United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
Matthew W. Stumm, Plaintiff,
Town of Pittsboro, and Christi Patterson, Defendants.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
case involves a civil rights action brought by three current
or former Pittsboro, Indiana police officers-Matthew
(“Matt”) Stumm, Jason Stumm, and Brian
Helmer-against the Town of Pittsboro
(“Town”), the Chief of Police, the
Assistant Chief of Police, and a Captain with the neighboring
Plainfield Police Department. The Plaintiffs asserted that
the Defendants violated the Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution and the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C.
§ 2510, et seq., by recording their
conversations inside the police station, without their
knowledge or a court order, and reviewing or using those
recordings. After some claims were disposed of on summary
judgment, Matt and Jason Stumm proceeded to trial, where the
jury found in favor of Matt Stumm against the Town and the
Chief of Police. Judgment was entered, [Filing No.
90], and presently pending before the Court are Matt
Stumm's Bill of Costs, [Filing No. 91], and
Petition for Attorneys' Fees, [Filing No. 93].
These matters are now ripe for the Court's review.
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) states that, unless a
statute, rule, or court order provides otherwise, costs
should generally be awarded to the “prevailing
party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). “The process for
awarding court costs is intended to be summary.”
Extra Equipamentos E Exportacao Ltda. v. Case Corp.,
541 F.3d 719, 727 (7th Cir. 2008). The district court should
not resolve arguments regarding the winning party's
strategy in litigating the case, id., but
nonetheless must discern whether the claimed costs were
“reasonable and necessary, ” Northbrook
Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Procter & Gamble
Co., 924 F.2d 633, 642 (7th Cir. 1991). The losing party
“bears the burden of an affirmative showing that the
taxed costs are not appropriate.” Beamon v.
Marshall & Ilsley Trust Co., 411 F.3d 854, 864 (7th
addition, a court may award reasonable attorney's fees to
the prevailing party in a civil rights action. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988. Determining what fees are reasonable is a
“contextual and fact-specific” inquiry.
Montanez v. Simon, 755 F.3d 547, 553 (7th Cir.
2014). The party seeking fees must submit appropriate
documentation to meet the burden of establishing entitlement
to a fee award. Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838
(2011). However, the determination of fees “should not
result in a second major litigation, ” as the essential
goal in shifting fees is “to do rough justice, not to
achieve auditing perfection.” Id. (internal
quotations and citations omitted). “[T]rial courts may
take into account their overall sense of a suit, and may use
estimates in calculating and allocating an attorney's
Amended Complaint, each of the three Plaintiffs asserted that
each of the four Defendants violated their rights under the
Fourth Amendment and the Wiretap Act. [Filing No.
28.] Plaintiffs alleged that Chief of Police Christi
Patterson directed Assistant Chief of Police Major Scott King
to install a video camera with audio recording capabilities
in the lobby of the Pittsboro Police Department. [Filing
No. 28 at 3.] They alleged that this camera recorded
their private conversations without their knowledge, Chief
Patterson and Major King had been listening to the
recordings, and the Town thereby maintained an
unconstitutional policy of intercepting, recording, and
disclosing personal conversations. [Filing No. 28 at
5-6.] They also alleged that the recordings were
improperly used in an investigation concerning Matt
Stumm-conducted by Captain Carrie Weber of the Plainfield
Police Department-for allegedly criticizing Chief Patterson
and Major King and allowing an unauthorized civilian rider in
his patrol vehicle. [Filing No. 28 at 3-5.]
moved for summary judgment, [Filing No. 41], which
the Court granted in part and denied in part, [Filing No.
