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Crawford v. Washington

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 11, 2018

KENNETH CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
HEIDI WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, CRAIG HUTCHINSON, QUALITY CORRECTIONAL CARE OF MICHIGAN, and MICHIGAN CORRECTIONS COMMISSION, Defendants.

          District Judge Linda V. Parker

          ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S NOVEMBER 16, 2017 MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL (DE 28)

          Anthony P. Patti UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         A. Introduction

         Kenneth Crawford is currently incarcerated at the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF). On April 28, 2017, while incarcerated at the MDOC Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF), Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in pro per. (DE 1.) The facts underlying Plaintiff's complaint concern treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV), and his claims are based upon alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (DE 1 at 6-11.) He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (DE 1 at 12.)

         Defendants Quality Correctional Care of Michigan and Craig Hutchinson appeared via counsel on August 14, 2017. (DEs 15-16; see also DE 19-20.) Two weeks later, on August 28, 2017, Defendants Heidi Washington and MDOC appeared via counsel. (DE 21.) However, Defendants MDOC and Washington have since been dismissed. (DE 37.) Plaintiff has named a fifth defendant - “Michigan Corrections Commission, et [a]l[, ]” - who has yet to appear.[1]

         B. Pending Matters

         Judge Parker has referred this case to me for all pretrial proceedings. Currently pending before the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's November 16, 2017 motion for appointment of counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (DE 28); and (2) Defendants Quality Correctional Care of Michigan and Hutchinson's December 29, 2017 motion for summary judgment (DE 33), regarding which a response and reply have been filed (DEs 38, 39) and which will be addressed under separate cover in the future.

         C. Discussion

         The Court recognizes Plaintiff's claims that he is relegated to a wheelchair and has “only limited access to the law library . . . .” (DE 28 at 2 ¶¶ 2, 4.) In support of his request, Plaintiff also cites his “inability to investigate the facts, ” his level of education, his lack of legal experience and training, and the complex discovery rules. (DE 28 at 4 ¶¶ 10-12.)

         It is true that, “[t]he court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); however, Plaintiff's various filings illustrate his ability to effectively communicate with the Court. For example: (1) the Court is able to understand Plaintiff's type-written complaint (DE 1); (2) the Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (DEs 2, 6); (3) Plaintiff has apprised the Court of his changes in address/contact information (DEs 5, 10); (4) the Court is easily able to understand the instant, handwritten motion (DE 28); and, (5) Plaintiff's typewritten response to the earlier dispositive motion and Plaintiff's handwritten response to the pending dispositive motion are coherent and legible (DE 24, 38). This interpretation of Plaintiff's filings is not marred by the Court's rejection of his objections (DEs 32, 37) or his unsuccessful appeal. (See DEs 41-43).

         Finally, 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 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 Fed.Appx. 633, 635 (6th Cir. 2004).[2]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)(1), the exercise of this authority is limited to exceptional situations.

         In 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 Fed.Appx. 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 Cir. 2003). Applying these factors here: (1) the probable merit of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Quality Correctional Care of Michigan and Hutchinson is being addressed as their pending dispositive motion is considered; (2) the nature of the case is straightforward, having one Plaintiff and only 2-3 remaining Defendants; (3) the case is not complex, even though it involves medically related claims; and, (4) Plaintiff has demonstrated the ability to represent himself, notwithstanding his suggestion to the contrary.[3]

         D. ...


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