(PC) Brayan Meza v. California Health Care Facility

Filing 98

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota on 10/07/21 DENYING 97 Motion to Appoint Counsel. (Plummer, M)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 BRAYAN MEZA, 12 13 14 15 No. 2:18-CV-3206-JAM-DMC-P Plaintiff, v. ORDER A. CHAUDHRY, et al., Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action under 42 18 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion for appointment of counsel. ECF No. 97. 19 The United States Supreme Court has ruled that district courts lack authority to 20 require counsel to represent indigent prisoners in § 1983 cases. See Mallard v. United States Dist. 21 Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). In certain exceptional circumstances, the court may request the 22 voluntary assistance of counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). See Terrell v. Brewer, 935 23 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991); Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335-36 (9th Cir. 1990). 24 A finding of “exceptional circumstances” requires an evaluation of both the likelihood of success 25 on the merits and the ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims on his own in light of the 26 complexity of the legal issues involved. See Terrell, 935 F.2d at 1017. Neither factor is 27 dispositive, and both must be viewed together before reaching a decision. See id. In Terrell, the 28 United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded the district court did not abuse its 1 1 discretion with respect to appointment of counsel because: 2 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. 3 4 5 6 Id. at 1017. Here, Plaintiff contends that he requires counsel because of an outbreak of 7 COVID-19 in the state prison where he is presently incarcerated. ECF No. 97. He submitted, as 8 exhibits to his motion, an inmate status report and instructions from the California Department of 9 Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on handling COVID-19. ECF No. 97 at 3–4. The status 10 report and instructions indicate that CDCR has introduced restrictions on inmate activity to 11 reduce the spread of COVID-19. Id. Inmate activity outside of their cells is limited, and access to 12 prison facilities such as the cafeteria and law library has been modified. Id. Access to the prison’s 13 law library is now limited to inmates with upcoming court deadlines and inmates with Priority 14 Legal User (PLU) status. Id. at 4. Plaintiff also submitted a medical record from January 2020. Id. 15 at 5–7. The record indicates that Plaintiff had a kidney transplant in 2018 and takes various 16 medications as a result, states that Plaintiff worries about getting sick, and lists recommendations 17 for Plaintiff’s health. Id. 18 The Court is cognizant of the difficulty of litigating from prison, especially 19 considering the additional limitations that COVID-19 protocols have generated. The Court, 20 however, does not find exceptional circumstances warranting a request by the Court for voluntary 21 assistance of counsel. Review of the docket indicates that Plaintiff has been able to articulate his 22 claims on his own and comply with Court orders and deadlines. He has filed multiple motions 23 that sufficiently and coherently outline requested relief. The Court recognizes the present 24 restrictions placed upon inmates’ access to the prison’s law library, but Plaintiff’s exhibits 25 illustrate that inmates with upcoming court deadlines are permitted access to the library. 26 Furthermore, at this stage of the case, the Court cannot say that Plaintiff has 27 established a particular likelihood of success on the merits. Finally, Plaintiff alleges fairly 28 straightforward constitutional claims concerning access to the courts and legal material. See ECF 2 1 No. 1. The factual and legal issues involved in this case are not unusually complex. Plaintiff’s 2 motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED. 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. 4 5 6 Dated: January 7, 2021 ____________________________________ DENNIS M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 7 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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