United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a letter from pro se Plaintiff Dorothea Rogers,
which the Court construes to be motion for appointment of
counsel in this § 1983 action against her labor union
and its officers for their alleged failure to defend her
against unjustified termination by her employer. (DE 20).
Because Rogers's case is not a difficult one at this
juncture, and since she is competent to litigate it, the
motion will be DENIED.
is no right to court-appointed counsel in federal civil
litigation.” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708,
711 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d
647, 649 (7th Cir. 2007)). But under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1), a court may request that an attorney represent an
indigent litigant; the decision whether to recruit pro bono
counsel is left to the discretion of the district court.
Olson, 750 F.3d at 711; Pruitt, 503 F.3d at
deciding whether to request counsel, district courts must ask
two questions: ‘(1) [H]as the indigent plaintiff made a
reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or been effectively
precluded from doing so; and if so, (2) given the difficulty
of the case, does the plaintiff appear competent to litigate
it himself?'” Olson, 750 F.3d at 711
(alteration in original) (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d
at 654). The second portion of this inquiry, stated another
way, is “whether the difficulty of the case-factually
and legally-exceeds the particular plaintiff's capacity
as a layperson to coherently present it to the judge and jury
himself.” Id. at 712 (quoting Pruitt,
503 F.3d at 655). In conducting this inquiry, the district
court must ascertain “whether the plaintiff appears
competent to litigate his own claims, given their degree of
difficulty, and this includes the tasks that normally attend
litigation: evidence gathering, preparing and responding to
motions and other court filings, and trial.”
Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655 (emphasis omitted).
determining a plaintiff's competence will be assessed by
considering “the plaintiff's literacy,
communication skills, educational level, and litigation
experience.” Id. And if the record reveals the
plaintiff's intellectual capacity and psychological
history, these too would be relevant. Id. Overall,
the decision to recruit counsel is a “practical one,
made in light of whatever relevant evidence is available on
the question.” Id.
the foregoing analysis to the instant circumstances, it is
difficult at this early stage of the case to assess the
merits of Rogers's claims. To begin, there is no evidence
that Rogers has contacted any attorneys concerning this case.
Thus, she fails to satisfy the threshold requirement
concerning a request for recruitment of counsel. See
Jackson v. Cnty. of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1073 (7th
Cir. 1992) (“If . . . the indigent has made no
reasonable attempts to secure counsel (unless circumstances
prevented him from doing so), the court should deny any
§ 1915(d) motions outright.”); see also
Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851-52 (7th Cir.
even if she had satisfied this threshold requirement, there
is nothing to suggest that Rogers is not competent to
represent herself in this matter. While Rogers states in her
letter that her case is set for trial on November 7, 2016,
that date is actually the date of the preliminary pretrial
conference, at which discovery and other initial deadlines in
this matter will be set. Furthermore, the facts of this case
are within Rogers's personal knowledge to at least some
degree, so the task of discovery does not appear particularly
complex. Moreover, there is nothing in the record to indicate
that Rogers is incarcerated, and thus, she has the freedom
and ability to perform her own legal research.
Rogers's inability to pay for her representation, the
record reflects that she initially applied for permission to
proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. (DE 2).
The Court denied her application, finding that she had not
provided sufficient information for the Court to determine
her financial status. (DE 4). The Court did, however, permit
Rogers an opportunity to submit another application that
fully detailed her financial status. (DE 4). Rogers did not
file another application to proceed in forma
pauperis; rather she paid the $400 filing fee. (DE 5).
Thus, Rogers is not indigent on the record before the Court.
Rogers has not established her inability to pay; she has not
shown that she has made a reasonable attempt to obtain
counsel; and she appears to be competent and fully capable of
representing herself in this suit at this juncture. See
Zarnes, 64 F.3d at 289. Consequently, her motion will be
DENIED. In the event Rogers's claims survive any motions
for summary judgment and proceed to trial, the Court will,
upon further motion, reconsider her request for counsel.
See Mungiovi v. Chi. Hous. Auth., No. 94 C 6663,
1994 WL 735413, at *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 19, 1994) (“[The]
court's general practice is to consider appointment of
counsel if and when it appears that the action has sufficient
merit to require complex discovery or an evidentiary
hearing.” (citation omitted)).
reasons stated herein, Rogers's motion requesting the
appointment of counsel (DE 20) is DENIED. Rogers is, of