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Allen v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 10, 2013

VALERIE ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GARY FEINERMAN, District Judge.

Valerie Allen brought this suit against her former employer, the City of Chicago, alleging unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The case was reassigned to the undersigned judge's calendar in July 2012. Doc. 168. Following a trial at which the jury returned a defense verdict, the court entered judgment for the City. Docs. 194, 195. The court denied Allen's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial. Doc. 207. Now before the court is the bill of costs the City filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d), which seeks $10, 030.57. Docs. 204, 210. Allen responded, Doc. 208, and the City replied, Doc. 209. For the following reasons, the City is awarded costs in the amount of $7, 287.63.

Discussion

Recoverable costs include (1) "[f]ees of the clerk and marshal"; (2) fees for transcripts "necessarily obtained for use in the case"; (3) "[f]ees and disbursements for printing and witnesses"; (4) "[f]ees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case"; (5) docket fees; and (6) "[c]ompensation of court appointed experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special interpretation services." 28 U.S.C. § 1920. "Although a district court has discretion when awarding costs, the discretion is narrowly confined because of the strong presumption created by Rule 54(d)(1) that the prevailing party will recover costs." Contreras v. City of Chicago, 119 F.3d 1286, 1295 (7th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Allen concedes that the City is the prevailing party, but raises several objections to the City's bill. The objections are considered in turn.

I. Objection to Any Cost Award on the Ground That Allen Is Indigent

"Since 1983, [the Seventh Circuit] has held that it is within the discretion of the district court to consider a plaintiff's indigency in denying costs under Rule 54(d)." Rivera v. City of Chicago, 469 F.3d 631, 634 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). Rivera directs district courts to undertake a two-step analysis when presented with a claim of indigency:

First, the district court must make a threshold factual finding that the losing party is incapable of paying the court-imposed costs at this time or in the future. The burden is on the losing party to provide the district court with sufficient documentation to support such a finding. This documentation should include evidence in the form of an affidavit or other documentary evidence of both income and assets, as well as a schedule of expenses.
Requiring a non-prevailing party to provide information about both income/assets and expenses will ensure that district courts have clear proof of the non-prevailing party's dire financial circumstances. Moreover, it will limit any incentive for litigants of modest means to portray themselves as indigent.
Second, the district court should consider the amount of costs, the good faith of the losing party, and the closeness and difficulty of the issues raised by a case when using its discretion to deny costs. No one factor is determinative, but the district court should provide an explanation for its decision to award or deny costs.

Id. at 635-36 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

Allen's indigency claim fails at the first step, as she has not made the "threshold" showing that she "is incapable of paying the court-imposed costs at this time or in the future." The only documentation provided by Allen are her answers to the City's supplemental interrogatories, which establish that she is currently employed in a potentially "seasonal" position. Doc. 208-1 at 3. Allen provides no information about her current assets or expenses. Allen also makes no argument regarding the second step of the indigency analysis-the amount of costs, her good faith, and the closeness or difficulty of the issues. By failing to satisfy either of the inquiries mandated by Rivera, Allen has forfeited any contention that she should be excused from paying costs due to indigency. See Pugh v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 2012 WL 5199629, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 22, 2012) (citing Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2011); Fabriko Acquisition Corp. v. Prokos, 536 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2008); Wojtas v. Capital Guardian Trust Co., 477 F.3d 924, 926 (7th Cir. 2007); Kramer v. Banc of Am. Sec., LLC, 355 F.3d 961, 964 n.1 (7th Cir. 2004); Stransky v. Cummins Engine Co., 51 F.3d 1329, 1335 (7th Cir. 1995); United States v. Berkowitz, 927 F.2d 1376, 1384 (7th Cir. 1991)).

II. Objections to Specific Costs Sought by the City

Because Allen will not be excused from paying costs altogether, the court next will examine her objections to ...


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