United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL (DE 27) AND GRANTING HIS
REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF PAGE LIMIT (DE 29)
ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff
Trent Brown's motion for appointment of counsel (DE 27)
and his request for extension of page limit (DE 29). For the
reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion to appoint
counsel is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to
renewal after a summary judgment ruling and his motion to
extend page limit is GRANTED.
a state prisoner who is proceeding in forma
pauperis, brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that Defendants engaged in excessive force,
defamation, conspiracy, retaliation, and conversion stemming
from an incident when Defendant Barnes, a correctional
officer at the St. Louis Correctional Facility, tased him in
filed the instant motion on March 7, 2017, asking the court
to appoint an attorney in this civil matter for four main
reasons. (DE 27.) First, Plaintiff contends that he is unable
to afford private counsel. Second, he asserts that the issues
involved in this case are complex in nature. Third, he
outlines his attempts to obtain private counsel and explains
that they have been unsuccessful. Finally, he notes that he
is a prisoner with limited knowledge of the law and no
experience with litigation.
preliminary matter, although Plaintiff styles his motion as
one for appointment of counsel, the Court does not have the
authority to appoint a private attorney for Plaintiff in this
civil matter. Proceedings in forma pauperis are
governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which provides that
“[t]he court may request an
attorney to represent any person unable to afford
counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (emphasis added).
However, even if the circumstances of Plaintiff's case
convinced the Court to engage in such a search,
“[t]here is no right to recruitment of counsel in
federal civil litigation, but a district court has discretion
to recruit counsel under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(1).” Dewitt v. Corizon, Inc.,
760 F.3d 654, 657 (7th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added); see
also Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014)
(“Congress hasn't provided lawyers for indigent
prisoners; instead it gave district courts discretion to ask
lawyers to volunteer their services in some cases.”).
The appointment of counsel in a civil case, therefore,
“is a privilege not a right.” Childs v.
Pellegrin, 822 F.2d 1382, 1384 (6th Cir. 1987) (internal
Supreme Court has held that there is a presumption that
“an indigent litigant has a right to appointed counsel
only when, if he loses, he may be deprived of his physical
liberty.” Lassiter v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 26-27 (1981). With respect to
prisoner civil rights cases in particular, the Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that “there is
no right to counsel. . . . The appointment of counsel in a
civil proceeding is justified only by exceptional
circumstances.” Bennett v. Smith, 110 F.
App'x 633, 635 (6th Cir. 2004).Accordingly, although the
Court has the statutory authority to request counsel for
pro se plaintiffs in civil cases under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e), the exercise of this authority is limited to
evaluating a matter for “exceptional circumstances,
” a court should consider: (1) the probable merit of
the claims, (2) the nature of the case, (3) the complexity of
the legal and factual issues raised, and (4) the ability of
the litigant to represent him or herself. Lince v.
Youngert, 136 F. App'x 779, 782 (6th Cir. 2005);
Lavado v. Keohane, 992 F.2d 601, 605-06 (6th Cir.
1993); Lanier v. Bryant, 332 F.3d 999, 1006 (6th
the foregoing authority, Plaintiff has not described any
circumstances to justify a request for appointment of counsel
at this time. Plaintiff contends that the expertise of an
attorney would be helpful to litigate his case, but that he
has not been able to find an attorney on his own. Such
factors would apply to nearly every pro se prisoner
proceeding in forma pauperis, and do not constitute
extraordinary circumstances. The claims in Plaintiff's
complaint are not particularly complex, involving an
allegation of excessive use of force and subsequent
retaliation, as well as intentional tort claims (defamation,
conversion). Moreover, Plaintiff has on several occasions
illustrated his ability to articulate his claims and
adequately communicate his requests to the Court in a clear
and well-organized manner, and with appropriate legal
citation. For example, when he initially filed his complaint,
there were several pages that were illegible because of
copying issues. Defendants filed a motion for more definite
statement, and Plaintiff promptly corrected the issue,
causing the Court to deny Defendants' motion as moot. (DE
24.) Additionally, Plaintiff's complaint, his response to
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and the instant
motion are admirably well organized and contain citation to
relevant legal authorities. Even his request to extend the
page limit contains citations to the relevant local rules.
there is currently a motion for summary judgment pending in
this case. Plaintiff has already filed his response. As this
is a civil case in which Plaintiff is seeking only monetary
damages and declaratory relief, there is no danger that
Plaintiff will be deprived of his physical liberty over and
above his current sentence if he loses this case.
at this time, Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. (DE 27.) Plaintiff
may petition the Court for the recruitment of pro
bono counsel if this case survives dispositive motion
practice, proceeds to trial, or if other circumstances
demonstrate such a need in the future.
Plaintiff's motion to extend page limit for his response
to Defendants' motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED. (DE 29.)