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S.C. Voter ID court costs order

S.C. Voter ID court costs order

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Published by The State Newspaper
S.C. Voter ID court costs order
S.C. Voter ID court costs order

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Published by: The State Newspaper on Jan 05, 2013
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08/09/2013

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1
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
 
Civil Action No. 12-203(BMK) (CKK) (JDB)ORDER 
(January 4, 2013)South Carolina has filed a Bill of Costs seeking reimbursement for certain expenses itincurred in this case, in which South Carolina sought preclearance of its voter ID law, Act R54,under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court denied preclearance for the 2012 elections,citing the short time left for implementation, but granted preclearance for all future elections based on South Carolina’s interpretation of Act R54. The Court hence entered judgment indefendants’ favor for the 2012 elections and in South Carolina’s favor for elections taking placein 2013 or subsequent years. Defendants and defendant-intervenors oppose South Carolina’s Billof Costs on several grounds. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that SouthCarolina is entitled to costs, but that certain items must be excluded.Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, “[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or acourt order provides otherwise, costs—other than attorney’s fees—should be allowed to theSTATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA,Plaintiff,v.UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, andERIC HIMPTON HOLDER, JR., in hisofficial capacity as Attorney General of theUnited States,Defendants,JAMES DUBOSE,
et al.
,Defendant-Intervenors.
!ase 1:12-cv-00203-!KK-BMK-JDB Document 316 Filed 01/04/13 Page 1 of 5
 
2 prevailing party.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1).
1
South Carolina is the prevailing party. To be sure,South Carolina did not obtain everything it sought. But the prevailing party test does not demandcomplete success. The Supreme Court has held that “plaintiffs may be considered ‘prevailing parties’ for attorney’s fees purposes if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation whichachieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.424, 433 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although Hensley interpreted “prevailing party” in the context of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, rather than costs under Rule54(d), the prevailing party analysis is “generally the same” for § 1988 and Rule 54(d). See
 
Tunison v. Cont’l Airlines Corp., 162 F.3d 1187, 1189 (D.C. Cir. 1998). And the D.C. Circuithas noted for Rule 54(d) itself that costs are allowed even “where only nominal damages aregranted after final judgment on the merits”—in other words, where plaintiff obtained only somerelief. See Friends for All Children, Inc. v. Lockheed Aircraft Corp., 725 F.2d 1392, 1399 (D.C.Cir. 1984). Here, South Carolina has undoubtedly achieved some of the benefit it sought: itobtained preclearance of Act R54 for elections in 2013 and subsequent years.Because South Carolina is the prevailing party, a strong presumption attaches that it isentitled to costs. See Baez v. Dep’t of Justice, 684 F.2d 999, 1004 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (en banc)(per curiam) (“The presumption explicitly stated in Rule 54(d)—that the prevailing party isnormally entitled to costs in the district court as a matter of course—has proven very powerfulindeed.”). This is not a case where the relief the prevailing party obtained is trivial, or wheredefendants filed successful counterclaims, nor are there other extraordinary circumstances that
1
Sovereign immunity is no bar as 28 U.S.C. § 2412 allows costs to be awarded to a prevailing party against theUnited States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1).
!ase 1:12-cv-00203-!KK-BMK-JDB Document 316 Filed 01/04/13 Page 2 of 5
 
3rebut the presumption. South Carolina is accordingly entitled to costs from both defendants anddefendant-intervenors.
2
 Turning, then, to South Carolina’s specific request, several reductions are appropriate.First, South Carolina requests costs for fees it incurred in obtaining transcripts of depositions,hearings, and trial. The costs that may be awarded to prevailing parties are set forth in 28 U.S.C.§ 1920. See Taniguchi v. Kan Pac. Saipan, Ltd., 132 S. Ct. 1997, 1999-2000 (2012). Under § 1920, South Carolina is entitled to fees for transcripts “necessarily obtained for use in thecase.” See 28 U.S.C § 1920(2). The Court ordered that the parties’ briefing cite such transcripts,and they were hence necessarily obtained for use in the case. But the fees South Carolina seeksinclude charges for accelerated turnaround of the transcripts, charges to which defendants object.Transcripts are reimbursed at the court reporter’s standard rate as a matter of course. See LocalCivil Rule 54.1(d)(6), (7). Reimbursement for a higher, expedited rate may, however, be justifiedwhere the special character of the litigation necessitates such services. See, e.g., Fogleman v.ARAMCO, 920 F.2d 278, 286 (5th Cir. 1991). Considering all the circumstances of this case,including any responsibility of South Carolina for delay, the Court finds that the same day, one-day, and two-day turnaround was not necessary to the litigation. Accordingly, the added chargesfor expedition shall be excluded.South Carolina is similarly entitled to fees incurred to transcribe the audio recordings of Act R54’s legislative history, which South Carolina discovered late in the litigation. Arguing thatno costs should be awarded for the transcription, defendants point to emails in which South
2
Defendant-intervenors argue that no award of costs should run against them because their participation should beencouraged and because they cannot afford to pay. But “costs are routinely awarded” against an unsuccessful litigantin civil rights litigation. Long v. Howard Univ., 561 F. Supp. 2d 85, 97 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing cases). Other  provisions, for instance the allowance of fees and costs if defendant-intervenors win, achieve Congress’s desiredincentives. And defendant-intervenors have failed to establish an inability to pay costs given their hefty expendituresthroughout the litigation.
!ase 1:12-cv-00203-!KK-BMK-JDB Document 316 Filed 01/04/13 Page 3 of 5

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