VESSELS v. EDISON POLICE DEPARTMENT et al
MEMORANDUM AND Order denying 5 and 6 applications for Pro Bono Counsel for BRIAN VESSELS. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 2/8/16. (sr, )(N/M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 15-2211 (KM) (JBC)
EDISON POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Brian Vessels, is pursuing a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1983. Previously, this Court screened the complaint and permitted Mr. Vessels’ unlawful search
claim to proceed against four defendants. Presently pending before this Court are Mr. Vessels’
applications for the appointment of pro bono counsel. (See Dkt. Nos. 5 & 6)
Indigent persons raising civil rights claims have no absolute right to counsel. See Parham
v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997). At a minimum, there must be some merit in
fact or law to the claims the plaintiff is attempting to assert. See Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147,
155 (3d Cir. 1993). Once that threshold of merit is crossed, a court determining whether to
appoint counsel will considers the following: (1) the plaintiffs 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; and (6) whether the plaintiff can attain and afford counsel on his own behalf.
See Id. at 155-56, 157 n.5; see also Cuevas v. United States, 422 F. App’x 142, 144-45 (3d Cir.
2011) (reiterating the Tabron factors). Appointment of counsel is discretionary, and may be done
at any point during the litigation, either sua sponte or upon motion. See id. at 156.
The only claim that has made it past screening is Mr. Vessels’ claim four, based on the
defendants’ allegedly unlawful search at his residence. At this early stage of the case, this type of
claim does not seem overly complex. Upon considering the factors outlined above, Mr. Vessels
has failed to show that the appointment of counsel is warranted at this time. Therefore, this Court
will deny Mr. Vessels’ applications for the appointment of counsel without prejudice.
Accordingly, IT IS this 8th day of February, 2017,
ORDERED that plaintiff’s applications for the appointment of pro bono counsel (Dkt.
Nos. 5 & 6) are denied without prejudice; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall serve this Order on plaintiff by regular U.S. mail.
United States District Judge
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