Chance v. Dallas County Hosp ( 1999 )


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  •                    UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                            FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
    
    
    
                                      No. 98-10524
    
    
    
    NICKIE CHRISTOPHER CHANCE,
                                                                   Plaintiff-Appellant,
                                          versus
    
    DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT, doing business
    as Parkland Memorial Hospital, ET AL.,
                                                                           Defendants,
    DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT, doing business
    as Parkland Memorial Hospital,
                                                  Defendant-Appellee.
    
    
                      Appeal from the United States District Court
                          for the Northern District of Texas
    
    
                                       June 3, 1999
    Before REYNALDO G. GARZA, POLITZ, and BARKSDALE, Circuit Judges.
    
    POLITZ, Circuit Judge:
    
          Nickie Christopher Chance contends that the trial court erred by granting
    
    judgment as a matter of law for defendant, rejecting a jury verdict; by refusing to
    
    allow him to discover counseling and guidance reports for several years prior to the
    
    incident; and by instructing the jury to disregard the testimony of one of the
    witnesses. We find no merit in these contentions. We write to address another
    
    issue raised by Chance: whether the trial court erred in awarding costs against him
    
    when he pursued causes of action under the Uniformed Services Employment and
    
    Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)1 while also pursuing other causes of action.
    
                                     BACKGROUND
    
          For purposes of the issue of the taxing of costs, we need only note a few
    
    details surrounding Chance’s amended complaint and the dispositions of his several
    
    causes of action. Chance’s amended complaint alleged causes of action under the
    
    Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, the Texas Whistleblower Act, the Equal
    
    Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, as well
    
    as claims under the USERRA. Chance pursued his claims against the Dallas
    
    County Hospital District, doing business as Parkland Memorial Hospital.2 Prior to
    
    trial, the Hospital filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims except the
    
    Equal Pay Act claim, which Chance voluntarily dismissed. The court 3 granted the
    
    Hospital’s motion on all claims save the USERRA causes of action.
    
    
          1
              38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.
          2
            Chance also pursued his claims against Cassandra Miller, a supervisor, but
    the action against Miller was dismissed by an agreed order.
          3
           In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to have a
    United States Magistrate Judge conduct all proceedings in the case.
                                             2
          As to the USERRA claims, the jury found for the Hospital on Chance’s
    
    discriminatory denial of promotion and retaliation claims, and it found for Chance
    
    on his wrongful discharge claim. The Hospital renewed its earlier motion for
    
    judgment as a matter of law, which the court granted. In rendering its final
    
    judgment, the court taxed costs against Chance.         Chance contends that the
    
    USERRA prohibits this taxing of costs against him.
    
                                        ANALYSIS
    
          Whether the trial court possessed the authority to award costs is a question
    
    of law that we review de novo.4
    
          The USERRA prohibits the taxing of fees or court costs against any person
    
    claiming rights under the statute.5 Chance recognizes that Rule 54 of the Federal
    
    Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “costs other than attorneys’ fees shall be
    
    
          4
            Chase v. Shop ‘N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 
    110 F.3d 424
     (7th Cir.
    1997); see also Garrett v. Derbes, 
    110 F.3d 317
     (5th Cir. 1997) (employing de novo
    review of the applicability of a statute’s terms).
          5
            After the parties filed their briefs, Congress enacted the Veterans’ Programs
    Enhancement Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-368, 112 Stat. 3315 (Nov. 10, 1998).
    The 1998 Act amended and renumbered 38 U.S.C. § 4323(c)(2)(A) (1997).
    Compare Pub. L. No. 105-368 (“No fees or court costs may be charged or taxed
    against any person claiming rights under this chapter.”) (numbering this provision
    § 4323(h)(1)) with 38 U.S.C. § 4323(c)(2)(A) (1997) (“No fees or court costs shall
    be charged or taxed against any person claiming rights under this chapter.”). The
    1998 Act’s amendments to § 4323 apply to actions commenced under Chapter 43
    before November 10, 1998 that were not final on that date.
                                             3
    allowed as of course to the prevailing party,” but he emphasizes one of the rule’s
    
    caveats – “[e]xcept when express provision therefor is made . . . in a statute of the
    
    United States . . . .”6 Chance contends that this caveat applies because the
    
    USERRA – a statute of the United States – expressly prohibits the taxing of court
    
    costs against him, a person claiming rights under the statute.
    
          Chance’s contention is not without force, but we are not persuaded. Chance
    
    is correct to the extent that one claiming rights under the USERRA, and only under
    
    the USERRA, may not be taxed costs; the statute clearly so provides, and we
    
    previously have so held.7 Chance, however, would extend the reach of the statute
    
    to bar the taxing of costs to one who prosecutes any claims, as long as there is also
    
    a claim under the USERRA. We reject this broad interpretation of the relevant
    
    language. We do not read the USERRA to bar the taxing of costs against a party
    
    who unsuccessfully prosecutes his claims under statutes other than the USERRA
    
    in light of the express language of Rule 54 providing that these costs are allowed
    
    as a matter of course. One “contending that legislative action changed settled law
    
    has the burden of showing that the legislature intended such a change.” 8 We are
    
    
          6
              FED. R. CIV. P. 54(d)(1).
          7
              Jordan v. Jones, 
    84 F.3d 729
     (5th Cir. 1996).
          8
              Green v. Bock Laundry Mach. Co., 
    490 U.S. 504
    , 521 (1989).
                                              4
    not favored herein with such a showing.
    
