Edrington v. Mahally et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 7 MOTION to Amend/Correct 1 Complaint filed by Thomas Lee Edrington, 2 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis filed by Thomas Lee Edrington, 5 MOTION to Appoint Counsel filed by Thomas Lee Edrington. Signed by Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick on 2/10/2017. (cw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
THOMAS LEE EDRINGTON,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-CV-02339
LARRY MAHALLY, et al.,
Before the Court are three motions filed by pro se Plaintiff Thomas Lee Edrington.
Edrington filed a §1983 suit on November 21, 2016, seeking damages and injunctive relief
against five Defendants, all officials and corrections officers at SCI-Dallas. (Doc. 1). Edrington
moves to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), for appointment of counsel (Doc. 5), and to
amend/correct his complaint (Doc. 7).
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Edrington moves for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and has provided the requisite
prisoner authorization and trust statement. (Doc. 3; Doc. 4). Satisfied with Edrington’s proven
inability to pay the requisite fees, the Court finds his motion meritorious. Despite deficiencies in
the formalities of Edrington’s application—Edrington’s failure to acknowledge the fee
requirements and deduction of fees in the IFP motion—the Court finds that Edrington
corrected this error and has authorized deduction from his trust account as evidenced by his
prisoner authorization form. (Doc. 3). Accordingly, Edrington’s motion is hereby GRANTED.
MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL
Although prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to appointment of counsel
in a civil case, Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997), the Court has discretion
to request “an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1); see also Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002); Tabron v. Grace, 6
F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993). Under § 1915(e)(1), a court “may request an attorney to represent
any person unable to employ counsel.” The Court’s appointment of counsel is discretionary and
must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157-58.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that 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). The initial determination
to be made by a court in evaluating the expenditure of the “precious commodity” of volunteer
counsel is whether the plaintiff’s case has some arguable merit in fact and law. Montgomery, 294
F.3d at 499. If a plaintiff overcomes this threshold hurdle, other factors to be examined are:
(1) the plaintiff’s ability to present his or her 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 claimant to pursue investigation; (4) the plaintiff’s
capacity to retain counsel on his or her own behalf; (5) the extent to which the
case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; and (6) whether the case will
require testimony from expert witnesses.
Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 499 (citing Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155-57).
“The most significant of [the] post-threshold factors is the plaintiff’s ability to present his
or her case.” Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 499. Additionally, another practical consideration must
be taken into account when considering a motion for appointment of counsel. As the Third
Circuit has observed:
[W]e 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).
After considering the Montgomery factors in conjunction with the amended complaint
(Doc. 1) offered by Edrington, the Court finds he can adequately represent himself in the
present matter at this time. The Court acknowledges the additional difficulties presented to pro
se prisoners and possesses a duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519 (1972). The Court finds that with such standards in place, the Plaintiff should be able to
present his case without a likelihood of substantial prejudice. In particular, the Plaintiff shows
sufficient ability to present his case in the initial pleadings. Furthermore, a review of the
amended complaint facially evidences minimal need for factual investigation, expert testimony,
and credibility determinations at trial.
This court’s duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally, coupled with Plaintiff’s apparent
ability to litigate this action, weigh against the appointment of counsel. Hence, 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 sua sponte
or upon motion of Plaintiff.
MOTION TO AMEND/CORRECT COMPLAINT
Lastly, Edrington moves for leave to amend his complaint. (Doc. 7). Pursuant to Rule
15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a “party may amend its pleading once as a matter of
course within 21 days after serving it” or within 21 days of service of an enumerated responsive
pleading. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(1)(A)-(B). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading
only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave. The Court should freely give
leave when justice so requires.” FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). As no parties have been served in this
case, no party can be said to be prejudiced in permitting amendment. Nor can it be said that any
window for amendment has closed. As courts are to “freely give leave when justice so
requires,” the Court finds no reason to restrict Edrington from amending his complaint prior to
screening and service. Accordingly, his motion is GRANTED.
An appropriate Order follows.
s/ Karoline Mehalchick
Dated: February 10, 2017
United States Magistrate Judge
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