Turner v. Revana

Filing 10

ORDER denying as moot 7 Motion to Add Judgment from Arizona Labor Department Agency to This Civil Case; and denying 8 Motion for Appointment of Counsel without prejudice. (See Order for details.) Signed by Judge Douglas L Rayes on 1/19/2017.(MMO)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Stephen Lawrence Turner, Plaintiff, 10 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-16-04409-PHX-DLR Revana, 13 Defendant. 14 15 16 Plaintiff Stephen Turner, proceeding in forma pauperis, brought this action on 17 December 15, 2016, alleging that his employer, Defendant Revana, discriminated against 18 him because of his race and/or color in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19 1964. (Doc. 1.) At issue are Turner’s Motion to Add Judgment from Arizona Labor 20 Department Agency to This Civil Case, (Doc. 7), and Motion for Appointment of 21 Counsel, (Doc. 8). For the following reasons, both motions are denied. 22 I. Motion to Add Judgment from Arizona Labor Department 23 Turner requests that the Court “add the judgment ordering Revana to pay me 24 commissions owed. The time limit to initiate the claim form/court order to be sent to 25 Revana requesting payment has expired.” (Doc. 7.) It is not clear from the motion what 26 Turner is asking the Court to do. To the extent Turner is seeking leave to amend his 27 complaint to add an additional claim for relief against Revana, he does not need 28 permission from the Court at this stage of the litigation. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Procedure 15(a)(1): A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within: (A) 21 days after serving it, or (B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is require, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier. Turner has not yet served Revana with the complaint. If Turner wants to allege an additional claim to relief, he may amend his complaint as a matter of course without prior permission from the Court. Turner’s Motion to Add Judgement From Arizona Labor Department, which the Court interprets as a motion for leave to amend the complaint, therefore is denied as moot. II. Motion for Appointment of Counsel There is no constitutional right to the appointment of counsel in civil cases, but Title VII gives the court broad discretion to appoint counsel “[u]pon application by the complainant and in such circumstances as the court may deem just.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e5(f)(1)(B); Ivey v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 269 (9th Cir. 1982). When considering such a request, “[t]he court is required to assess: (1) the plaintiff’s financial resources, (2) the efforts made by plaintiff to secure counsel, and (3) whether the plaintiff’s claim has merit.” Bradshaw v. Zoological Soc. of San Diego, 662 F.2d 1301, 1318 (9th Cir. 1981) (citing Caston v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 556 F.2d 1305, 1308–10 (5th Cir. 1977)). The plaintiff has the burden of persuasion as to all three factors, and an unfavorable finding as to any one factor may defeat the request. Miljkovic v. Univ. of Hawaii, Civ. No. 09-00064 ACK-KSC, 2010 WL 346450, at *1 (D. Haw. Jan. 27, 2010) (citing Caston, 556 F.2d at 1310; Castner v. Colorado Springs Cablevision, 979 F.2d 1417, 1421 (10th Cir. 1992); Darden v. Illinois Bell Tel. Co., 797 F.2d 497, 501 (7th Cir. 1986)). The Court’s December 16, 2016 order, (Doc. 5), granting Turner’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis “a fortiori resolve[s] the first issue,” in his favor because, “[a] -2- 1 lesser showing of indigency is required to satisfy the test for appointment of counsel.” 2 Bradshaw, 662 F.2d at 1319. 3 remaining two elements. Turner, however, has not carried his burden on the 4 First, Turner does not address his efforts to secure counsel. Although a plaintiff is 5 not expected “to exhaust the legal directory,” Caston, 556 F.2d at 1309, he must make 6 “a reasonably diligent effort under the circumstances to obtain counsel,” Bradshaw, 662 7 F.2d at 1319. The court must consider both the quantity and quality of a plaintiff’s 8 efforts. See Hosea v. Donley, No. 5:11-cv-02892 EJD, 2012 WL 5373406, at *1-2 (N.D. 9 Cal. Oct. 30, 2012). “Factors to be considered include the number of attorneys contacted, 10 the availability of counsel in the geographical area who represent employment 11 discrimination claimants, and the plaintiff’s possible skill or lack of skill at obtaining 12 such help.” Castner, 979 F.2d at 1422. The court should also consider the reasons that 13 each attorney contacted refused to take the case. Reddy v. Precyse Solutions LLC, 14 No. 1:12-cv-2061 AWI SAB, 2013 WL 2603413, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 11, 2013). At a 15 minimum, “[a] reasonably diligent attempt to secure counsel means . . . speaking to an 16 attorney about the merits of the case and pursuing a contingent fee arrangement.” 