United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is pro se Plaintiff Jesse Norwood's
Motion for a Court Appointed Attorney filed on November 3,
2017 (DE 137), requesting that the Court appoint counsel to
represent him because he is unable to afford an attorney and
because a personal matter prevents him from continuing to
represent himself. Norwood was initially represented by
counsel in this case. (See, e.g., DE 1). However,
following a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship,
the Court granted Norwood's counsel's motion for
leave to withdraw (DE 17), and Norwood chose to proceed
pro se (DE 20).
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) (citing
Jackson v. Cty. of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1071 (7th
Cir. 1992)); Luttrell v. Nickel, 129 F.3d 933, 936
(7th Cir. 1997); 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 such circumstances as the
court may deem just, ” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).
The Seventh Circuit has instructed that the following 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,
674-75 (7th Cir. 2009) (applying the Pruitt factors
in a Title VII case); Darden v. Ill. Bell Tel. Co.,
797 F.2d 497, 500-01 (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 omitted)).
there is a threshold problem with Norwood's request for
counsel. “[P]roceeding in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is a prerequisite to
appointment of counsel under 1915.” Hairston v.
Blackburn, No. 09-cv-598, 2010 WL 145793, at *10 (S.D.
Ill. Jan. 12, 2010). Norwood has already paid the filing fee
(see DE 1), and he has not applied to proceed in
forma pauperis. This is sufficient to deny Norwood's
request for counsel at the outset. See Shoultz v. Ill.
State Univ., No. 10-cv-1046, 2010 WL 744576, at *1 (C.D.
Ill. Feb. 26, 2010) (“The Court has determined that
Plaintiff is not indigent, and thus declines to seek pro bono
representation on his behalf.” (collecting cases)).
Further, although Norwood claims in his motion that he is
unable to afford an attorney (DE 137), his former
counsel's motion for leave to withdraw was premised on a
breakdown of the attorney-client relationship and not an
inability to compensate counsel (DE 17).
even if Norwood had satisfied the in forma pauperis
requirement, he has not shown any effort to obtain new
counsel. This Court has previously required that a pro
se plaintiff contact at least three attorneys concerning
his case before the Court will consider appointing an
attorney. See, e.g., Pollard v. Meadows,
No. 1:15-cv-00330-RLM-SLC, 2016 WL 128531, at *1 (N.D. Ind.
Jan. 11, 2016). Therefore, Norwood fails to satisfy this
threshold requirement concerning a request for recruitment of
counsel. Jackson, 953 F.2d at 1073 (“If,
however, 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
it is evident that Norwood is capable of representing himself
in this matter. This suit is a relatively straightforward
employment discrimination action: Norwood claims that his
former employer, East Allen County Schools, discriminated
against him based on his race and constructively discharged
him. Therefore, the level of difficulty involved in
litigating this case is a factor that cuts against
Norwood's request for counsel. 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))).
Norwood advised the Court that he would proceed pro
se more than a year ago, on November 3, 2016. (DE 20).
Since then Norwood has participated in various hearings
(e.g., DE 82; DE 111), filed numerous motions
(e.g., DE 61; DE 113), and engaged in discovery with
Defendant (e.g., DE 84; DE 99). It is evident that
Norwood is articulate, assertive, and possesses good
communication skills, certainly at a sufficient level to
proceed pro se. Cf. Dewitt v. Corizon,
Inc., 760 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. July 25, 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). Also, Norwood is
not incarcerated, and thus, he has the freedom and ability to
perform his own legal research.
Norwood has not established that he is unable to pay for
representation, that he has attempted to obtain counsel, or
that he lacks the ability to represent himself. Consequently,