50]. Specifically, the Court granted the motion as to
Mr. Helmer's claims against all Defendants, concluding
that he had not produced sufficient evidence that his
conversations had been recorded. [Filing No. 50 at
15-17.] The Court also granted the motion as to all of
the Plaintiffs' claims against Captain Weber, because
there was no evidence showing that she knew that the
recordings she reviewed were illegally obtained. [Filing
No. 50 at 17-18.] However, the Court denied the motion
as to Matt Stumm's and Jason Stumm's claims against
Chief Patterson, Major King, and the Town, concluding that
genuine issues of material fact existed. [Filing No. 50
at 10-15; Filing No. 50 at 19-22.]
remaining claims proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a
verdict in favor of Matt Stumm against Chief Patterson and
the Town on the Fourth Amendment and Wiretap Act claims,
awarding him $15, 000 in damages. [Filing No. 84 at
4-5; Filing No. 84 at 8-9.] However, the jury
concluded that Matt Stumm had not proved either of his claims
against Major King, and Jason Stumm had not proved any of his
claims against any Defendant. [Filing No. 84 at
2-6.] After judgment was entered, [Filing No.
90], Matt Stumm filed a Bill of Costs, [Filing No.
91], and Motion for Attorney Fees, [Filing No.
93]. The Court addresses each in turn.
Stumm seeks a total of $1, 277.27 in costs, consisting of
$400 for the filing fee, $28 for fees for service of
summonses and subpoenas, and $849.27 for transcripts.
[Filing No. 91 at 1.] He attaches an invoice sent to
his counsel by Russell Schiener, reflecting a total cost of
$624.27 for transcript preparation, as well as a copy of a
check written to Mr. Schiener in the amount of $225.
[Filing No. 91 at 3-4.]
object to the Bill of Costs, first arguing that Matt Stumm is
not a “prevailing party” for purposes of Rule
54(d) because he obtained a favorable judgment on only four
of the seven claims he asserted and recovered only 21 to 30%
of the amount of damages he sought. [Filing No. 94 at
94 at 1-3.] Defendants further argue that, even if Matt
Stumm is a prevailing party, he is not entitled to recover
the costs he requests because: (1) there is no itemization or
documentation to support the $28 in costs for the service of
summonses or subpoenas; and (2) the submitted invoice only
demonstrates $624.27 in costs for transcripts, while he
requests $849.27. [Filing No. 94 at 3-4.] Finally,
Defendants argue that, because Matt Stumm was one of three
plaintiffs, if costs are awarded, they should be reduced by a
third. [Filing No. 94 at 4.]
Stumm responds that he is a prevailing party and there is no
bar against receiving costs related to time spent on rejected
claims where, as here, those claims were intertwined with
successful claims. [Filing No. 95 at 2.] While he
concedes that the $28 charge was incorrect, he maintains that
$849.27 is the correct amount for transcripts and attaches
another invoice showing the additional $225 in charges.
[Filing No. 95 at 2]. He argues that, even if he
alone had pursued only his successful claims, he would have
incurred the same costs by paying the filing fee and deposing
the other Plaintiffs and Defendants as witnesses. [Filing
No. 95 at 2-3.]
Rule 54(d), “prevailing party” means “a
party who has obtained some relief in an action, even if that
party has not sustained all of his or her claims.”
First Commodity Traders, Inc. v. Heinold Commodities,
Inc., 766 F.2d 1007, 1015 (7th Cir. 1985) (citation
omitted). The party must have been successful “as to
the substantial part of the litigation.” Id.
(internal quotations and citation omitted); see also
Northbrook, 924 F.2d at 641-42 (concluding that the
party who “prevailed on the resolution of th[e] central
issue” was the “prevailing party”).
the Court determines that Matt Stumm is a “prevailing
party” within the meaning of Rule 54(d). Although he
obtained a favorable verdict against only two of the four
named Defendants, he was asserting the same claims against
each, and the jury agreed with him on the central issue of
the case-whether the recording and use of his conversations
without his knowledge violated the Constitution and the
Wiretap Act. SeeNorthbrook, 924 F.2d at
641-42. Because the parties agree that the $28 cost for
service of summonses and subpoenas is ...