of George Quiroga, a total of $908.00. The court reporters' extra charges for attendance at the Meitzler and Schuetzner depositions are not recoverable because they would make the amount exceed the Judicial Conference regular copy rate. See, e.g., See, e.g., Higbee v. Sentry Ins. Co., No. 97 C 1349, 2004 WL 1323633, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 11, 2004); Rogers v. City of Chicago, No. 00 C 2227, 2002 WL 423723, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 15, 2002). The court reporters' charges for delivery likewise are not recoverable. Id. at *1.

For these reasons, the Court taxes costs in favor of the Citigroup defendants and against plaintiff in the amount of $1,277.34 ($908 for court reporter ...

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