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Rodriguez v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 15, 2019

CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants' bill of costs [58]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' bill of costs [58].

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Leonardo Rodriguez was fired from his position as a driver for the City of Chicago after he got into a driving accident and subsequently failed a drug test. [56 at 4-6.] Plaintiff sued Defendants on various state and federal law theories in state court. [Id. at 7.] Defendants removed to federal court, which had federal question jurisdiction over one count. [Id.] Defendants moved for summary judgment on the count raising a federal question. [Id.] The Court granted summary judgment to Defendants and dismissed the remaining claims with leave to refile in state court. [Id. at 20.]

         Defendants filed a bill of costs [58], and seek $1, 497.50 in costs, revised down from an initial request of $1, 517.50. [63 at 5-6.] These costs include the removal fee, printing costs, and costs associated with taking a deposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) provides, in relevant part: “costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party.” Federal statute dictates which types of costs are allowable under this rule, including: (1) Fees of the clerk and marshal; (2) Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case; * * * (4) Fees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case[] * * *.”

         “[T]he decision whether to award costs ultimately lies within the sound discretion of the district court.” Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 568 U.S. 371, 377 (2013). That said, “Rule 54(d)(1) codifies a venerable presumption that prevailing parties are entitled to costs.” Id.; see also Contreras v. City of Chicago, 119 F.3d 1286, 1295 (7th Cir. 1997) (“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.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Notwithstanding this strong presumption, the “party seeking an award of costs carries the burden of showing that the requested costs were necessarily incurred and reasonable.” Trustees of Chicago Plastering Inst. Pension Trust v. Cork Plastering Co., 570 F.3d 890, 906 (7th Cir. 2009). That is, “[o]nce the prevailing party demonstrates that the particular items of costs should be allowed, the losing party then bears the burden of affirmatively showing that the taxed costs are not appropriate.” Se-Kure Controls, Inc. v. Vanguard Products Group, Inc., 873 F.Supp.2d 939, 944 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (citing Beamon v. Marshall & Ilsley Trust Co., 411 F.3d 854, 864 (7th Cir. 2005). Costs incurred for one's own convenience are not necessary and therefore not recoverable. E.g., Boogaard v. National Hockey League, 2017 WL 5517231, *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 17, 2017) (citing Majeske v. City of Chicago, 218 F.3d 816, 825 (7th Cir. 2000); Haroco, Inc. v. American Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago, 38 F.3d 1429, 1441 (7th Cir. 1994)).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants, as prevailing parties, seek to recover three general categories of costs: the filing fee, printing costs, and the costs associated with conducting depositions. Plaintiff raises various objections to each category of costs and also claims to be exempt from Rule 54(d) altogether because he is indigent. Each category of costs is handled in turn.

         A. Filing Fee

         Defendants seek to recover the $400 filing fee they paid when they removed the case to federal court. [58 at 1.] The only justification they give for removal is that they did so “in order to address the federal claims.” [59 at 2.] Plaintiff counters that removing the case to federal court was a voluntary, strategic choice, and in any event Defendants' proffered justification is inadequate. [61 at 3.]

         “Fees of the clerk” may be taxed. 28 U.S.C. § 1920. While filing fees are recoverable, the Seventh Circuit has not, however, squarely addressed whether removal fees are recoverable as “fees of the clerk.” See Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc., 2016 WL 7157353, *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 8, 2016) (quoting Cleary v. Philip Morris Inc., 2010 WL 4039793 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 14, 2010)). Several courts in this district have considered the issue, however, and they agree that removal fees can be taxed to the losing party. Id. (collecting cases); see also Cervantes v. Ardagh Group, 2019 WL 1923395, *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2019) (assuming that removal fees are taxable). The through-line of these cases is that filing the removal fee is a requirement of getting the case into a federal court, and therefore is recoverable. See Aguirre v. Turner Const. Co., 2008 WL 4790392, *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 27, 2008). The Court will not veer away from this consensus: Defendants are entitled to the $400 removal fee.

         B. ...

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