United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith
ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR ASSISTANCE WITH RECRUITING COUNSEL (DE 3)
Anthony P. Patti, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff
Nevin Griffin's motion for assistance with recruiting
counsel. (DE 3.) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's
motion to appoint counsel is DENIED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to renewal after the case has proceeded
past its initial stages.
an Indiana state prisoner who is proceeding in forma
pauperis, brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that Defendants in the Milan Correctional Facility
violated his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and
unusual punishment by discontinuing his blood thinner
prescription, which precipitated his embolism and heart
attack. He asks the Court to award him $5 million in damages.
To date, none of the Defendants have been served.
filed the instant motion on July 5, 2017, asking the court to
appoint an attorney in this civil matter. (DE 3.) He notes
that he has contacted nearly 50 attorneys to take his case,
and has thus far not been able to retain his own counsel. He
contends that his depression and leg pain could impact his
ability to litigate this case. Finally, Plaintiff asserts
that his lack of knowledge of the law causes him to err in
his court paperwork, which led to a dismissal in a prior
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 quotation omitted).
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 and ably described by
Plaintiff, involving an allegation of cruel and unusual
punishment related to Plaintiff's March 2015 heart
attack. Moreover, Plaintiff has illustrated his ability to
articulate his claims and adequately communicate his requests
to the Court in a clear and well-organized manner, and he
notes in his motion that he has no “problems reading or
writing English[.]” (DE 3 at 2.) Finally, as this is a
civil case in which Plaintiff is seeking only monetary
damages, 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 3.) 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.