United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
Sidney I. Schenkier Magistrate Judge
This Court presided over a four-day bench trial on plaintiff Coran Smith's claim that defendant Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA") retaliated against him in violation of Title VII. On March 6, 2015, the Court set forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law and entered judgment in favor of the CTA and against Mr. Smith (doc. # 96). Mr. Smith has filed a notice of appeal from that judgment (doc. # 100).
On March 20, 2015, the CTA timely filed a bill of costs with a supporting memorandum and exhibits seeking payment from Mr. Smith for a total of $4, 301.89 (docs. ## 97, 98). Mr. Smith has objected to the CTA's bill of costs on the grounds of indigency (doc. # 107). In addition, Mr. Smith has filed an in forma pauperis ("IFP") application and financial affidavit (doc. # 101); a motion for attorney representation (doc. # 110); and an "affidavit accompanying motion for permission to appeal in forma pauperis'" (doc. # 111). For the reasons set forth below, we grant Mr. Smith's motion to appeal in forma pauperis, but deny his motion for attorney representation and deny as moot his motion to proceed in forma pauperis in this Court. In addition, we grant in part and deny in part the CTA's bill of costs, and award $3, 747.56 in costs to the CTA.
We first address the two pending IFP applications and the motion to appoint counsel. Mr. Smith's first IFP application -- to proceed in forma pauperis in this Court (doc. # 101) - is denied as moot because he has already paid the filing fee in this Court, and the proceedings in this Court - aside from the instant motions - have terminated.
We reach a different result with respect to Mr. Smith's motion to appeal in forma pauperis (doc. #111: PL's Mot. to Appeal IFP), which is not moot. "[A]ny court of the United States may authorize the commencement... of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such [person] possesses that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure specify that a party to a district court action may file a motion to appeal in forma pauperis in the district court and must attach an affidavit that shows the party's inability to pay and states the issues that the party intends to present on appeal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(1).
In the affidavit accompanying Mr. Smith's application for leave to appeal IFP, he asserts that he has zero total monthly income, including zero public-assistance or unemployment payments (though he also states that he is on welfare, and in his earlier IFP filing, he stated that he received $1, 000.00 in food stamps the previous year); that he has been unemployed since April 3, 2012; that he has no cash or assets and has filed for bankruptcy; and that he has no monthly expenses, except for $33.00 a month expense for health insurance (PL's Mot. to Appeal IFP at 2-5). In addition, Mr. Smith asserts that he will spend $245, 000.00 for expenses or attorney fees in connection with this lawsuit (Id. at 6). Despite the discrepancy in his affidavit regarding public assistance payments, Mr. Smith's affidavit shows that right now he has no money to pay fees on appeal. Thus, we grant Mr. Smith's motion to proceed IFP on appeal (doc. #111).
However, we decline to recruit counsel for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was represented from the filing of his complaint on October 31, 2012 through trial in February 2015 by attorney Barry Gomberg, and since January 12, 2015, by attorney Mark Steven Schaffner as well (doc. # 71). While there has been no motion to withdraw filed by those attorneys, we surmise that the genesis of Mr. Smith's request that we recruit counsel for him is the unwillingness of those attorneys to continue to represent him in an appeal. In his motion for representation, Mr. Smith asserts that he has been unable to find an attorney because "no one has contacted me back and the one attorney that did doesn't do employment law" (doc. # 110).
"There is no right to court-appointed counsel in federal civil litigation, " but a district court has discretion to recruit counsel to represent an indigent plaintiff under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Henderson v. Ghosh, 755 F.3d 559, 564 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014)). "If an indigent plaintiff has made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel and then files a motion for recruitment of counsel, the district court should ask whether the difficulty of the case-factually and legally-exceeds the particular plaintiffs capacity as a layperson to coherently present it to the judge or jury himself." Dewitt v. Corizon, Inc., 760 F.3d 654, 657 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and citations omitted). In determining whether to use our discretion to recruit counsel, "[w]e examine both the difficulties posed by the particular case and the capabilities of the plaintiff to litigate such a case." Henderson, 755 F.3d at 564-65 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
In this case, Mr. Smith has not demonstrated that he has made a "reasonable attempt to obtain counsel." Dewitt, 760 F.3d at 657. Mr. Smith's motion provides no detail about the scope and extent of his search for counsel. But even assuming that Mr. Smith had made a reasonable but unsuccessful attempt to obtain counsel, we would not use our discretion to recruit counsel for him. District courts must identify, "among the sea of people lacking counsel, those who need counsel the most." Henderson, 755 F.3d at 564. Mr. Smith does not fall into that category with this case. Discovery has been completed, a trial has been conducted, and the Court has issued clear and detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law after four days of trial testimony. The well-developed record will allow Mr. Smith - a college graduate - to coherently present his appeal of this Court's decision. Thus, we deny Mr. Smith's motion for attorney representation (doc. #110).
In its bill of costs, the CTA requests $2, 741.04 fees for transcripts obtained for use in the case, $129.60 in witness fees, and $1, 431.25 in fees for exemplification and costs of making copies of materials necessarily obtained for use in the case, for a total of $4, 301.89 (doc. # 97: Bill of Costs). Mr. Smith has objected to the bill of costs on the ground that it "would impose a significant and inequitable hardship" on him, as he has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy "and has no income at this time to pay cost[s]" (doc. # 107: PL's Objections to Bill of Costs).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) states that "[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). This rule provides a strong "presumption" that the losing party will pay costs. Rivera v. City of Chicago, 469 F.3d 631, 634, 636 (7th Cir. 2006). "The presumption in favor of awarding costs to the prevailing party is difficult to overcome, and the district court's discretion is narrowly confined-the court must award costs unless it states good reasons for denying them." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, ...