Hammonds v. Collins et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS ORDERED that the Motion 84 to appoint counsel is DENIED at this time without prejudice to re-examining this issue as this litigation progresses. Signed by Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson on 11/13/12. (rc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
RICHARD ALLEN HAMMONDS,
SUP’T. COLLINS, et al.,
Civil No. 3:12-CV-236
(Magistrate Judge Carlson)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on another request to appoint counsel for
the plaintiff, a pro se litigant. (Doc. 84.) The plaintiff has asked the Court to appoint
counsel when there are potentially dispositive motions filed, and unresolved, in this
We appreciate the plaintiff’s interest in securing court-appointed counsel, but
also recognize that there is neither a constitutional nor a statutory right to counsel for
civil litigants. Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997); Tabron v.
Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993). Instead, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) simply
provides that “[t]he court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to
employ counsel.” Under §1915(e)(1), a district court’s appointment of counsel is
discretionary and must be made on a case-by-case basis. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157-58. In
Parham, the United States Court of Appeals outlined the standards to be considered
by courts when reviewing an application to appoint counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1). In passing on such we requests we must first:
“[D]etermine that the plaintiff's claim has some merit, then [we] 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; [and] (6) whether the plaintiff can attain
and afford counsel on his own behalf.”
Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d at 457.
There is yet another practical consideration which must be taken into account
when considering motions for appointment of counsel. As the United states Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly observed:
Finally, in addressing this issue, we must take note of the significant
practical restraints on the district courts' ability to appoint counsel: the
ever-growing number of prisoner civil rights actions filed each year in
the federal courts; the lack of funding to pay appointed counsel; and the
limited supply of competent lawyers who are willing to undertake such
representation without compensation. We have no doubt that there are
many cases in which district courts seek to appoint counsel but there is
simply none willing to accept appointment. It is difficult to fault a district
court that denies a request for appointment under such circumstances.
Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 157 (3d Cir. 1993). Mindful of this consideration it has
been “emphasize[d] that volunteer lawyer time is extremely valuable. Hence, district
courts should not request counsel under § 1915(d) indiscriminately. As the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit has warned: ‘Volunteer lawyer time is a precious
commodity.... Because this resource is available in only limited quantity, every
assignment of a volunteer lawyer to an undeserving client deprives society of a
volunteer lawyer available for a deserving cause. We cannot afford that waste.’ Cooper
v. A. Sargenti Co., 877 F.2d 170, 172 (2d Cir.1989).” Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147,
157 (3d Cir. 1993).
In this case our analysis of these factors leads us to conclude that counsel should
not be appointed in this case at the present time. At the outset, we believe that we
should defer any such decision until after we have had the opportunity to further
assess the first benchmark standard we must address, the question of whether the
plaintiff’s claims have arguable legal merit. In our view, it would be inappropriate to
appoint counsel until we have the opportunity to complete this legal merits analysis
in this matter, following consideration of the dispositive motions filed in this case.
Moreover, while we understand that the plaintiff doubtless faces some obstacles in
bringing this action, to date the plaintiff has demonstrated an ability to effectively
present his own case. Furthermore, the actual investigation that the Plaintiff has to do
is minimal, since the pleadings show that the plaintiff is fully aware of the bases for
these claims against the Defendants.
Taking all of these factors into account we DENY this request to appoint
counsel (Doc. 84), at this time without prejudice to re-examining this issue as this
SO ORDERED, this 13th day of November, 2012.
S/Martin C. Carlson
Martin C. Carlson
United States Magistrate Judge
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