United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins, United States Magistrate Judge
November 9, 2016, pro se Plaintiff Reynald Athlai Amazan
filed this suit advancing claims under the Americans with
Disabilities Act against Defendant Ivy Tech Community College
- Northeast (“Ivy Tech”) (DE 1), together with a
motion asking that the Court appoint an attorney to represent
him (DE 3). Because Amazan is competent to litigate this case
himself at this early stage of the proceedings, his motion
will be DENIED.
litigants do not have a right, either constitutional or
statutory, to court-appointed counsel. Pruitt v.
Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 2007); Zarnes v.
Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 288 (7th Cir. 1995). Rather,
district courts are empowered to appoint an attorney to
represent a plaintiff without charge when he is “unable
to afford counsel, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), or in
Title VII cases “in such circumstances as the court may
deem just, ” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has instructed that several
factors should be weighed by the district court when
determining whether appointment of counsel is warranted: (1)
whether the plaintiff has made a reasonable attempt to obtain
counsel or been effectively precluded from doing so; and (2)
given the difficulty of the case, whether the plaintiff
appears competent to litigate it himself. Pruitt,
503 F.3d at 654-58; Sherrill v. Potter, 329 F.
App'x 672, 675 (7th Cir. 2009) (applying the
Pruitt factors in a Title VII case); Darden v.
Ill. Bell Tel. Co., 797 F.2d 497, 500-501 (7th Cir.
1986) (instructing the court to consider “the merits of
the plaintiff's claim, the plaintiff's diligence in
attempting to obtain a lawyer, and the plaintiff's
financial ability to retain counsel” when considering a
motion to appoint counsel under Title VII (citation
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.” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712
(7th Cir. 2014) (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). Normally, determining a
plaintiff's competence will be assessed by considering
“the plaintiff's literacy, communication skills,
educational level, and litigation experience.”
Id. 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
states that he has contacted at least five attorneys, but
none have taken his case. See Jackson v. Cty. 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.”). Thus, although Amazan has satisfied the
threshold element of a request for counsel, at least five
attorneys have chosen to pass up the opportunity to represent
him. This circumstance speaks rather directly to the merits
of Amazan's case and raises a fair inference that these
attorneys did not view his case as meritorious. See
Id. (considering plaintiff's unsuccessful attempts
to retain counsel when denying his motion to appoint
on to the second portion of the inquiry, this suit is a
relatively straightforward retaliation and discrimination
action: Amazan, who is a student at Ivy Tech, claims that Ivy
Tech discriminated and retaliated against him based on his
disability when it terminated him from his work-study job as
a “peer mentor coordinator.” (DE 1); see,
e.g., Jagla v. LaSalle Bank, No. 05 C 6460,
2006 WL 1005728, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 12, 2006) (denying
plaintiff's request for counsel in a straightforward
national origin discrimination case, observing that the issue
did not involve any “nonintuitive procedural
requirements applied in a setting of complex legal
doctrine” (quoting Hughes v. Joliet Corr.
Ctr., 931 F.2d 425, 429 (7th Cir. 1991))).
has already adequately articulated his claims in this suit
(DE 1); participated in a Rule 16 preliminary pretrial
conference (DE 15); and filed a lengthy letter seeking the
appointment of counsel (DE 3). It is evident from
Amazan's filings and his participation in the preliminary
pretrial conference that he is assertive and possesses
adequate communication skills, certainly at a sufficient
level to proceed pro se. Cf. Dewitt v. Corizon,
Inc., 760 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2014) (reversing a
district court's denial of request for counsel pertaining
to “a blind and indigent prisoner with a tenth-grade
education and no legal experience” in a case involving
complicated medical matters); Henderson v. Ghosh,
755 F.3d 559, 567 (7th Cir. 2014) (reversing a district
court's denial of request for counsel where the record
reflected plaintiff's low IQ, functional illiteracy, and
poor education). At the preliminary pretrial conference,
Amazan was able to articulate the events leading up to his
filing this case, the claims that he is advancing, and the
relief that he seeks.
states that he has a “short arm disability, ” but
there is no suggestion that this disability would impair his
ability to prosecute this case pro se. Amazan also has a
learning disability, but he describes it as
“mild” in that sometimes he requires additional
time to process things. In that regard, Amazan attached to
his complaint a 2010 report from Psychological Services of
Fort Wayne Community Schools, which reflects that he was
functioning in the low average range of intellectual ability
when he was in the ninth grade. (DE 1 at 11-13). Amazan has
since pursued an associate's degree in general studies at
Ivy Tech, which he plans to complete in 2017. As stated
earlier, Amazan was working as a “peer mentor
coordinator” with Ivy Tech when the events giving rise
to this lawsuit occurred, and he later became a “work
study soccer coach” there. (DE 1 at 3, 7).
Amazan is not incarcerated and thus has the freedom and
ability to perform his own research. In that he is currently
a student at Ivy Tech, he obviously has access to a library.
Furthermore, many of the facts of this case are within
Amazan's particular knowledge, so the task of discovery
does not appear particularly complex.
the foregoing, Amazan appears competent to adequately handle
the litigation of this case, at least at this stage of the
proceedings. Consequently, Amazan's motion
asking that the Court appoint counsel for him will be denied.
If his case survives the filing of dispositive motions, the
Court will reconsider recruiting counsel for him upon his
further motion. 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)).