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Chesser v. Director Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 15, 2019



          Nina Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff Zachary A. Chesser's (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Chesser”) Objections to the Imposition of Costs (or “Objections”), filed October 23, 2018. [#213]. This civil action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge to fully preside over for all purposes. See [#37]; 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73; D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.2(d). Having reviewed the Objection to Costs, Defendant Director of Bureau of Prisons' (“Defendant” or “BOP”) Response, and the applicable case law, the court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections for the reasons stated herein.


         This court presumes the Parties' familiarity with the background of this case and will therefore discuss it only as it pertains to the instant Objections. Plaintiff initiated this civil action on December 22, 2014 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. [#1-1]. Plaintiff, a Muslim, alleged that the BOP substantially burdened his exercise of religion in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 et seq. See generally [id.; #3; #58]. The District Court for the District of Columbia transferred this matter to this District on September 8, 2015. See [#1]. Upon his transfer to this District, the court directed Mr. Chesser to file an Amended and Second Amended Complaint, and the Honorable Lewis T. Babcock drew two of Plaintiff's four claims to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See [#4; #20; #22; #24; #25].

         On March 25, 2016, the court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider the dismissal of two of his four claims, but granted in part his Motion for Leave to Amend [#46]. See [#53]. Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), the operative pleading in this matter, on June 9, 2016. [#58]. The TAC asserted two claims against Defendant for violations of RFRA: the BOP's policy of “holding inmates in solitary confinement due to their ties to terrorism” (“Claim III”) and its conditions of confinement at the ADMAX United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado (“ADX”) substantially burdened the exercise of Mr. Chesser's sincerely held religious beliefs (“Claim IV”). See [id.]. The court granted in part the BOP's Motion to Dismiss the TAC, leaving intact a portion of Claim III and the entirety of Claim IV. See [#86].

         Following several impasses with discovery the court granted the Parties' request for a 120-day extension of the discovery and dispositive motions deadline, extending those deadlines to January 23 and February 26, 2018, respectively. See [#159]. Each party then received an additional extension of time to file their respective dispositive motions. See [#174; #179]. The BOP filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on March 2, 2018 [#180] and Plaintiff his Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on April 2, 2018 [#193]. On August 6, 2018, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the BOP on all claims and against Plaintiff, and awarded costs to the BOP as the prevailing party. See [#208]. Final Judgment entered in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on August 7, 2018. [#209].

         Defendant then submitted its proposed bill of costs on August 10, 2018. See [#210]. On October 2, 2018, following a hearing on the proposed bill of costs, the Clerk of the Court assessed costs in the amount of $2, 330.80 against Plaintiff. See [#212]. Plaintiff objected to the imposition of costs on October 23, 2018, arguing that the BOP conducted itself in bad faith during litigation and that Plaintiff cannot pay the assessed amount. See [#213; #213-1]. Defendant has since responded, see [#214], and though Plaintiff has not since replied, nothing precludes the court from addressing Mr. Chesser's Objections at this time. See D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(d).


         Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, “Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party. . . . The clerk may tax costs on 14 days' notice. On motion served within the next 7 days, the court may review the clerk's action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1).[1] Indeed, the denial of costs to the prevailing party is a severe remedy, see Klein v. Grynberg, 44 F.3d 1497, 1507 (10th Cir. 1995), and the district court must support its denial of costs with valid reasons, see Utah Animal Rights Coal. v. Salt Lake Cty., 566 F.3d 1236, 1245 (10th Cir. 2009). In several instances, however, the denial of costs may be appropriate, such as when:

1. the prevailing party is only partially successful,
2. the prevailing party was obstructive and acted in bad faith during the course of the litigation,
3. damages are “only nominal, ”
4. the nonprevailing party is indigent,
5. costs are “unreasonably high or unnecessary, ...

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