Rosa-Diaz v. Harry et al
MEMORANDUM re pltf's MOTION to Appoint Counsel 19 (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo on 4/6/17. (ma)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
LAUREL HARRY, et al.,
Civil No. 1:16-cv-2303
Magistrate Judge Carlson
Judge Sylvia H. Rambo
Before the court is Plaintiff’s motion for appointment of counsel. (Doc.
19.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.
Although litigants have no constitutional or statutory rights to
appointment of counsel in a civil case, the court does have broad discretionary
power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Montgomery v. Pinchak,
294 F.3d 492, 498 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir.
1993)); see also Ray v. Robinson, 640 F.2d 474, 477 (3d Cir. 1981). In Tabron, the
Third Circuit developed a list of criteria to aid the district courts in weighing the
appointment of counsel for indigent civil litigants. As a threshold matter, a district
court must assess whether the claimant’s case has some arguable merit in fact and
law. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155. If a claimant overcomes this threshold hurdle, the
Third Circuit has identified a number of factors that a court should consider when
assessing a claimant’s request for counsel. These include (1) the plaintiff’s ability
to present his own case; (2) the difficulty of the particular legal issues; (3) the
degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the
plaintiff to pursue investigation; (4) the plaintiff’s capacity to retain counsel on his
own behalf; (5) the extent to which a case is likely to turn on credibility
determinations; and (6) whether the case will require testimony from expert
witnesses. Id. at 155-57. Furthermore, the appointment of counsel for an indigent
litigant should be made when circumstances indicate “the likelihood of substantial
prejudice to him resulting, for example, from his probable inability without such
assistance to present the facts and legal issues to the court in a complex but
arguably meritorious case.” Smith-Bey v. Petsock, 741 F.2d 22, 26 (3d Cir. 1984).
Assuming, solely for the purpose of deciding this motion, that Plaintiff’s
complaint has arguable merit, Plaintiff has demonstrated that he is capable of
presenting comprehensible arguments. He has set forth his complaint in legibly
written understandable paragraphs. The legal issues are relatively uncomplicated,
and the court cannot say, at least at this point, that Plaintiff will suffer prejudice if
he is forced to prosecute the case on his own. Furthermore, this court’s liberal
construction of pro se pleadings mitigates against appointment of counsel. Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).
The court will deny Plaintiff’s motion for appointment of counsel. In the
event, however, that future proceedings demonstrate the need for counsel, the
matter may be reconsidered either by the court, on its own initiative, or upon a
properly filed motion by Plaintiff.
An appropriate order will issue.
s/Sylvia H. Rambo
SYLVIA H. RAMBO
United States District Judge
Dated: April 6, 2017
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