BRANDT v. BURNS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 6/14/2007. (sk)
BRANDT v. BURNS et al
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NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JOHN BRANDT, Plaintiff, v. ELIZABETH BURNS, et al., Defendants.
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Civil Case No.: 07-862 (NLH)
APPEARANCES: JOHN BRANDT, Plaintiff, pro se Ann Klein Forensic Center P.O. Box 7717 West Trenton, New Jersey 08628 HILLMAN, JR., District Judge Plaintiff, John Brandt, a involuntarily committed patient currently confined at the Ann Klein Forensic Center in West Trenton, New Jersey, brings this application for appointment of counsel with respect to his pending civil action. Having
considered Plaintiff's application for appointment of pro bono counsel, and without need for oral argument, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78, the Court will deny, without prejudice, the request for appointment of counsel for the reasons set forth below.
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BACKGROUND Plaintiff asserts Fourteenth Amendment violations by three defendants, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a social worker, in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Namely, he
alleges that these defendants wrongfully released him from the Ancora Psychiatric Hospital where he was first committed by the state court. As a result, he was denied the psychiatric and
medical treatment he needed, and was exposed to harm that cause him to be injured. damages. DISCUSSION Indigent persons raising civil rights claims have no absolute constitutional right to counsel. F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997). Parham v. Johnson, 126 He seeks compensatory and punitive money
In determining whether to
appoint counsel, a court should consider several factors: As a preliminary matter, the plaintiff's claim must have some merit in fact and law. ... If the district court determines that the plaintiff's claim has some merit, then the district court should consider the following factors: (1) the plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case; (2) the complexity of the legal issues; (3) the degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to pursue such investigation; (4) the amount a case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; (5) whether the case will require the testimony of expert witnesses; (6) whether the plaintiff can attain and afford counsel on his own behalf. 2
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[Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155-56, 157 n.5 (3d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1196 (1994).] This list of factors is not exhaustive, but instead should serve as a guide post for the district courts. Correspondingly, courts should exercise care in appointing counsel because volunteer lawyer time is a precious commodity and should not be wasted on frivolous cases. Id. at 157. Parham, 126 F.3d at 457-58. Applying these factors to this case, the Court is not inclined to allow appointment of counsel at this time. Plaintiff's complaint was recently filed, and the named defendants have not yet been served. Further, whether or not the Here,
Plaintiff's claims have merit, the factual and legal issues "have not been tested or developed by the general course of litigation, making [a number of factors] of Parham's test particularly difficult to evaluate." Chatterjee v. Philadelphia Federation of
Teachers, 2000 WL 1022979 at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 18, 2000)(stating that unlike Parham, which concerned a directed verdict ruling, and Tabron, which involved summary judgment adjudication, plaintiff's claims asserted in complaint and motions "have barely been articulated" and have distinctive procedural posture). With regard to the Tabron/Parham factors, Plaintiff has not demonstrated at this stage of proceedings, the complexity of legal issues, the degree to which factual investigation will be necessary, or that he will be in need of expert witnesses. Likewise, in the case at issue, the Court finds that Plaintiff is 3
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capable of presenting the claims at this early stage.
presented to this Court without the assistance of counsel a thorough and well-articulated Complaint. The Court recognizes
that issues may arise in the course of this litigation which may raise a question as to Plaintiff's need for counsel. In that
case, the Court will consider a renewed motion for appointment of counsel. At this point in the litigation, however, the
Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel will be denied, without prejudice. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court denies without prejudice Plaintiff's application for appointment of counsel pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. this Opinion. An appropriate Order accompanies
s/Noel L. Hillman NOEL L. HILLMAN United States District Judge DATED: June 14, 2007 At Camden, New Jersey
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