71 F.3d 88 (2nd Cir. 1995), 371, LoSacco v. City of Middletown

Docket Nº:371, Docket 95-7298.
Citation:71 F.3d 88
Party Name:Frank X. LoSACCO, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF MIDDLETOWN, Sebastian J. Garafalo, George Aylward, Joseph Bibisi, John Chowaniec, and Relford Ward, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:December 05, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 88

71 F.3d 88 (2nd Cir. 1995)

Frank X. LoSACCO, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF MIDDLETOWN, Sebastian J. Garafalo, George Aylward,

Joseph Bibisi, John Chowaniec, and Relford Ward,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 371, Docket 95-7298.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

December 5, 1995

Submitted Nov. 1, 1995.

Page 89

Frank X. LoSacco, pro se.

Carl R. Ficks, Jr., Eisenberg, Anderson, Michalik & Lynch, New Britain, CT, for defendants-appellees.

Before LUMBARD, ALTIMARI, and McLAUGHLIN, Circuit Judges.

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McLAUGHLIN, Circuit Judge:

Frank X. LoSacco, pro se, appeals from a January 5, 1995 order of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Kevin F. Rowe, Clerk, per Robin D. Tabora, Deputy Clerk ) taxing costs in favor of the defendants as prevailing parties on a judgment that we had affirmed by summary order, LoSacco v. City of Middletown, No. 94-7142 (2d Cir. Aug. 16, 1994). He also appeals from a March 6, 1995 order of the district court (Thomas P. Smith, Magistrate Judge ) denying review of the award of costs. We affirm.

I.

In 1989, LoSacco employed a time-honored method of self-help: he got into a fight with James Smith. To LoSacco's dismay, Smith prevailed, stabbing him in the chest. Both men were arrested and prosecuted on assault charges. Smith was acquitted; LoSacco was convicted. LoSacco's conviction, however, was set aside on appeal, and the assault charge against him was ultimately dismissed.

Seeking vindication, LoSacco, pro se, brought an action in December, 1989 in federal court (Alan H. Nevas, Judge ) against the City of Middletown and various individuals pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, alleging false arrest, conspiracy, and pendent state law defamation claims. After years of discovery and motions practice, the case went to trial before a jury in November, 1993.

The trial lasted eight days. At the close of LoSacco's case, Judge Nevas granted judgment as a matter of law for the defendants on the conspiracy and defamation claims. He submitted the false arrest claim to the jury. After several hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants. LoSacco promptly moved for a new trial, but the motion was denied.

LoSacco then appealed, raising several issues. We found only one worthy of mention, and affirmed by summary order on July 25, 1994. The mandate did not issue, however, because we filed an amended summary order on August 16, 1994. LoSacco v. City of Middletown, No. 94-7142 (2d Cir. Aug. 16, 1994). On September 21, 1994, the mandate finally issued, returning jurisdiction to the district court.

Under Local Rule 17 of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, the successful defendants had ten days after our mandate issued to "file with the Clerk and serve on all other parties a verified bill of costs ... setting forth each item of costs that is claimed." D.Conn.Loc.R. 17(a)(1). The defendants failed to do so, missing the filing deadline by several days. Counsel for defendants then moved for leave to file the defendants' bill of costs out of time, and attached a copy of the bill of costs he proposed to file. His excuse for missing the filing deadline was that he was on his honeymoon when our mandate issued.

LoSacco opposed the motion with a "Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Leave to File Bill of Costs and Bill of Costs." He objected to (a) the defendants' motion to file their bill of costs out of time, and (b) the proposed bill of costs attached to that motion. Although LoSacco focused almost entirely on the defendants' purported lack of good cause for not filing a timely bill of costs, he did object to some $240 in witness fees listed in the proposed bill of costs. He contended that these witnesses--police officers--had never been paid any witness fees.

Counsel for defendants filed a reply to LoSacco's opposition papers. He noted that under Local Rule 17(a), the time to file the bill of costs began to run only upon the issuance of our mandate on September 21, 1994. Conceding that the bill of costs was due on October 1, 1994, he emphasized that it was only nine days late.

Judge Nevas granted the defendants' motion to file out of time on October 19, 1994, and they filed their bill of costs that very day. Over two months went by, during which LoSacco never submitted a separate document itemizing objections to the bill of costs, as required under Local Rule 17(b). Because LoSacco had failed to file any objections, the Clerk granted all of the costs sought--some $6,700--on January 5, 1995.

LoSacco promptly moved for review of the Clerk's order, pursuant to Local Rule 17(d), arguing that the memo he filed several

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months earlier should have counted as an objection to the bill of costs. At this point the procedural threads become ravelled. Although Local Rule 17(d) provides for "review of the Clerk's ruling on the bill of costs" by "the Judge before whom the case was assigned," Judge Nevas referred LoSacco's motion to Magistrate Judge Smith, presumably under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636(b)(1)(A) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a), even though this was not a "pretrial" matter, or, alternatively, under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636(b)(3).

On March 6, 1995, by endorsement order, Magistrate Judge Smith "denied" LoSacco's motion because LoSacco presented "no evidence that he filed an objection to the bill of costs with the clerk as required by Local Rule 17(b)." The magistrate judge expressly ruled that Losacco's "objection to the defendant[s'] motion for leave to file a bill of costs was not an objection to the bill of costs."

On March 16, 1995, LoSacco filed with this Court a notice of appeal from the Clerk's order and from Magistrate Judge Smith's order. Simultaneously, he filed with the district court a motion for "reconsideration" of Magistrate Judge Smith's ruling, and an appeal of that ruling to the district court, presumably under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636(c)(4). On April 3, 1995, Judge Nevas denied both the motion for reconsideration and the "Appeal of Magistrate Judge Smith's March 6, 1995 Ruling." LoSacco never amended his notice of appeal to include Judge Nevas's April 3, 1995 order.

II.

On appeal, LoSacco argues that his memorandum opposing the motion to file the bill of costs out of time doubled as an objection to the bill of costs ultimately filed, and that the Clerk erred by not considering it. He thus believes that he adequately objected at least to the $240 in witness fees ultimately awarded to the defendants.

As a preliminary matter, it is by no means obvious that we have jurisdiction to hear this appeal. It may be supposed that the Clerk's order taxing costs, had it become final, would have been appealable. See Farmer v. Arabian Am. Oil Co., 324 F.2d 359, 361-62 (2d Cir.1963) (in...

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