Robinson v. Beckman et al
WRITTEN Opinion entered by the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall on 9/9/2011: The plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [ 23 ] is granted. The plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel [ 24 ] is denied without prejudice. The plaintiff may renew his motion for appointment of counsel if, after a diligent search within the next 28 days, he is unable to procure an attorney. Discovery is ordered stayed during this time; accordingly, the discovery cut off date, which was s et for October 6, 2011, (see ECF No. 22 ), is extended until November 3, 2011. The plaintiff is ordered to file a short status report on October 6, 2011 advising the court of whether he was able to procure an attorney. The parties shall appear for a status hearing on October 11, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. and on November 8, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. (after the close of discovery); the status hearing set for October 18, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. is stricken. (For further details see Written Opinion). Mailed notice. (et, )
Order Form (01/2005)
United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Name of Assigned Judge
or Magistrate Judge
Joan B. Gottschall
10 C 4483
Sitting Judge if Other
than Assigned Judge
Robinson vs. Beckman
DOCKET ENTRY TEXT
The plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis  is granted. The plaintiff’s motion for
appointment of counsel  is denied without prejudice. The plaintiff may renew his motion for appointment
of counsel if, after a diligent search during the next 28 days, he is unable to procure an attorney. Discovery is
ordered stayed during this time; accordingly, the discovery cut off date, which was set for October 6, 2011, (see
ECF No. 22), is extended until November 3, 2011. The plaintiff is ordered to file a short status report on October
6, 2011 advising the court of whether he was able to procure an attorney. The parties shall appear for a status
hearing on October 11, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. and on November 8, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. (after the close of discovery);
the status hearing set for October 18, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. is stricken.
O[ For further details see text below.]
Docketing to mail notices.
Derrick Robinson brought this action against Nick Beckman, James Gallagher, Paul Sznura, and one
unknown detective under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking relief for injuries he sustained when the defendants allegedly
unlawfully arrested him, detained him, beat him, and denied him medical treatment. For the following reasons,
Robinson’s motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted and his motion for appointment of counsel
is denied without prejudice.
Robinson avers that he is unemployed, and does not have any significant assets or savings. Where the
form asks the applicant to fill in the amount of monies received in the past twelve months, Robinson responded
that he received $216 in social security insurance and $200 in welfare. However, later in the application,
Robinson avers that his mother and sister, with whom he resides, depend on the aforementioned payments for
support (i.e. some of those monies go towards groceries, rent, and other expenses), as do his wife and two sons,
with whom he does not reside (i.e. they receive a portion of Robinson’s welfare and social security insurance
funds for child support and other expenses). Robinson’s latter averments suggest that he receives social security
insurance and welfare payments monthly rather than once a year. In any event, considering that Robinson
receives only $416 each month, which he uses to help provide for six people, the court finds that paying the filing
fee would be a significant financial hardship. Accordingly, Robinson’s motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis is granted.
Robinson has also moved for appointment of counsel. “There is no constitutional or statutory right to
counsel in federal civil cases.” Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Pruitt v. Mote,
503 F.3d 647, 656 (7th Cir. 2007)). “Nevertheless, a district court has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1)
to request counsel for an indigent litigant.” Id. (citing Pruitt, 503 F.33d at 654). When considering a request for
appointment of counsel, a district court must: (1) “consider whether the indigent plaintiff has made reasonable
attempts to secure counsel on his own, or conversely, if he has been precluded from doing so,” (2) “evaluate the
10C4483 Robinson vs. Beckman
Page 1 of 2
complexity of the case,” and (3) evaluate “whether the plaintiff appears competent to litigate it on his own.” Id.
at 851-52 (citing Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55).
As an initial matter, Robinson avers that he has not contacted any legal organizations seeking
representation since he cannot afford an attorney. In Jackson v. County of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070 (7th Cir.
1992), the Seventh Circuit held that “If . . . the indigent has made no reasonable attempts to secure counsel
(unless circumstances prevented him from doing so), the court should deny any § 1915(d) motions outright.” Id.
at 1073. Citing the version of § 1915(d) then in force, which stated, “[t]he court may request an attorney to
represent any such person unable to employ counsel . . . ,” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) (1988 & Supp. III) (emphasis
added), the Seventh Circuit explained, “[r]equiring a threshold examination into an indigent’s effort to retain
counsel is based on the language of the enabling statute” since “by its own terms, § 1915(d) dictates than an
indigent must have made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain counsel before the request can be considered.” Id.
However, the statutory text has since been amended so that it now reads, “The court may request an
attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Given this, the Seventh
Circuit’s analysis in Jackson no longer seems applicable and the question of whether to appoint Robinson counsel
(even despite the fact that he has not attempted to procure counsel) appears to be discretionary. See Farmer v.
Haas, 990 F.2d 319, 321 (7th Cir. 1993) (“Until Jackson, however, [the Seventh Circuit] had assumed that
‘unable to employ counsel’ meant indigent, though an indigent might be able to obtain a lawyer on a
contingent-fee basis if he had a substantial claim for money damages.”). Nevertheless, requiring Robinson to
attempt to find counsel - who may take his case, which requests monetary damages, on a contingent fee basis before the court appoints counsel, is altogether reasonable and even advisable. See id. (“If the plaintiff were
unable to secure a lawyer in the private market, this might mean the suit had no merit, although alternatively it
might mean that the plaintiff lacked the necessary information to obtain a suitable lawyer.”). Accordingly, the
motion for appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice. Discovery is stayed for 28 days to give Robinson
time to try to find a lawyer. On October 6, 2011, Robinson shall file a status report apprising the court of the
specific efforts he made to secure counsel and whether or not each effort to find an attorney was successful.
Robinson may renew his motion for appointment of counsel at that time if, in fact, his search was unsuccessful.
10C4483 Robinson vs. Beckman
Page 2 of 2
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?