Anderson v. Bickell et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 66 MOTION to Appoint Counsel filed by Rodney Anderson. Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 2/28/17. (jam)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
T. BICKELL, et al.,
CIVIL NO. 3:CV-14-1792
On August 18, 2014, Mr. Anderson, an inmate confined at the Huntingdon
State Correctional Institution (SCI-Huntingdon), in Pennsylvania, filed his original
Complaint in this matter against fourteen defendants who worked at two different
correctional facilities: SCI-Camp Hill and SCI-Huntingdon. The named defendants
were either employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) or
Corizon Medical Services (Corizon), the contract medical care provider at SCIHuntingdon. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) On March 30, 2016, the Court granted in part,
and denied in part, the DOC and Corizon defendants’ motions to dismiss. (ECF
Doc. 51.) Claims barred by the statute of limitations were dismissed with prejudice,
while others were dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) with leave to
amend. (Id.) Mr. Anderson then filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 64) and a
Supplemental Complaint (ECF No. 64-1) which exclusively raises new claims
against new defendants for events that took place after he initiated this action.
Presently before the Court is Mr. Anderson’s Third Motion for Appointment of
Counsel (ECF No. 66) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). 1 Mr. Anderson asserts
his indigent status, incarceration, and lack of legal training will impede his ability to
properly litigate this case. He also claims his depression and various mental health
issues require the appointment of counsel. (Id.)
Although prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to the appointment
of counsel in a civil case, the Court has broad discretionary power to appoint
counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); see also Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3d Cir.
In its decision, the Tabron Court announced the factors to be considered by a
district court when deciding whether to exercise its discretion and appoint counsel
for an indigent litigant in a civil case. Initially, “the district court must consider as a
threshold the merits of the plaintiff’s claim.” Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155. Next, if a claim
has arguable merit, “[t]he plaintiff’s ability to present his or her claim is, or course, a
significant factor that must be considered in determining whether to appoint
counsel.” Id. at 156. “If it appears that an indigent plaintiff with a claim of arguable
Also pending before the Court are the Defendants’ motions to dismiss Mr.
Anderson’s Amended and Supplemental Complaints. These motions will be addressed
under separate cover at the convenience of the Court.
merit is incapable of presenting his or her own case ... and if such a plaintiff’s claim
is truly substantial, counsel should ordinarily be appointed.” Id.
In addition to the indigent plaintiff’s ability to present his or her case, Tabron
requires the district court to consider the following additional factors: (1) the difficulty
of the particular legal issues; (2) the degree to which factual investigation will be
necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to pursue investigation; (3) the plaintiff’s
capacity to retain counsel on his own behalf; (4) the extent to which a case is likely
to turn on credibility determinations; and (5) whether the case will require testimony
from expert witnesses. Id. at 155 - 57. However, while these factors are meant to
guide the Court in making its determination, they are not exhaustive and the Court
may consider any other factor it deems relevant. Id. at 157. Moreover, it is noted
that appointment of counsel under § 1915(d) may be made by the court sua sponte
at any point in the litigation. Id. at 156.
Finally, district “courts have no authority to compel counsel to represent an
indigent civil litigant,” id. at 157 n. 7, and courts are cautioned against the
indiscriminate appointment of counsel in view of the limited supply of competent
attorneys willing to accept such assignments. Id. at 157.
Here, to the extent Mr. Anderson is concerned that his indigent status,
present state of incarceration or lack of legal training will impact his ability to move
his case forward, he stands in the same shoes of the majority of pro se litigants.
These facts do not warrant the appointment of counsel given this Court's liberal
construction of pro se pleadings. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30
L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). To the extent he argues that his depression and other mental
health issues make litigating this action difficult for him, he cites not a single
instance where they have hampered his ability to proceed. Additionally, he provides
no supporting information from any counselor or health provider verifying his
diagnosis, or that his mental health issues significantly impact his cognitive functions
or prohibit him from effectively communicating himself or comprehending English.
Additionally, documents attached to his pleadings reveal that he has been able to
maintain a position in the kitchen for numerous years in spite of these mental health
problems. To date, Mr. Anderson’s pleadings have been well articulated and cite
relevant case law. His Amended Complaint also demonstrates that he is a frequent
user of the institution’s law library. (ECF No. 64-2.) Thus, his claims that his mental
health issues require the appointment of counsel in this matter are unsupported.
There is no evidence, at this point in the litigation, that any prejudice will
befall Mr. Anderson in the absence of court appointed counsel. Consequently, Mr.
Anderson’s third request for counsel will be denied without prejudice. Should future
proceedings demonstrate the need for counsel, the matter may be reconsidered,
either sua sponte or upon a motion properly filed.
An appropriate Order follows.
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. RICHARD CAPUTO
United States District Judge
Dated: February 28 , 2017
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