Puckett v. Agboli et al

Filing 129

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota on 1/17/2023 DENYING, without prejudice, plaintiff's 128 request for the appointment of counsel and access to mental health records. (Yin, K)

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Case 2:14-cv-02776-DAD-DMC Document 129 Filed 01/17/23 Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 DURRELL ANTHONY PUCKETT, 12 13 14 15 No. 2:14-CV-2776-JAM-DMC-P Plaintiff, v. ORDER A. AGBOLI, et al., Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 18 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion for the appointment of counsel 19 and access to his mental health records, ECF No. 128. 20 The United States Supreme Court has ruled that district courts lack authority to 21 require counsel to represent indigent prisoners in § 1983 cases. See Mallard v. United States Dist. 22 Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). In certain exceptional circumstances, the court may request the 23 voluntary assistance of counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). See Terrell v. Brewer, 935 24 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991); Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335-36 (9th Cir. 1990). 25 A finding of “exceptional circumstances” requires an evaluation of both the likelihood of success 26 on the merits and the ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims on his own in light of the 27 complexity of the legal issues involved. See Terrell, 935 F.2d at 1017. Neither factor is 28 dispositive and both must be viewed together before reaching a decision. See id. In Terrell, the 1 Case 2:14-cv-02776-DAD-DMC Document 129 Filed 01/17/23 Page 2 of 3 1 Ninth Circuit concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion with respect to appointment 2 of counsel because: 3 . . . Terrell demonstrated sufficient writing ability and legal knowledge to articulate his claim. The facts he alleged and the issues he raised were not of substantial complexity. The compelling evidence against Terrell made it extremely unlikely that he would succeed on the merits. 4 5 Id. at 1017. 6 7 In the present case, the Court does not at this time find the required exceptional 8 circumstances. Here, Plaintiff asserts that he is unable to competently prepare and present his case 9 due to the nature and severity of his mental illness. See ECF No. 128. Plaintiff claims that he 10 hears voices and has recently attempted to commit suicide. See id. Additionally, Plaintiff claims 11 he is receiving the highest possible level of mental health care at the California Department of 12 Corrections and Rehabilitation. See id. Plaintiff asserts that, as a consequence of his condition, he 13 is unable to properly present his case. As such, Plaintiff requests the appointment of counsel to 14 allow him to articulate his claim in the light of the complexity of the legal issues involved. See id. However, there is nothing in Plaintiff’s motion or other filings to indicate he is 15 16 unable to comprehend these proceedings. In this regard, the Court notes that Plaintiff has 17 attached no documentation to his current motion for the appointment of counsel establishing the 18 level of his mental health care, or limitations posed by his mental health problems. The Court 19 also notes that Plaintiff’s motion is well-written and coherent. Further, a review of the file in this 20 case reflects that Plaintiff is able to articulate his claims, which are neither factually nor legally 21 complex. Finally, the Court still cannot say that Plaintiff has established a particular likelihood of 22 success on the merits. 23 As to Plaintiff’s request for access to his mental health records, the request is denied 24 without prejudice. It is the Court’s understanding that inmates may be permitted access to their prison 25 file, including medical records, on the inmate’s request to appropriate prison officials. If, after 26 making such request, Plaintiff is still unable to access his mental health records, the Court will 27 entertain a renewed motion. 28 /// 2 Case 2:14-cv-02776-DAD-DMC Document 129 Filed 01/17/23 Page 3 of 3 1 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s request for the 2 appointment of counsel and access to mental health records, ECF No. 128, is denied, without 3 prejudice to a renewal of either or both requests for relief, upon the showing referenced above. 4 Pending such further motion(s), the Clerk of the Court is directed to terminate ECF No. 128 as a 5 pending motion. 6 7 Dated: January 17, 2023 ____________________________________ DENNIS M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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