Whittlesey v. US Treasury et al
ORDER denying 3 Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel; signed by Judge Ronald B. Leighton.(DN) Modified on 6/9/2017 (DN). (cc to pltf)
HONORABLE RONALD B. LEIGHTON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
CASE NO. C17-5362RBL
UNITED STATES TREASURY,
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Whittlesey’s Motion for the appointment
of counsel. [Dkt. #3] Whittlesey previously sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis but paid
the filing fee the same day [Dkt. #2].
Whittlesey’s complaint is difficult to read and comprehend. She appears to complain
about the IRS form 1040 forms she has been filing for “21 years” and the fact that she routinely
gets audited. She wants a refund plus interest, and punitive damages in the form of real estate.
She claims that the “IRS Code” is unconstitutional, and that this Court has jurisdiction because
the “defendants are who they are.” [Dkt. #1]
An indigent plaintiff in a civil case has no constitutional right to counsel unless she may
lose her physical liberty if she loses the litigation. See Lassiter v. Dept. of Social Servs., 452 U.S.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO APPOINT
COUNSEL - 1
18, 25 (1981). However, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), the Court has discretion to appoint
counsel for indigent litigants who are proceeding in forma pauperis. United States v.
$292,888.04 in U.S. Currency, 54 F.3d 564, 569 (9th Cir. 1995).
The Court will appoint counsel only under “exceptional circumstances.” Id.; Wilborn v.
Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986). “A finding of exceptional circumstances
requires an evaluation of both the likelihood of success on the merits and the ability of the
plaintiff to articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issues involved.”
Wilborn, 789 F.2d at 1331 (internal quotations omitted). These factors must be viewed together
before reaching a decision on whether to appoint counsel under § 1915(e)(1). Id.
There is, of course, some tension between these factors. Whittlesey has (at least so far)
demonstrated difficulty articulating her claims; the Court does not really know what she is
complaining about, whether it has jurisdiction over the claims, or whether they are (as they
appear to be) facially time-barred. On the other hand, this difficulty makes it impossible for the
Court to conclude that Whittlesey has shown any likelihood of success on the merits of her
Whittlesey has not met the exceptional circumstances standard for a court-appointed
lawyer to represent her at taxpayer expense. Her motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 9th day of June, 2017.
Ronald B. Leighton
United States District Judge
[DKT. #3] - 2
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