Are "pro hac vice" counsel entitled to recover costs?

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In Kalitta Air LLC v. Central Texas Airborne System Inc., 2013 DJDAR 16393 (2013), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a unique issue which other federal circuits have reached different conclusions on. The main issue related to whether attorneys who are temporarily admitted to practice in a jurisdiction (pro hac vice) are entitled to recover the costs incurred to allow the pro hac vice representation.

Kalitta Air LLC (Kalitta) sued Central Texas Airborne System Inc. (CTAS). The district court ruled favorably for CTAS. CTAS then filed a cost bill seeking $691,591.73 from Kalitta. The cost bill included $1,310 in costs paid by CTAS’s counsel to be admitted as counsel “pro hac vice.”

Kalitta petitioned the district court to review the award, arguing that the court incorrectly awarded CTAS $1,310 in pro hac vice admission fees. The trial court affirmed the decision, stating that such an award was appropriate.

Kalitta appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision of the trial court. The Ninth Circuit noted that when a party wins a civil lawsuit, that party should be awarded recoverable costs. The Ninth Circuit noted that costs are appropriately awarded for fees paid by attorneys to be “permanently admitted.”  No such award is allowed for counsel admitted pro hac vice.

The Ninth Circuit noted that the Seventh and Eighth Circuits have rendered decisions allowing costs for pro hac vice admission of counsel. The Ninth Circuit noted the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Taniguchi v. Kan Pac. Saipan Ltd.  There the Court ruled that “costs are limited to relatively minor, incidental expenses.” The Ninth Circuit overturned the district court’s ruling on that basis.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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