United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on Defendant Polk County
Sheriff's Office's Motion for an Award of
Attorneys' Fees and Costs against Plaintiff Evangelene
Peack (Doc. # 59), filed on February 14, 2017. Peack failed
to file a response to the Motion. For the reasons that
follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Title VII action arose from Peack's termination from the
Polk County Sheriff's Office on July 19, 2013. (Marcum
Decl. Doc. # 49-3 at ¶ 18; Fulse Decl. Doc. #49-2 at
¶ 5). Peack, proceeding pro se, filed her first
Complaint on December 12, 2015 (Doc. # 1), and Amended
Complaint on February 1, 2016 (Doc. #17). Subsequently, Peack
filed her Second Amended Complaint on May 12, 2016 (Doc. #
36), to which the Sheriff's Office filed its Answer on
May 26, 2016 (Doc. #37).
Sheriff's Office timely filed its Motion for Summary
Judgment on November 15, 2016. (Doc. # 48). Peack responded
on January 12, 2017. (Doc. # 53). The Sheriff's Office
did not file a reply. On February 2, 2017, this Court granted
the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 56). The Clerk
subsequently entered judgment in favor of the Sheriff's
Office on February 3, 2017. (Doc. # 57).
February 14, 2017, the Sheriff's Office filed its Motion
seeking an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. #
59). At this juncture, the time for filing a response to the
pending Motion has expired and Peack has failed to respond.
The Court now turns to the Sheriff's Office's Motion.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k)
courts are afforded discretion in awarding reasonable
attorney's fees to the prevailing party in actions
brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Sayers
v. Stewart Sleep Ctr., Inc., 140 F.3d 1351, 1353 (11th
Cir. 1998). When determining whether attorney's fees
should be awarded, the Court reviews the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-prevailing party. Johnson
v. Florida, 348 F.3d 1334, 1354 (11th Cir. 2003). The
equitable considerations involved depend, however, upon
whether the prevailing party is the defendant or the
plaintiff. Sayers, 140 F.3d at 1353. Policy concerns
militate against awarding attorney's fees to defendants
in civil rights cases because such practice may discourage
plaintiffs from bringing civil rights lawsuits. Id.
Christiansburg Garment Company v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412
(1978), the Supreme Court announced the relevant criteria
governing an award of attorney's fees to a prevailing
Title VII defendant. The Supreme Court held that awarding
attorney's fees in such cases is appropriate “upon
a [district court's] finding that the plaintiff's
action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation,
even though not brought in subjective bad faith.”
Id. at 421. The Court added that, in applying these
criteria, it is important the district court resist the
temptation to engage in “post hoc reasoning” by
concluding that, because a plaintiff did not ultimately
prevail, his action must have been unreasonable or without
foundation. Sayers, 140 F.3d at 1353 (citing
Christiansburg, 434 U.S. at 421-422).
Eleventh Circuit instructs that frivolity determinations be
“made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account
various factors, including (1) whether the plaintiff
established a prima facie case, (2) whether the defendant
offered to settle[, ] and (3) whether the suit was dismissed
before trial.” Vavrus v. Russo, 243 Fed.Appx.
561, 563 (11th Cir. 2007). The Eleventh Circuit also provided
a fourth factor: a “‘claim is not frivolous when
it is “meritorious enough to receive careful attention
and review.”'” Barnes v. Zaccari,
592 Fed.Appx. 859, 872 (11th Cir. 2015)(quoting Busby v.
City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 787 (11th Cir. 1991)).
Ultimately, these factors are “general guidelines only,
not hard and fast rules.” Barnes, 592
Fed.Appx. at 872.
28 U.S.C. § 1920
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) prescribes an award of costs
for a prevailing party unless a federal statute, the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, or a court order provides
otherwise.” Tempay Inc. v. Biltres Staffing of
Tampa Bay, LLC, No. 8:11-cv-2732-T-27AEP, 2013 WL
6145533, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 21, 2013); see Durden v.
Citicorp Tr. Bank, FSB, No. 3:07-cv-974-J-34JRK, 2010 WL
2105921, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 26, 2010)(stating that Rule 54
establishes a strong presumption that costs should be awarded
unless the district court decides otherwise)(citing
Chapman v. Al Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1038 (11th
Cir. 2000)). However, “the district court's
discretion not to award the full amount of costs ...