Christopher v. Coastal Bend Detention Center et al
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE MOTIONS FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL denying without prejudice 1 , 8 , and 9 motions for appointment of counsel.(Signed by Magistrate Judge B Janice Ellington) Parties notified.(mserpa, 2)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
CORPUS CHRISTI DIVISION
JULIUS CALVIN CHRISTOPHER,
COASTAL BEND DETENTION
CENTER, et al,
December 20, 2016
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:16-CV-516
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE MOTIONS FOR
APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 6, 2016, complaining that Defendants
Coastal Bend Detention Center, named staff, and United States Marshals were
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Constitution (D.E.
1). Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status and his case will be scheduled for an
evidentiary hearing (D.E. 7). Plaintiff has filed two motions for emergency relief (D.E. 8,
9). In those motions as well as in his original complaint, Plaintiff requests appointment
In Bounds v. Smith, the Supreme Court held that a prisoner's constitutional right of
access to the courts requires that the access be meaningful; that is, prison officials must
provide pro se litigants with writing materials, access to the law library, or other forms of
legal assistance. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 829 (1977). There is, however, no
constitutional right to appointment of counsel in civil rights cases. Akasike v. Fitzpatrick,
26 F.3d 510, 512 (5th Cir. 1994); Branch v. Cole, 686 F.2d 264, 266 (5th Cir. 1982).
Further, Bounds did not create a "free-standing right to a law library or legal assistance."
Lewis v. Casey, 116 S. Ct. 2174, 2180 (1996). It is within the court's discretion to
appoint counsel, unless the case presents "exceptional circumstances," thus requiring the
appointment. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); Cupit v. Jones, 835 F.2d 82, 86 (5th Cir. 1987).
A number of factors should be examined when determining whether to appoint
counsel. Jackson v. Dallas Police Department, 811 F.2d 260, 261-62 (5th Cir. 1986)
(citing Ulmer v. Chancellor, 691 F.2d 209 (5th Cir. 1982)). The first is the type and
complexity of the case. Id. This case is not overly complex. According to plaintiff, the
Coastal Bend Detention Center, its staff, and unnamed United States Marshals were
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Though serious, plaintiff’s
allegations are not complex.
The second and third factors are whether the plaintiff is in a position to adequately
investigate and present his case. Id. Plaintiff’s pleadings demonstrate he is reasonably
articulate and intelligent and that he understands and can articulate his claims. Though
Plaintiff claims to have a learning disability, he has had no problem setting forth his
claims in this action. Plaintiff appears, at this stage of the case, to be in a position to
adequately investigate and present his case.
The fourth factor which should be examined is whether the evidence will consist
in large part of conflicting testimony so as to require skill in the presentation of evidence
and in cross-examination. Id. Examination of this factor is premature. Plaintiff’s claims
have not yet been screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An evidentiary hearing will
be scheduled in January.
Plaintiff has not shown that exceptional circumstances require the appointment of
counsel. In addition, there is no indication that appointed counsel would aid in the
efficient and equitable disposition of the case. The Court has the authority to award
attorneys' fees to a prevailing plaintiff. 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Plaintiff is not prohibited from
hiring an attorney on a contingent-fee arrangement. Plaintiff's motions for appointment
of counsel (D.E. 1, 8, 9) are denied without prejudice at this time. This order will be sua
sponte reexamined as the case proceeds.
ORDERED this 20th day of December, 2016.
B. JANICE ELLINGTON
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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