United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO OVERRULE
CLERK'S ORDER SETTLING COSTS
HONORABLE GREGORY J. FOURATT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' “Motion
for Court Review of Clerk's Order Settling Costs”
[ECF 296] (“Motion”). The Motion is fully
briefed. See ECFs 297, 301. For the reasons stated
below, the Court will DENY Plaintiffs'
April 2014, Plaintiffs, U.S. agricultural workers who are
represented by the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., filed a
lawsuit that eventually included nine Defendants.
See ECFs 1, 103. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants
recruited them under false pretenses, thereby violating
provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker
Protection Act (“AWPA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1801
et seq., and New Mexico common law. See ECF
1. In January and September 2018, the Court granted the
summary judgment motions of two Defendants, Cervantes
Agribusiness and Cervantes Enterprises Inc. (the
“Cervantes Defendants”). See ECFs 232,
thereafter, in October 2018, the Cervantes Defendants filed a
Bill of Costs, requesting that the Clerk tax costs against
Plaintiffs in the amount of $8, 076.72. ECF 247.
Plaintiff's did not contest any of the itemized charges
in this Bill of Costs, and in May 2019, the Clerk granted the
Bill of Costs in its entirety. See ECF 295 (noting
that “Plaintiff's failure to respond to
Defendant's Bill of Costs constitute[d] consent to grant
the motion” (citing D.N.M. LR-Civ 7.1(b)). Plaintiffs
then filed the instant Motion, asking this Court to find that
the taxation of costs against them is inappropriate and to
thus deny any award of costs to the Cervantes Defendants. ECF
296 at 1, 4.
argue that the Court should not award costs to Cervantes
Defendants as the prevailing party because (1) Plaintiffs are
indigent and cannot afford such costs and (2) awarding such
costs would punish Plaintiffs and “create a chilling
effect on local farmworkers' ability to redress future
violations.” Id. at 2-3; see also ECF
301 at 2.
54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
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.” This Rule thus “creates a presumption
that the district court will award costs to the prevailing
party.” Cantrell v. Int'l Bd. of Elec.
Workers, 69 F.3d 456, 458-59 (10th Cir. 1995) (citations
omitted). Therefore, “[t]o deny a prevailing
party its costs is ‘in the nature of a severe
penalty,' such that there ‘must be some apparent
reason to penalize the prevailing party if costs are
to be denied.'” Marx v. Gen. Revenue
Corp., 668 F.3d 1174, 1182 (10th Cir. 2011) (emphasis
added) (quoting Klein v. Grynberg, 44 F.3d 1497,
1507 (10th Cir. 1995)). Furthermore, “the
non-prevailing party [has the burden] to overcome the
presumption that these costs will be taxed.” In re
Williams Sec. Litig. - WCG Subclass, 558 F.3d 1144, 1148
(10th Cir. 2009).
district court may properly deny costs to a prevailing
party” when, inter alia, “the
nonprevailing party is indigent.” Debord, 737
F.3d at 659-60 (citing Cantrell, 69 F.3d at
459).But while indigent circumstances may be
considered, “a district court does not abuse its
discretion in awarding costs to the prevailing party simply
because the non-prevailing parties were indigent.”
Bryant v. Sagamore Ins. Co., 618 Fed.Appx. 423 (10th
Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (citing Rodriguez v. Whiting
Farms, Inc., 360 F.3d 1180, 1190-91 (10th Cir. 2004)
(affirming an award of costs- despite the plaintiffs'
indigent status-because plaintiffs failed to show that the
prevailing party should be penalized)).
have not overcome the presumption that costs should be
awarded to the Cervantes Defendants as the prevailing party.
Although “[t]he burden is on [Plaintiffs], . . . they
have not offered any reason why [the Cervantes Defendants]
should be penalized in this case.” Rodriguez,
360 F.3d at 1190-91. Instead, Plaintiffs refer to their own
indigency and how paying such costs will affect them (e.g.,
through a chilling effect on future AWPA litigation) as
justification for denying an award of costs to the Cervantes
Defendants. See ECF 296 at 2-3. Plaintiffs have not,
for example, alleged that these Defendants were
“obstructive, ” “acted in bad faith,
” or that they otherwise deserve to be penalized.
Debord, 737 F.3d at 660.
the Court “may” deny awarding such costs to the
Cervantes Defendants because the Plaintiffs are
indigent-thereby inflicting a “severe penalty” on
these Defendants-the Court is not required to do so.
Furthermore, the Court is hesitant to penalize the Cervantes
Defendants, who are presumed to be entitled to such costs,
simply to avoid penalizing Plaintiffs. Although
Plaintiff argues that such a punishment would generally chill
their (and others') ability to redress future
AWPA-related violations, the issue is whether the Cervantes
Defendants-who were deemed not liable and who did not
initiate this lawsuit-“should be penalized.”
Rodriguez, 360 F.3d at 1190. And as no adequate
justification for penalizing these Defendants has been
presented to this Court, it will DENY
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion is