Black v. McDonald
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for the appointment of counsel (Docket No. 3 ) is DENIED without prejudice. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 1/23/2017. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ROBERT A. McDONALD,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff LC Black for the appointment
of counsel. (Docket No. 3). The motion will be denied without prejudice.
The appointment of counsel for an indigent pro se plaintiff lies within the discretion of
the Court, as there is no constitutional or statutory right to appointed counsel in civil cases.
Ward v. Smith, 732 F.3d 940, 942 (8th Cir. 2013); see 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e) (“when an indigent
prisoner has pleaded a nonfrivolous cause of action, a court may appoint counsel.”) (emphasis
Once the plaintiff alleges a prima facie claim, the Court must determine the plaintiff=s
need for counsel to litigate his claim effectively. In re Lane, 801 F.2d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir.
1986). The standard for appointment of counsel in a civil case is whether both the plaintiff and
the Court would benefit from the assistance of counsel.
Edgington v. Missouri Dept. of
Corrections, 52 F.3d 777, 780 (8th Cir. 1995), abrogated on other grounds, Doe v. Cassel, 403
F.3d 986, 989 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). This determination involves the consideration
of several relevant criteria which include “the factual complexity of the issues, the ability of the
indigent person to investigate the facts, the existence of conflicting testimony, the ability of the
indigent person to present the claims, and the complexity of the legal arguments.” Phillips v.
Jasper County Jail, 437 F.3d 791, 94 (citing Edgington, 52 F.3d at 780).
In some instances, a court may deny a motion for appointment of counsel without
prejudice because it believes the record is insufficient to determine, one way or the other,
whether it would be appropriate to appoint counsel when the above factors are considered. See
Id. For example, discovery may not have begun or may have just begun at the time of the
request for appointment of counsel, so there is no conflicting testimony. There may be no
indication in the record that the plaintiff is unable to investigate or present his case where he
correctly identifies the applicable legal standard governing his claims. Finally, the Court may
consider whether the plaintiff=s claims involve information that is readily available to him.
Phillips, 437 F.3d at 794.
At this stage of the case at bar, the request for counsel is somewhat premature because
the defendant has not yet been served and no case management order has been entered. In
addition, the record does not indicate that the appointment of counsel would benefit plaintiff and
the Court. This action appears to involve straightforward questions of fact rather than complex
questions of law, and plaintiff appears able to clearly present and investigate his claims. He has
filed an articulate and readily understood complaint that indicates he is capable of clear
expression and appropriate organization of content, and his claims appear to involve information
that is readily available to him. However, the Court recognizes that circumstances may change
as discovery takes place, and will therefore deny the instant motion without prejudice. Plaintiff
may re-file such motion if it becomes appropriate to do so at a later time.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for the appointment of counsel
(Docket No. 3) is DENIED without prejudice.
Dated this 23rd day of January, 2017.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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