Northern District of Texas Decision on the Taxation of Costs

This past month Magistrate Judge David Horan issued a decision, Gonzales v. Pan Am. Labs., L.L.C. ,No. 3:14-cv-2787-L, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88280 (N.D. Tex. May 4, 2018), recommending that the Court grant the Plaintiff's Objection to the Defendants' Bill of Costs and the Motion for the Court to Review/Retax Costs.

The Defendants' Bill of Costs included fees for transcript; printing; service of subpoenas; and almost $6,000 in computer forensic services. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) gives a court discretion to award costs to the party that prevails in an action. 28 U.S.C. § 1920 allows a court to tax as costs printing and copying fees, as well as fees for printed or recorded transcripts.

The Court sustained the objection to the transcription costs because the transcripts were not prepared for use in this case. Judge Horan also declined to approve rush fees assessed by a process server. An objection to copying costs was also sustained because the Defendants did not show these costs were incurred to use the copies in litigation and not just for the convenience of the counsel. "[I]n support of their Bill of Costs, Defendants submitted only a bare affidavit that repeats the declaration on the clerk's approved form stating that all of the requested costs were necessarily incurred in this action. See Dkt. No. 56 at 3 of 23. That conclusory assertion alone is not enough, and, without more, the Court cannot determine whether the copies were necessarily obtained for use in the present litigation." Id. at 9.

Judge Horan also recommended that the electronic database services were not covered by 28 U.S.C. § 1920. "Congress did not use language that would have unequivocally intended 'printing' under Section 1920(3) to include electronic data copying and storage." Id. at *16. He also denied a request to tax costs for printing electronically stored documents. Even though copies may be necessary for the process of document production they are not necessarily obtained for use in the litigation. "Defendants' choosing to proactively gather any and all relevant and discoverable materials and copy them onto an electronic database for potential production in discovery —although perhaps efficient, convenient, and cost conscious— does not automatically render the copying of such materials taxable under Section 1920(4) without further explanation." Id. at 23.