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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Salguero v Argueta, 2017 WL 4475995 (E.D. North Carolina, 2017) [El Salvador ][Costs]

          In Salguero v Argueta, 2017 WL 4475995 (E.D. North Carolina, 2017) the matter was before the clerk on petitioner Jose Gustavo Moneterros Salguero’s motion for payment of costs following the court’s order to return his minor child to El Salvador.. Respondent did not file a response, and the deadline for doing so passed. This matter was referred to the clerk for ruling at the direction of the presiding judge.

        The clerk’s decision stated that under the plain language of the statute, 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3)  the court has the duty to order the payment of necessary expenses and legal fees unless respondent satisfies her burden of showing that such an order would be clearly inappropriate. In this case, respondent failed to offer any response, and therefore the clerk could not find that she  met her burden in establishing that an award of expenses to petitioner was clearly inappropriate. Accordingly, the clerk only considered whether the expenses requested by petitioner constituted a “necessary expense” related to the return of the minor child and are reasonable. See Dawson v. McPherson, No. 1:14CV225, 2014 WL 4748512, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Sept. 23, 2014); Trudrung v. Trudrung, No. 1:10CV73, 2010 WL 2867593, at *1 (M.D.N.C. July 21, 2010).

          Petitioner sought $2,064.20 for expenses incurred by him personally, and submitted supporting receipts. His expenses included the costs he incurred in purchasing a visa and passport to travel to the United States ($219.00), a round trip flight from El Salvador ($777.60), a one-way flight to El Salvador for the child ($426.60), and his lodging in North Carolina during the custody exchange of the child ($641.00). The clerk found these costs were all necessary expenses related to the return of the child and were reasonable. See Hirst v. Tiberghien, Civil Action No., 6:13-00729-JM, 2012 WL 6827813, at *5 (D.S.C. Dec. 20, 2013) (awarding a petitioner expenses including roundtrip airfare for petitioner, lodging, and return airfare for children); Judge v. Williams, No. 4:11-CV-119-F, 2011 WL 3759476, at *2 (E.D.N.C. August 25, 2011) (awarding expenses for petitioner’s roundtrip airfare, lodging, and return airfare for child).

           Petitioner also sought expenses incurred by counsel on his behalf, in the amount of $12,427.36. In declarations, petitioner’s current and prior counsel stated that their retention agreements with petitioner required him to reimburse counsel’s law firms for costs incurred on his behalf during the representation of him in this action. In support of his request for these expenses, petitioner submitted  declarations of counsel, and for some expenses, supporting invoices. The expenses for which petitioner submitted supporting receipts or invoices include the costs for court interpreters for the hearing in this matter ($3,682.00), costs for translation of documents offered as exhibits in the case ($2,149.29), fees for the transcripts of the hearing on the petition ($1,695.75), lodging for his counsel and some meals during the hearing on the petition ($873.03), lodging for his counsel during the custody exchange ($208.69), the services of a private investigator to confirm the location of the child within the Eastern District ($731.80), the costs of subpoenaing airline records ($20.00, and the fee for an expert witness ($350.00). The clerk found  that these constituted necessary expenses related to the return of the child. See Cuellar v. Joyce, 603 F.3d 1142-43 (9th Cir. 2010) (finding the expenses incurred by attorney for lodging and meals during oral argument and post-argument mediation to be “necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of petitioner); Dawson, 2014 WL 4748512, at * 8 (awarding petitioner expenses for, inter alia, the cost of a private investigator to locate the abducted children in the United States); Saldivar v. Rodela, 894 F. Supp. 2d 916, 945 (W.D. Tex. 2012) (awarding costs for expert witness fees); Neves v. Neves, 637 F. Supp. 2d 322, 344 (W.D.N.C. 2009) (awarding petitioner translation expenses); Friedrich v. Thompson, No. 1:00-CV-772, 1999 WL 33951234, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Nov. 26, 1999) (awarding petitioner the cost of translating documents from German to English). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1920 (providing for the taxation of costs of fees of court reporters for transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case, compensation of interpreters, and fees for copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the case); Saldivar, 894 F. Supp. 2d at 943 (concluding that costs taxable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920 are “per se awardable” under ICARA). The clerk also finds that these requested expenses, supported by invoices, are reasonable.

