The matter of Bender v. County of Los Angeles centers around a case of allegedly unlawful arrest and excessive force. The plaintiff was beaten and arrested by a police officer, and won a jury verdict for a Bane Act violation. On appeal, defendant county brought up many arguments, of which only one is relevant to us, and it concerns the costs. The court awarded the plaintiff over $24,000 for “courtroom technology,” and defendant challenges this.

The appellate court’s opinion from last month lays out the standard for the prevailing party’s recovery for this kind of cost:

Any allowable costs must be “reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation rather than merely convenient or beneficial to its preparation,” and reasonable in amount.

That having been established, it’s time to consider the items that made up that $24,103.75:

Plaintiff’s memorandum of costs included a claim for $24,103.75 for courtroom presentations. These costs consisted of “`Trial Video Computer, PowerPoint Presentation and Videotaped Deposition Synchronizing’” and the cost of a trial technician for nine days of trial. Plaintiff used a PowerPoint presentation in closing argument that consisted of a detailed summary of trial testimony, documents and other evidence as well as a “comprehensive evaluation of such evidence vis a vis jury instructions.” The costs included charges for creating designated excerpts from deposition transcripts and video, converting exhibits to computer formats (Tiff’s & JPEG’s), and design and production of electronic presentations.

On trying to set aside these costs, the county relied on a case from 1995, which said that computer-related costs weren’t taxable, but the court wasn’t having it:

Almost 20 years have passed since Science Applications was decided, during which time the use of technology in the courtroom has become commonplace (including a technician to monitor the equipment and quickly resolve any glitches), and technology costs have dramatically declined. In a witness credibility case such as this, it would be inconceivable for plaintiff’s counsel to forego the use of technology to display the videotapes of plaintiff’s interviews after his beating, in the patrol car and at the sheriff’s station, and key parts of other witnesses’ depositions… The costs at issue total just over $24,000, and the trial court specifically found the trial technology enhanced counsel’s advocacy and was reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation.

It’s nice to see a court acknowledging that technology is, to quote the statutory language, “reasonably necessary” to effectively litigate a case, and that it’d be “inconceivable” to argue at trial without electronic assistance. The award of costs for courtroom technology, therefore, was upheld.