Washington v. California Department of Corrections
ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Craig M. Kellison on 09/12/17 DENYING 20 , 32 motions to Appoint Counsel. (Plummer, M)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
WILLIAM NATHANIEL WASHINGTON,
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, et al.,
Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks the appointment of counsel. The United States Supreme Court
has ruled that district courts lack authority to require counsel to represent indigent prisoners in
§ 1983 cases. See Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). In certain
exceptional circumstances, the court may request the voluntary assistance of counsel pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). See Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991); Wood v.
Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335-36 (9th Cir. 1990). A finding of “exceptional
circumstances” requires an evaluation of both the likelihood of success on the merits and the
ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims on his own in light of the complexity of the legal
issues involved. See Terrell, 935 F.2d at 1017. Neither factor is dispositive and both must be
viewed together before reaching a decision. See id. Circumstances common to most prisoners,
such as lack of legal education and limited law library access, do not establish exceptional
circumstances that would warrant a request for voluntary assistance of counsel.
In the present case, the court does not at this time find the required exceptional
circumstances. Plaintiff’s request is based on his lack of funds to hire counsel, the limitations his
incarceration poses such as limited law library access, his limited legal knowledge, and the
complexity of this case. However, these circumstances are the type common to most prisoners
which do not establish exceptional circumstances. In addition, plaintiff has demonstrated
sufficient writing ability and legal knowledge to articulate his claim. The single claim in this
case appears to be a straight forward Eighth Amendment claim for lack of, or delay in, medical
treatment and not overly complex. Finally, as to the merits of plaintiff’s case, at this stage of the
proceedings, the undersigned cannot say that plaintiff is likely to prevail in the lawsuit. If this
action survives summary judgment, plaintiff may renew his motion for the appointment of
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s request for the
appointment of counsel (Docs. 20, 32) is denied.
DATED: September 12, 2017
CRAIG M. KELLISON
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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