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Springfield Division Larry M. Washington and Jennifer A. Jenkins v. City of Springfield

January 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge


Friday, 07 January, 2011 06:53:32 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


On December 9, 2010, following a jury trial, judgment was entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs Larry Washington and Jennifer Jenkins. (Doc. 351).*fn1 Before the Court is Defendant's Proposed Bill of Costs (Doc. 352) filed on December 21, 2010 and Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Bill of Costs (Doc. 354) filed on December 28, 2010. Defendants seek to have a total of $19,993.09 taxed to Plaintiffs for costs incurred in the instant lawsuit. Plaintiffs argue that they are financially unable to pay the costs associated with this case. In the alternative, they seek to have Defendants' costs reduced pursuant to specific objections.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides that the prevailing party in a civil action may recover its costs. A district court has broad discretionary power to allow or disallow a prevailing party to recoup the costs of litigation, however it may not tax costs beyond those authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 1920. Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 441-42 (1982). Therefore, "[i]n order to award costs to a prevailing party, the court must determine that the expenses are allowable cost items and that the amounts are reasonable and necessary." Northbrook Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Procter & Gamble Co., 924 F.2d 633, 642 (7th Cir. 1991).

Plaintiffs first ask the Court to consider their ability to pay the costs associated with this case. The Seventh Circuit has held that the inability to pay is a proper factor for the district court to consider in granting or denying taxable costs, and that the presumption that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party "may be overcome by a showing of indigency." Badillo v. Central Steel & Wire Co., 717 F.2d 1160, 1165 (7th Cir. 1983). Here, however, Plaintiffs have submitted no affidavits or any other documentary evidence of indigency. Accordingly, the Court has no basis upon which to find that the presumption in favor of awarding costs to Defendants has been overcome, and cannot do so. See McGill v. Faulkner, 18 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 1994).

In addition to seeking consideration of their ability to pay, Plaintiffs also object to specific costs claimed by Defendants. The Court will consider these objections one at a time.

I. Photocopying Expenses

Plaintiffs object to several of Defendants' claims for photocopying expenses. Section 1920(f) expressly authorizes "fees for . . . copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the case." To be necessarily obtained for use in the case, the copied documents may be attributable to discovery, or the courts' copies of pleadings, motions, or memoranda. Autozone, Inc. v. Strick, 2010 WL 2365523, at *2 (N.D. Ill., June 9, 2010). For documents filed with the court, only one copy for the court and one for opposing counsel are considered necessary. Id. The prevailing party is "not required to submit a bill of costs containing a description so detailed a description as to make it impossible economically to recover photocopying costs." Northbrook Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Procter & Gamble Co., 924 F.2d 633, 643 (7th Cir. 1991). However, it must "provide the best breakdown obtainable from retained records." Id. Whatever form of description submitted, "the court cannot award [the prevailing party's] copying costs without some confidence that the costs are properly recoverable." Fait v. Hummel, 2002 WL 31433424, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 30, 2002).

Here, Defendants seek $4,573.19 for exemplification and copies of papers, broken down as follows: $2,823.45 for copying costs incurred by Defendants Welsh, Wooldridge, Rouse, and City of Springfield ("City Defendants"); $558.80 for copying costs incurred by Defendant Carpenter; and $1,190.94 for copying costs incurred by Defendant Davis. (Doc. 352 at 45). Plaintiffs object to $2,726.88 in internal copying costs, of the $2,823.45 total copying costs claimed by the City Defendants. (Doc. 354 at 2). They allege that the City Defendants are seeking copying costs of $.23 per page without providing any basis therefore, and ask that the Court reduce these costs by 50%. (Doc. 354 at 2).*fn2 Plaintiffs also claim that the invoices for Defendant Carpenter fail to provide any detail or itemization of what was copied and how many copies were made, and that therefore the $558.80 claimed by Defendant Carpenter should be denied.*fn3

The City Defendants have not provided the Court with any documentation supporting their claim for $2,726.88 in internal photocopying costs, and thus the Court cannot determine the amount that they charged per page. However, because the City Defendants have failed to provide any breakdown or description of their internal photocopying expenses whatsoever, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' request to reduce these charges by 50%. Accordingly, the City Defendants' internal photocopying charges are reduced to $1,363.44.

Defendant Carpenter provides the Court with slightly more detail than the City Defendants with regards to his photocopying expenses, in that he has submitted invoices detailing the various months in which photocopying costs were incurred, as well as the extent of those costs each month. While Defendant Carpenter does not provide any explanation as to what documents were copied or for what purpose, the information provided is adequate to support a bill of costs. See Northbrook Excess, 924 F.2d at 634 (upholding award of photocopying costs where description failed to identify the documents copied, the number of copies made, or ...

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