          Petitioner also sought expenses incurred by his counsel on his behalf which were not supported by invoices; his current and prior counsel stated in declarations that invoices are not available. These expenses included costs for counsel’s travel for trial and the custody exchange ($1,034.45); meals during the trial and custody exchange ($243.02);1 postage, telephone, and courier costs ($843.36); color copies, scanning, and printing costs ($31.40); long distance phone charges ($24.26); filing fee ($400.00), and attempted service of process costs ($140.31). With the exception of the filing fee, which was documented in the record = these remaining expenses were not awarded. Without supporting invoices, additional documentation, or some further explanation from counsel, the clerk could not find that the costs for postage, telephone, courier costs, copies, scanning, printing or long distance phone charges were necessary, nor can the clerk find any of the other expenses were reasonable. See Whallon v. Lynn, No. Civ.A.00-11009-RWZ, 2003 WL 1906174, at * (D. Mass. April 18, 2003) (declining to award petitioner “inadequately documented” expenses), aff’d, 356 F.3d 138 (1st Cir. 2004); Dawson, 2014 WL 4748512, at *9 (refusing to award expenses for which a petitioner provided no documentation because “[i]f the Court cannot assess the validity of the expenses, it cannot begin to address whether such expenses were in fact reasonable or necessary”). 

          Petitioner’s request for expenses incurred on his behalf by counsel was reduced by the amount of $2,316.80., Petitioner was awarded costs in the amount of $12,174.76.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pliego v Hayes, 2017 WL 4322445 (2017, W.D. Kentucky)[Turkey] [Fees, Costs and Expenses]

In Pliego v Hayes, 2017 WL 4322445 (2017, W.D. Kentucky) Petitioner Pliego Moved for Fees, Costs, and Expenses. At the request of the Court, the parties filed affidavits in support and in opposition to the motion. 

  The Court observed that there were two prior cases in the district court in which it granted Pliego’s petition and awarded fees. Following Pliego I, the Court awarded fees to Pliego in the amount of $75,091.425, which represented a 50% reduction in the award sought by Pliego. Pliego, 2015 WL 1893426, at *1–3 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 24, 2015). Following Pliego II, the Court awarded Pliego fees in the amount of $100,471.18. Following the Court’s grant of Pliego’s second Petition for Return of Child in Pliego II, Hayes appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the Court. Pliego v. Hayes, 843 F.3d 226 (6th Cir. 2016). Pliego now sought the fees, costs, and expenses incurred during the appeal of Pliego II to the Sixth Circuit.  Though Pliego requested that the Sixth Circuit award him those fees on appeal, the Sixth Circuit found that the district court was the proper Court to determine any potential award of fees, and it therefore “d [id] not reach the issue of whether the district court that ordered the child’s return in Pliego II may, upon separate motion, award fees incurred on th[e] appeal.” Pliego, 843 F.3d at 238. Pliego requested total attorney and paralegal fees of $56,122.50. Additionally, Pliego requests costs and expenses incurred during the appeal in the amount of $2,477.94. 

Hayes argued that the Court should not give an award of fees for several reasons. Among these are the facts that, according to Hayes, she has since been awarded custody by Turkish courts, Pliego has refused to comply with Turkish custody orders, Pliego has continued to assert his immunity to avoid paying any child support or legal fees to Hayes, that Pliego was incurring about $750 a month for supervised visits with her son, and that an award of fees would render Hayes unable to care for her son. Moreover, Hayes contended that $58,600.44 was excessive. Hayes stated that she had incurred additional costs and attorney fees resulting from the wrongful acts of the Petitioner, including: (a) refusing to comply with custody and visitation orders of the Ankara 11th Family Court; (b) directly interfering in timely execution of all custody and visitation orders by reasserting diplomatic immunity rights; (c) refusing to disclose the whereabouts of the child; and (d) filing three separate additional suits, all dismissed by the courts. 

The district court held that many of the issues detailed in Hayes’ supporting Affidavits, such as Pliego’s alleged “wrongful” actions in the Turkish courts, were irrelevant to the Court’s determination. However, certain matters, such as Hayes’ custody of her son, ability to obtain child support, and her ability to pay an award of costs and fees were relevant to this determination. The effect of Pliego’s requested costs and fees on Hayes’ ability to care for her child was a concern for the Court. Hayes argued that, should her award of sole custody be affirmed, she will be solely “financially responsible for the child, since the Petitioner specifically excluded any action for child support from his immunity waiver.” Second, the Court was also concerned with Hayes’ ability to pay such a high amount of fees and costs, having already been ordered to pay more than $175,000 in costs and fees following prior proceedings in this matter. Hayes further states in her response that “[s]he is not a diplomat, she does not have her living expenses paid by the US Government, [and that] she has been self supporting at a far lower salary than Petitioner’s, with far greater living expenses.” The Court found these arguments to be meritorious.

Based on a review of the information and supporting documents, the Court found that an award of $58,600.44 would be clearly inappropriate, and reduced the overall legal fees by 75%. Petitioner was awarded $14,650.11 for necessary attorney’s fees and costs.