Griffin v. Malatinsky et al
ORDER DENYING without Prejudice Plaintiff's 3 Motion to Appoint Counsel--Signed by Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti. (MWil)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:17-cv-12204
District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith
Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti
ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR
ASSISTANCE WITH RECRUITING COUNSEL (DE 3)
This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff Nevin Griffin’s
motion for assistance with recruiting counsel. (DE 3.) For the reasons that follow,
Plaintiff’s motion to appoint counsel is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to
renewal after the case has proceeded past its initial stages.
Plaintiff, an Indiana state prisoner who is proceeding in forma pauperis,
brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants in the Milan
Correctional Facility violated his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and
unusual punishment by discontinuing his blood thinner prescription, which
precipitated his embolism and heart attack. He asks the Court to award him $5
million in damages. To date, none of the Defendants have been served.
Plaintiff filed the instant motion on July 5, 2017, asking the court to appoint
an attorney in this civil matter. (DE 3.) He notes that he has contacted nearly 50
attorneys to take his case, and has thus far not been able to retain his own counsel.
He contends that his depression and leg pain could impact his ability to litigate this
case. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that his lack of knowledge of the law causes him to
err in his court paperwork, which led to a dismissal in a prior case.
Proceedings in forma pauperis are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
provides that “[t]he court may request an attorney to represent any person unable
to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (emphasis added). However, even if
the circumstances of Plaintiff’s case convinced the Court to engage in such a
search, “[t]here is no right to recruitment of counsel in federal civil litigation, but
a district court has discretion to recruit counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1).”
Dewitt v. Corizon, Inc., 760 F.3d 654, 657 (7th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added); see
also Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014) (“Congress hasn’t
provided lawyers for indigent prisoners; instead it gave district courts discretion to
ask lawyers to volunteer their services in some cases.”). The appointment of
counsel in a civil case, therefore, “is a privilege not a right.” Childs v. Pellegrin,
822 F.2d 1382, 1384 (6th Cir. 1987) (internal quotation omitted).
The Supreme Court has held that there is a presumption that “an indigent
litigant has a right to appointed counsel only when, if he loses, he may be
deprived of his physical liberty.” Lassiter v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 2627 (1981). With respect to prisoner civil rights cases in particular, the Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that “there is no right to counsel. . . . The
appointment of counsel in a civil proceeding is justified only by exceptional
circumstances.” Bennett v. Smith, 110 F. App’x 633, 635 (6th Cir. 2004). 1
Accordingly, although the Court has the statutory authority to request counsel for
pro se plaintiffs in civil cases under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the exercise of this
authority is limited to exceptional situations.
In evaluating a matter for “exceptional circumstances,” a court should
consider: (1) the probable merit of the claims, (2) the nature of the case, (3) the
complexity of the legal and factual issues raised, and (4) the ability of the litigant
to represent him or herself. Lince v. Youngert, 136 F. App’x 779, 782 (6th Cir.
2005); Lavado v. Keohane, 992 F.2d 601, 605-06 (6th Cir. 1993); Lanier v.
Bryant, 332 F.3d 999, 1006 (6th Cir. 2003).
Although some of the case law colloquially discusses the Court’s “appointment”
of counsel in prisoner rights cases, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 the Court may only
request that an attorney represent an indigent plaintiff.
Applying the foregoing authority, Plaintiff has not described any
circumstances to justify a request for appointment of counsel at this time. Plaintiff
contends that the expertise of an attorney would be helpful to litigate his case, but
that he has not been able to find an attorney on his own. Such factors would apply
to nearly every pro se prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, and do not
constitute extraordinary circumstances. The claims in Plaintiff’s complaint are
not particularly complex and ably described by Plaintiff, involving an allegation
of cruel and unusual punishment related to Plaintiff’s March 2015 heart attack.
Moreover, Plaintiff has illustrated his ability to articulate his claims and
adequately communicate his requests to the Court in a clear and well-organized
manner, and he notes in his motion that he has no “problems reading or writing
English[.]” (DE 3 at 2.) Finally, as this is a civil case in which Plaintiff is seeking
only monetary damages, there is no danger that Plaintiff will be deprived of his
physical liberty over and above his current sentence if he loses this case.
Accordingly, at this time, Plaintiff’s motion to appoint counsel is DENIED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE. (DE 3.) Plaintiff may petition the Court for the
recruitment of pro bono counsel if this case survives dispositive motion practice,
proceeds to trial, or if other circumstances demonstrate such a need in the future.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: August 16, 2017
s/Anthony P. Patti
Anthony P. Patti
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was sent to parties of record
on August 16, 2017, electronically and/or by U.S. Mail.
Case Manager for the
Honorable Anthony P. Patti
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