MORRIS v. BAKER et al
OPINION FILED. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 9/16/15. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 14-6785 (NLH)
RENEE BAKER, et al.,
Brent Morris, #29890
Northern Nevada Correctional Center
P.O. BOX 700
Carson City, NV 89702
Petitioner Pro se
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 086
Trenton, NJ 08625
Counsel for Respondents
HILLMAN, District Judge
This matter is presently before the Court upon receipt of a
Motion to Appoint Pro Bono Counsel and Request for an
Evidentiary Hearing (ECF No. 5), filed by Petitioner Brent
Morris, a prisoner currently confined at the Northern Nevada
Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada.
For the reasons set
forth below, the motions are DENIED without prejudice.
On or about October 28, 2014, Petitioner filed the instant
petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and challenges the
calculation of his sentence. (ECF No. 1).
On November 12, 2014,
the Court issued an Order to Answer. (ECF No. 3).
filed the instant motion on or about December 2, 2014. (ECF No.
Since the filing of the instant motion, Respondents have
filed their Answer (ECF Nos. 6, 7) and Petitioner has submitted
a Reply (ECF No. 8).
In his motion, Petitioner explains that he has limited
access to federal case law and other materials. (Mot. 2, ECF No.
He asserts that the issues involved in this case are
complex and that he does not have the legal knowledge or the
skills to effectively present his argument.
Petitioner contends that he does not have the funds to pay for
counsel on his own.
Finally, Petitioner states that his claims
will likely succeed and that the Court will also benefit from
the appointment of counsel.
Petitioner cites numerous federal
decisions in support of his motion.
However, aside from the
caption of his motion, his submission makes no further mention
of his request for an evidentiary hearing.
A. Pro Bono Counsel
There is no Sixth Amendment right to appointment of counsel
in habeas proceedings. See Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551,
555, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539 (1987) (“Our cases establish
that the right to appointed counsel extends to the first appeal
of right, and no further.”); Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454,
456–57 (3d Cir. 1997) (noting no statutory or constitutional
right of counsel conferred upon indigent civil litigants); Reese
v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247, 263 (3d Cir. 1991) (“There is no
‘automatic’ constitutional right to counsel in federal habeas
corpus proceedings.”), superseded on other grounds by statute,
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
However, counsel may be appointed to an
indigent habeas petitioner where the “interests of justice so
require.” 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B); see also 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1) (“The court may request an attorney to represent any
person unable to afford counsel.”).
In determining whether the interests of justice require
appointment of counsel, the Court must examine whether or not
the petitioner has presented a meritorious claim. See Biggins v.
Snyder, 2001 WL 125337 at * 3 (D. Del. Feb. 8, 2001) (citing
Reese v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247, 263-64 (3d Cir. 1991))(other
Next, the Court must determine whether the
appointment of counsel will benefit the petitioner and the Court
by examining the legal complexity of the case and the
petitioner's ability to present his claims and investigate
facts. See id. (citing Reese, 946 F.2d at 264; Parham v.
Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 457-58 (3d Cir. 1997); Tabron v. Grace, 6
F.3d 147, 155-56 (3d Cir. 1993)) (other citations omitted).
“Where these issues are ‘straightforward and capable of
resolution on the record,’ or when the petitioner has ‘a good
understanding of the issues and the ability to present
forcefully and coherently his contentions,’ the court would not
abuse its discretion in declining to appoint counsel.” Id.
(citations and quotations omitted); see also Paul v. Attorney
General of New Jersey, 1992 WL 184358 at * 1 (D.N.J. July 10,
1992) (stating that the factors the court should consider in
appointing counsel include: “(i) the likelihood of success on
the merits; (ii) the complexity of the legal issues raised by
the complaint; and (iii) the ability of the prisoner to
investigate and present the case.”).
Even assuming that the instant Petition presents
meritorious, non-frivolous claims, the Court finds that the
appointment of counsel at this time will not benefit the Court
Upon review of the pleadings, this case appears
to be “straightforward and capable of resolution on the record.”
See Parham, 126 F.3d at 460 (citing Ferguson v. Jones, 905 F.2d
211, 214 (8th Cir. 1990)).
A review of this case reveals that
neither the legal issues that Petitioner must address, nor the
factual underpinnings of his allegations are so complex as to
warrant representation by an attorney at this time.
procedural history is not in dispute and the overall allegations
of the Petition do not appear to be either factually or legally
The record provided by Respondents should provide
the Court with the information needed to resolve this case.
Additionally, Petitioner's claims have been presented
thoroughly, the contours of his underlying arguments are clear,
and — as the record in this case reflects — Petitioner is
capable of filing motions and other documents which include
citations to relevant case law.
Therefore, the Court denies Petitioner's application to
appoint counsel, without prejudice, as it does not appear that
the appointment of counsel would benefit both Petitioner and the
Court at this time.
In the event that future proceedings
demonstrate the need for counsel, the matter may be reconsidered
either sua sponte by the Court or upon a motion properly filed
by Petitioner. See e.g., Saunders v. Warren, No. 13-2794, 2014
WL 6634982, at *3 (D.N.J. Nov. 21, 2014) (denying without
prejudice motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel);
Laster v. Samuels, No. 06-6017, 2007 WL 2300747, at *1 (D.N.J.
Aug. 6, 2007) (same).
B. Request for Evidentiary Hearing
Section 2254 provides for evidentiary hearings only in
extremely limited circumstances:
(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual
basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court
shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim unless
the applicant shows that —
(A) the claim relies on —
(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive
to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court,
that was previously unavailable; or
(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been
previously discovered through the exercise of due
(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to
establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for
constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have
found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)(A)-(B).
Here, Petitioner does not set forth any argument in support
of his request for an evidentiary hearing.
Thus, at this time,
there is no basis to grant Petitioner’s request and it is denied
For the foregoing reasons, Petitioner’s Motion to Appoint
Pro Bono Counsel and Request for an Evidentiary Hearing (ECF No.
5) is denied without prejudice.
An appropriate Order follows.
__s/ Noel L. Hillman______
NOEL L. HILLMAN
United States District Judge
Dated: September 16, 2015
At Camden, New Jersey
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