          Chance seemingly reads the USERRA’s “person” in isolation, he is a
    
    “person” who claimed rights under the USERRA, thus, his argument runs, he
    
    cannot be taxed for any costs. We read “person” to be limited by “claiming rights
    
    under [the USERRA],” and conclude that the text does not apply in an instance in
    
    which a person claims rights other than those provided by the USERRA. We
    
    therefore hold that the USERRA does not bar the taxing of costs for claims other
    
    than those established by the USERRA, even though the person also simultaneously
    
    pursues a cause of action under that Act.9
    
          The courts do not favor implicit amendments and repeals of statutes.10 In the
    
    absence of a clear expression from Congress, we are disinclined to hold that the
    
    USERRA amends a Federal Rule.11 If Congress had intended the result that Chance
    
    
          9
             Key v. Hearst Corp., 
    963 F. Supp. 283
     (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (without
    specifically discussing the issue, taxing costs against a USERRA plaintiff when that
    plaintiff’s original complaint also included a claim for breach of contract, a state
    military law claim, and alleged violations of Title VII and § 1981).
          10
            United States v. United Continental Tuna Corp., 
    425 U.S. 164
    , 168 (1976)
    (“cardinal principle of statutory construction that repeals by implication are not
    favored”).
          11
            Jackson v. Stinnett, 
    102 F.3d 132
     (5th Cir. 1996) (discussing the effect of
    the PLRA on FED. R. APP. P. 24(a)); 7 JAMES WM. MOORE ET AL., MOORE’S
    FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 86.04[4] (2d ed. 1996) (“[A] subsequently enacted statute
    should be so construed as to harmonize with the Federal Rules if that is at all
                                             5
    seeks, it could have and would have drafted the statute to demonstrate that
    
    intention. For example, Congress could have penned the pertinent provision to
    
    read: No fees or court costs may be charged or taxed against any person claiming
    
    rights under this chapter, even if additional rights simultaneously are claimed.12
    
    Further, if Congress had intended the result that Chance seeks, it could have
    
    included an additional provision in 38 U.S.C. § 4302, which it entitled “Relation
    
    to other law and plans or agreements”. In § 4302(b), Congress was careful to
    
    explain that the USERRA superseded “any State law (including any local law or
    
    ordinance), contract, agreement, policy, plan, practice, or other matter that reduces,
    
    limits, or eliminates in any manner any right or benefit provided by [the Act].” If
    
    Congress had intended the result that Chance suggests, then it could have added a
    
    reference to federal laws, rules, or practice.13
    
    
    feasible.”).
           12
            We candidly concede that Congress could have written the statute in a
    manner that better supports the conclusion reached in this opinion. E.g., 42 U.S.C.
    § 9607(d)(1) (“[N]o person shall be liable under this subchapter for costs . . . . This
    paragraph shall not preclude liability for costs . . . as the result of negligence . . . .”).
    The arguments, however, better support our conclusion than that offered by
    Chance.
           13
             E.g., 20 U.S.C. § 4074 (“The provisions of this subchapter shall supercede
    all other provisions of Federal law that are inconsistent with the provisions of this
    subchapter.”); 42 U.S.C. § 14408 (“The provisions of this Act supercede other
    Federal laws . . . .”).
                                                 6
          Our review of the legislative history reveals nothing undermining this
    
    conclusion.14 We note that the legislative history does not touch on the sweeping
    
    implication of the interpretation pressed by Chance. If Congress had intended 38
    
    U.S.C. § 4323 to prohibit a court from awarding costs to a prevailing defendant,
    
    when a plaintiff pursues a cause of action under a statute other than the USERRA,
    
    while also pursuing one under that Act, then Congress would have made its
    
    intentions clear in the statute, or there would have been some enlightening evidence
    
    of such intention in the legislative history.15 That no such evidence exists bolsters
    
    our conclusion.
    
          The trial court taxed all costs of court against Chance. This ruling is overly
    
    broad. Only costs not attributable to the filing and advancing of the USERRA
    
    claim may be taxed. The trial court must, therefore, closely examine the costs
    
          14
             The legislative history does reveal that the USERRA is to be “liberally
    construed.” H.R. REP. NO. 103-65, at 19 (1993), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N.
    2449, 2452; Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp., 
    328 U.S. 275
    , 285
    (1946) (interpreting a precursor of the USERRA). Liberal construction, however,
    does not warrant “distort[ion.]” Id.
          15
             Chisom v. Roemer, 
    501 U.S. 380
    , 396 n. 23 (1991) (citing Harrison v.
    PPG Indus., Inc., 
    446 U.S. 578
    , 602 (1980) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) (“In a case
    where the construction of legislative language such as this makes so sweeping and
    so relatively unorthodox a change as that made here, I think judges . . . may take
    into consideration the [absence of legislative history.]”)). But see Chisom, 501 U.S.
    at 406 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (“We are here to apply the statute, not legislative
    history, and certainly not the absence of legislative history.”).
                                             7
    incurred à quo and separate out and tax to Chance only those costs not related to
    
    his USERRA claim. It may be that some, most, or all costs attributable to other
    
    claims are also related to the USERRA claim. That is a matter to be first addressed
    
    by the trial court. We express no opinion thereon. But no costs of court directly
    
    attributable to the filing and prosecution of the USERRA claim may be assessed
    
    against Chance.
    
                                     CONCLUSION
    
          For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court in
    
    the defendant’s favor, VACATE the taxing of all costs to plaintiff, and REMAND
    
    for further proceedings consistent herewith.
    
    
    
    
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