JOHNSON v. SHERIFF MADISON COUNTY et al
ORDER DENYING 9 MOTION FOR ASSISTANCE WITH RECRUITING COUNSEL - The matter is before the Court on Mr. Johnson' motion for assistance with recruiting counsel. Mr. Johnson's motion for assistance with recruiting counsel, dkt. 9 , is DENIED as presented. If Mr. Johnson chooses to renew his motion, he must demonstrate that he cannot afford counsel and that he is unable to litigate on his own. (See Order). Copies sent pursuant to distribution list. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 8/1/2022. (AKH)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SCOTT MELLINGER, et al.,
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR ASSISTANCE WITH RECRUITING COUNSEL
Daniel Johnson filed this action alleging violations of his civil rights during previous
periods of incarceration at the Madison County Jail. The Court dismissed Mr. Johnson's complaint
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and has provided him an opportunity
to file an amended complaint. The matter is before the Court on Mr. Johnson' motion for assistance
with recruiting counsel.
Litigants in federal civil cases do not have a constitutional or statutory right to courtappointed counsel. Walker v. Price, 900 F.3d 933, 938 (7th Cir. 2018). Instead, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(1) gives courts the authority to "request" counsel. Mallard v. United States District
Court, 490 U.S. 296, 300 (1989). As a practical matter, there are not enough lawyers willing and
qualified to accept a pro bono assignment in every pro se case. See Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d
708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014) ("Whether to recruit an attorney is a difficult decision: Almost everyone
would benefit from having a lawyer, but there are too many indigent litigants and too few lawyers
willing and able to volunteer for these cases.").
Mr. Johnson's motion is problematic in two respects.
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First, Mr. Johnson has not demonstrated that he is financially unable to obtain counsel on
his own. The Court "may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Mr. Johnson prepaid the filing fee, see dkt. 1, and he has not provided any
evidence of his financial condition.
Second, Mr. Johnson has not demonstrated that he is unable to litigate this action on his
own at this stage. This "inquiry requires consideration of both the factual and legal complexity of
the plaintiff's claims and the competence of the plaintiff to litigate those claims himself." Eagan v.
Dempsey, 987 F.3d 667, 682 (7th Cir. 2021) (citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 655 (7th Cir.
2007))."Specifically, courts should consider 'whether the difficulty of the case—factually and
legally—exceeds the particular plaintiff's capacity as a layperson to coherently present it to the
judge or jury himself.'" Id. (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655). "This assessment of the plaintiff's
apparent competence extends beyond the trial stage of proceedings; it must include 'the tasks that
normally attend litigation: evidence gathering, preparing and responding to motions and other
court filings, and trial.'" Id. (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655).
Mr. Johnson reports that he completed the eleventh grade but did not graduate from high
school. Dkt. 9 at 2. He has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and he was shot in the
head in 2009. Id. at 3. Mr. Johnson does not elaborate on the symptoms he experiences as a result
or how they impact his ability to litigate this case.
No doubt, these conditions challenge Mr. Johnson as a pro se litigant. However, the Court
finds him capable of litigating this action without counsel for the time being. Mr. Johnson is no
longer incarcerated, and a relative has helped him manage his case. See dkt. 10. The next step to
be completed in this case is the filing of an amended complaint. Mr. Johnson need only write a
short, plain statement of his claim and the allegations that support it. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).
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Mr. Johnson's filings to date suggest he is capable of articulating what the defendants did and how
their actions (or inactions) harmed him.
Mr. Johnson's motion for assistance with recruiting counsel, dkt. , is denied as
presented. If Mr. Johnson chooses to renew his motion, he must demonstrate that he cannot afford
counsel and that he is unable to litigate on his own.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
3204 Ripple Drive
Anderson, IN 46012
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