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Moore v. City of Cleveland

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

June 19, 2019

TATAYANA MOORE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CLEVELAND, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER [RESOLVING DOC. 84]

          JAMES S. GWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, former recruits at the Cleveland Police Academy, brought this suit under 20 U.S.C. § 1983. With their complaint, they allege that Defendants violated their procedural due process rights by terminating them on plagiarism charges without giving them notice and an opportunity for a hearing.

         The Court granted summary judgment for Defendants.[1] Defendants now move for attorney's fees and $14, 856.49 in costs.[2]

         District courts may award attorney's fees to a prevailing defendant in § 1983 actions, [3]but only where the plaintiff's action was “frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.”[4]

         Plaintiffs' action was none of those things. Plaintiffs raised close questions of state law and federal constitutional law. Plaintiffs' property-interest claim turned on a complex Cleveland Civil Service Rules interpretation issue. Their liberty-interest claim involved a factually close claim on a legal issue that has divided the circuits.[5] The Court denies Defendants' sought attorney's fees.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1), the Court generally awards costs to the prevailing party.[6] However, the Court may decline to do so when it would be inequitable under all circumstances in the case.

         While Defendants did not bog down the case or “inject[] unmeritorious issues, ”[7] the other relevant factors disfavor awarding costs.

         First, the claimed expenses are “unnecessary or unreasonably large.”[8] Defendants spent $3, 658.86 scanning Plaintiffs' academy notebooks and $7, 860.13 on hearing and deposition transcripts; neither played a substantive role in their summary judgment motion. Second, as discussed, the case was “close and difficult.”[9] Third, Plaintiffs litigated the case in good faith.[10] Finally, the case had public importance.[11] The public has an interest in the integrity of the Cleveland Police Academy and the fairness of its disciplinary procedures.

         Thus, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for attorney's fees and costs.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Doc. 82.

[2] Doc. 84. Plaintiffs oppose. Doc. 85.


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