United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL (DE 18)
Anthony P. Patti Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff
Kenneth Hunt's motion for appointment of counsel. (DE
18.) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
a state prisoner who is proceeding in forma
pauperis, brings this prisoner civil rights lawsuit
against three defendants, Wayne County Sheriff Benny
Napoleon, Officer Favors, and sanitation investigator FNU
Fann, alleging that, while he was housed at the Wayne County
Jail in Detroit, poor conditions at the jail were making him
sick, that jail lock down procedures unconstitutionally
deprived him of privileges, and that the absence of shower
curtains violated his right to privacy. (DE 1.) He seeks
$500, 000.00 in monetary damages. (Id.)
filed this motion for appointment of counsel on June 7, 2018.
(DE 18.) In his motion, he asks the court to appoint an
attorney because of the complexity of the constitutional
issues in this civil matter and his of lack of legal
experience. He also states that he is unable to pay for a
private attorney. (Id.) Judge Cohn issued an order
referring all pretrial proceedings to me on January 11, 2018.
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 a
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.”).
Indeed, the Court previously attempted to recruit counsel for
Plaintiff following the December 14, 2017 order of partial
dismissal and directing service (DE 7), but these efforts
were not successful.
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).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 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
the foregoing authority, Plaintiff has not described
circumstances sufficiently exceptional to justify a request
for appointment of counsel. Plaintiff contends that his
§ 1983 claims “present important constitutional
questions of law” and that he is “incapable of
properly presenting said issue[s] to this court,
intelligently.” He also asserts he is unable to afford
private counsel. 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. Moreover, Plaintiff has illustrated
his ability to articulate his claims and adequately
communicate his requests to the Court in a coherent manner in
his complaint, and even in the instant motion. Finally, there
is no indication that Plaintiff will be deprived of his
physical liberty over and above his current sentence if he
loses this civil case.
at this time, Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. (DE 18.) 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.