17 Mitchell v. Champs Sports, 42 F. Supp. 2d 642, 649 (E.D. Tex. 1998). Turner has not 18 made this minimum showing. 19 Second, before the court may appoint counsel in an employment discrimination 20 case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that his case has “some merit.” Bradshaw, 662 F.2d 21 at 1319. Here, Turner alleges that Revana discriminated against him on the basis of his 22 race and/or color by, among other things, terminating his employment, failing to promote 23 him, imposing upon him terms and conditions of employment that were different from 24 other employees, and by neglecting to register him and his pet for health insurance. 25 (Doc. 1.) 26 Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on August 19, 2016. (Id. at 4.) On September 28, 27 2016, the EEOC issued Turner a Notice of Right to Sue Letter, in which the EEOC 28 explained that it “does not believe that additional investigation would result in our Turner filed these charges against Revana with the Equal Employment -3- 1 finding a violation.” (Id. at 15.) 2 On this issue, the EEOC’s administrative finding is highly probative. Castner, 3 979 F.2d at 1422. Although the court may not “give preclusive effect to an EEOC 4 finding that the evidence does not support a finding of discrimination,” the court should 5 “inquire of plaintiff as to the validity of the no reasonable cause determination and why 6 plaintiff considers the determination to be in error.” Id.; Bradshaw, 662 F.2d at 1309 7 n.20 (quoting Caston, 556 F.2d at 1309). In addition to the allegations in the plaintiff’s 8 complaint, the court may consider the EEOC’s finding, the plaintiff’s reasons for 9 believing the agency’s determination is erroneous, the EEOC’s investigative file, and 10 other information provided by the plaintiff. Terry v. Haw. Air Nat. Guard, Civ. No. 13- 11 00295-LEK-RLP, 2013 WL 3354562, at *2 (D. Haw. July 3, 2013); Siales v. Haw. State 12 Judiciary, Civ. No. 11-00299 LEK-RLP, 2011 WL 2118573, at *5 (D. Haw. May 19, 13 2011) report and recommendation adopted, Civ. No. 11-00299-LEK-RLP, 2011 WL 14 2115854 (D. Haw. May 26, 2011). 15 supported by substantial evidence in the investigative file and that plaintiff’s objections 16 thereto are patently frivolous would weigh heavily in the scales against appointing an 17 attorney.” Bradshaw, 662 F.2d at 1309 n.20 (quoting Caston, 556 F.2d at 1309). Turner 18 does not explain in his motion why he believes the EEOC’s determination was erroneous, 19 nor does he supply information about the EEOC’s investigation other than the Notice of 20 Right to Sue Letter. “[A] finding that the EEOC determination is 21 Although Congress has authorized the court to appoint counsel in employment 22 discrimination cases, it “has not been as generous in providing compensation for counsel 23 as it has in authorizing court appointments.” Bradshaw v. U.S. Dist. Court for S. Dist. of 24 Cal., 742 F.2d 515, 516 (9th Cir. 1984). Consequently, “[t]houghtful and prudent use of 25 the appointment power is necessary so that willing counsel may be located without the 26 need to make coercive appointments. 27 counsel to undeserving claims will waste a precious resource and may discourage 28 attorneys from donating their time.” Castner, 979 F.2d at 1421. The Court, therefore, The indiscriminate appointment of volunteer -4- 1 denies Turner’s motion, mindful that the appointment power must be reserved for 2 appropriate cases in which genuine need is satisfactorily demonstrated. 3 IT IS ORDERED that Turner’s Motion to Add Judgment from Arizona Labor 4 Department Agency to This Civil Case, (Doc. 7), is DENIED as moot and his Motion for 5 Appointment of Counsel, (Doc. 8), is DENIED without prejudice to Turner renewing his 6 request after making reasonable efforts to obtain counsel on a contingency fee basis and 7 explaining the reasons he believes the EEOC’s determination regarding his charges of 8 discrimination was erroneous. 9 Dated this 19th day of January, 2017. 10 11 12 13 14 Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -5-

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