West v. Pierce et al
MEMORANDUM - Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 5/4/17. (rwc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
CHRISTOPHER H. WEST,
KATRINA BURLEY, et al.,
) Civ. No. 14-1486-GMS
The plaintiff Christopher H. West ("West"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.c. § 1983.
He proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (See D.1. 6.)
West requests counsel on the grounds that the defendants were granted additional time to
complete discovery to depose him. (D.L 60.) West states that he will be at a substantial
disadvantage if his deposition is allowed to proceed without his representation by counsel. He
also states that he has no internet/computer access, no physical access to the law library, is in
solitary confinement, and currently is not receiving treatment for his unspecified mental issues.
He further states that testimony of medical professionals may be needed. The defendants voice
concern that West's motion, if granted, may have an impact on the current deadline for filing
dispositive motions. (D.1. 63.)
A pro se litigant proceeding informa pauperis has no constitutional or statutory right to
representation by counsel.l See Brightwell v. Lehman, 637 F.3d 187, 192 (3d Cir. 2011); Tabron
v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993). However, representation by counsel may be
appropriate under certain circumstances, after a finding that a plaintiff s claim has arguable merit
in fact and law. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155.
After passing this threshold inquiry, the court should consider a number of factors when
assessing a request for counsel. Factors to be considered by a court in deciding whether to
request a lawyer to represent an indigent plaintiff include: (1) the merits of the plaintiff s claim;
(2) the plaintiffs ability to present his or her case considering his or her education, literacy,
experience, and the restraints placed upon him or her by incarceration; (3) the complexity of the
legal issues; (4) the degree to which factual investigation is required and the plaintiff s ability to
pursue such investigation; (5) the plaintiffs capacity to retain counsel on his or her own behalf;
and (6) the degree to which the case turns on credibility determinations or expert testimony. See
lvfontgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 498-99 (3d Cir. 2002); Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155-56. The list
is not exhaustive, nor is anyone factor determinative. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157.
After reviewing the plaintiffs requests, the court concludes that the case is not so
factually or legally complex that requesting an attorney is warranted. To date, the filings in this
case demonstrate the plaintiffs ability to articulate his claims and represent himself. Thus, in
ISee Mallard v. United States Dist. Court/or the S. Dist. ofIowa, 490 U.S. 296 (1989)
(§ 1915(d) (now § 1915(e)( I )) does not authorize a federal court to require an unwilling attorney
to represent an indigent civil litigant, the operative word in the statute being "request.").
these circumstances, the court will deny without prejudice to renew the plaintiff's request for
counsel. (D.l. 60.) Should the need for counsel arise later, one can be appointed at that time.
Finally, the court will enter an order to extend the discovery deadline and the deadline for
filing dispositive motions.
For the above reasons, the court will deny West's request for counsel (D.l. 60) and will
amend discovery and dispositive motion deadlines.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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