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Fletcher v. Chicago Rail Link

December 20, 2007

WILLIAM R. FLETCHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO RAIL LINK, LLC, DEFENDANT,



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

William Fletcher sued Chicago Rail Link, LLC and prevailed at trial. Fletcher has petitioned for an award of costs in the amount of $32,414.44 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d). CRL has objected to certain aspects of Fletcher's petition. For the reasons stated below, the Court awards Fletcher costs in the amount of $11,713.85.

Discussion Under Rule 54(d)(1), a prevailing party is entitled to recover"[c]osts other than attorneys' fees . . . as of course." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1). Among the costs a court may tax are "(1) fees of the clerk and marshal; (2) fees of the court reporter for all or any part of the stenographic transcript necessarily obtained for use in the case; (3) fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses; (4) fees for exemplification and copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the case." 28 U.S.C. § 1920. The Court presumes that the prevailing party is entitled to costs, and "the losing party bears the burden of an affirmative showing that taxed costs are not appropriate." Beamon v. Marshall & Ilsley Trust Co., 411 F.3d 854, 864 (7th Cir. 2005).

1. Court Reporter Fees

a. Deposition Transcripts

Deposition transcripts are recoverable only if they were "necessarily obtained for use in the case." 28 U.S.C. §1920. Each deposition listed in Fletcher's bill of costs was used at trial. It is therefore reasonably necessary that Fletcher would need copies of these witnesses' depositions in order to prepare for trial.

Under Local Rule 54.1(b), however, "the cost of the transcript or deposition shall not exceed the regular copy rate as established by the Judicial Conference of the United States and in effect at that time." N.D. Ill. LR 54.1(d). The rate in effect at the time of the trial in this case was $3.30. CRL argues that some per-page rates exceed the regular copy rate. The court agrees and reduces those rates exceeding the regular copy rate to the rate established by the Judicial Conference. Some of the transcripts were "copies"-that is, not the original or first copy of the deposition transcript-for which the Judicial Conference has established a separate, lower rate. However, Local Rule 54.1 allows for recovery of the full charge, so long as it does not exceed the highest maximum rate as established by the Judicial Conference.

In addition, as this Court has ruled in other cases, the court reporter's "appearance fee" may be taxed as costs only to the extent that the fee, when added to the per-page rate charged for the deposition transcript, does not make the total charge per page exceed the page rate established by the Judicial Conference. See, e.g., Higbee v. Sentry Ins. Co., No. 97 C 1349, 2004 WL 1323633, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 11, 2004); Rogers v. City of Chicago, No. 00 C 2227, 2002 WL 423723, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 15, 2002) (Leinenweber, J.). The Court has deducted from Fletcher's request all appearance fees to the extent they make the total per-page charge exceed $3.30.

Costs associated with delivery, shipping, or handling transcripts are ordinary business expenses and likewise are not recoverable. See, e.g., Harkins v. Riverboat Services, Inc., 286 F. Supp. 2d 976, 981 (N.D. Ill. 2003). Finally, fees charged by court reporters for extra, electronic copies of deposition transcripts are, unless a party shows otherwise, considered to have been obtained for counsel's convenience. See, e.g., Engate, Inc. v. Esquire Deposition Servs. LLC, Case No. 01 C 6204, 2006 WL 695650, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2006). Because Fletcher has failed to show that it was reasonably necessary for him to obtain an electronic version of the transcript of the Sass deposition, the expense is disallowed.

The chart below reflects the adjusted award relating to deposition expenses.

DateDeponentPagesRate ClaimedAmount Allowed 2/9/07Bradshaw703.35$231.00 8/31/06Leahy433.30$141.90 5/9/07 314.35 (reduced to 3.30)$102.30 8/31/06Earl723.30$237.60 8/31/06Resch913.30$300.30 9/15/06Zaba932.30$213.90 8/29/06Jurewicz862.30$197.80    47 exhibits at .25/page$11.75 2/1/07Moon1243.30$409.20 11/28/06Sass592.20$129.80    5 exhibits at .25/page$1.25 11/17/06Goyer372.30$85.10    6 exhibits at .25/page$1.50 11/17/06McInerney352.30$80.50    8 exhibits at .25/page$2.00 4/26/07Arruda906.95 (reduced to 3.30)$297.00 4/17/07Cole883.60 (reduced to 3.30)$290.40 7/24/07 752.50$187.50 5/9/07Fletcher492.45$120.05 10/16/06Powell612.40$146.40    5 exhibits at .25/page$1.25 3/30/07Bose884.40 (reduced to 3.30)$290.40 4/9/07Cordray1112.35$260.85    5 exhibits at .25/page$12.75 10/26/06Baier902.30$207.00    11 exhibits at .25/page$2.75 TOTAL   $3,962.25

b. Trial Transcript

CRL objects to Fletcher's request for reimbursement of the expense of obtaining a "daily" copy of the trial transcript, arguing that he has not justified reimbursement at the higher daily rate as opposed to the somewhat lower rate for regular delivery. Fletcher argues the transcripts were necessary during the trial and to respond to CRL's post-trial motion and thus contends the daily rate is appropriate. Fletcher does not, however, elaborate on the need for daily transcripts at trial; for example, he does not suggest that his counsel needed the transcripts to question particular witnesses about the testimony of other witnesses.

The Court agrees with Fletcher that he has shown a reasonable necessity to obtain the trial transcript for use in responding to CRL's post-trial motion; his counsel cited the transcript numerous times in his response to that motion. Though Fletcher did not need a "daily" copy of the transcript for that purpose, as a practical matter regular delivery would not have been quick enough. The Court finds that it was reasonably necessary ...


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