Case of the Day: Law Office of G.A. Lambert v. Davidoff

The case of the day is Law Office of G.A. Lambert & Associates v. Davidoff (D.D.C. 2014). The action was for failure to pay legal fees. It ended in a default judgment.

The case is uninteresting, except insofar as the judge held that the costs of translating the summons and complaint into German for purposes of effecting service in Germany under the Hague Service Convention were taxable. While these costs were de minimis, it’s not clear to me that they are taxable. Taxable costs are listed in 28 U.S.C. § 1920. They include “fees of the marshal,” and under § 1921(a)(1)(A), the marshal may charge a fee for “Serving a writ of possession, partition, execution, attachment in rem, or libel in admiralty, warrant, attachment, summons, complaints, or any other writ, order or process in any case or proceeding.” Let’s assume (almost certainly contrary to fact) that the marshal was involved in the service of process (e.g., by transmitting the papers to the German central authority). Surely the cost of the translation is not a fee of the marshal, but of a third party, the translator. I’m not sure I see a statutory basis for awarding the cost of the translation. However, there is some authority for the proposition that a court may, by local rule, provide for an award of costs not specified in the statute. See 10 Wright & Miller § 2670 n.18. The local rules of the court here provided for taxing the costs of service of the summons and complaint, so the award is likely permissible.

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