United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
CHRISTOPHER L. SCRUGGS, Plaintiff,
STG. MILLER, et al., Defendants.
Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge.
L. Scruggs, a pro se prisoner, filed a motion for
appointment of counsel. ECF 156. “There 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)). However, in some circumstances, the court may ask an
attorney to volunteer to represent an indigent party for
free. “When confronted with a request under §
1915(e)(1) for pro bono counsel, the district court is to
make the following inquiries: (1) has 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?” Pruitt v. Mote, 503
F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc).
Scruggs claims that he has contacted 20 attorneys for
representation in his various cases (ECF 156 at 1), he has
yet to receive any responses. Notably, there is no indication
when Scruggs sent out this letter or who he sent it to.
Nevertheless, even if Scruggs had made a reasonable attempt
to obtain counsel on his own, he has not demonstrated that
the case is too difficult or that he is not competent to
litigate it own his own.
The decision whether to recruit pro bono counsel is grounded
in a two-fold inquiry into both the difficulty of the
plaintiff's claims and the plaintiff's competence to
litigate those claims himself. The inquiries are necessarily
intertwined; the difficulty of the case is considered against
the plaintiff's litigation capabilities, and those
capabilities are examined in light of the challenges specific
to the case at hand. The question is not whether a lawyer
would present the case more effectively than the pro se
plaintiff; if that were the test, district judges would be
required to request counsel for every indigent litigant.
Rather, the question 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 or jury himself.
Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655 (quotation marks and
citations omitted). There are no fixed requirements for
determining a plaintiff's competence to litigate his own
case, but the court should take into consideration the
plaintiff's “literacy, communication skills,
educational level, and litigation experience.”
Id. In the end, “[t]he inquiry into the
plaintiff's capacity to handle his own case is a
practical one, made in light of whatever relevant evidence is
available on the question.” Id. “Whether
to recruit an attorney is a difficult decision: Almost
everyone would benefit from having a lawyer, but there are
too many indigent litigants and too few lawyers willing and
able to volunteer for these cases. District courts are thus
placed in the unenviable position of identifying, among a sea
of people lacking counsel, those who need counsel the
most.” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711 (7th
Cir. 2014). “The inquiry into the plaintiff's
capacity to handle his own case is a practical one, made in
light of whatever relevant evidence is available on the
question.” Henderson v. Ghosh, 755 F.3d 559,
565 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at
Scruggs does not indicate his education level. However, being
familiar with many of his filings, it is clear that he is
literate and knowledgeable about the facts of his case. In
the past three years, he has litigated a number of lawsuits
in this court and he has filed numerous motions. The issue in
this case is not complex. It is limited to the interaction
between Scruggs and four Westville Correctional Facility
officers. He alleges that these defendants used excessive
force against him on three occasions. Scruggs knows what he
occurred on these dates. Thus, the facts of this case are
personally known to Scruggs. Scruggs complains about limited
access to the law library, but this is not a basis to appoint
counsel. Among the numerous inmates who are proceeding pro se
in this court, Scruggs is not one of the most in need of an
attorney. Based on the above, the motion will be denied.
However, if at any point Scruggs needs additional time to
comply with any deadline due to his pro se status or
his limited access to the law library, he may request an
extension in writing explaining why additional time is
Scruggs filed a motion (ECF 208) asking for copies of twenty
(20) filed documents that were apparently lost when he was
transferred from Westville to Wabash Valley. However, upon
review of those twenty docket entries, the court can not
discern why Scruggs would need any of those documents.
Moreover, Scruggs does not explain why he needs any of them.
Surely, if these documents are necessary and unavailable to
Scruggs, the court will provide him with a free copy.
Otherwise, copies are $.50 per page and Scruggs is not
entitled to free copies or other public subsidy of the costs
of litigating this case, even though he is proceeding in
forma pauperis. See Lindell v. McCallum, 352
F.3d 1107, 1111 (7th Cir. 2003) (indigent pro se
prisoner had no “constitutional entitlement to subsidy.
. . to prosecute a civil suit”); Lucien v.
DeTella, 141 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 1998) (“All
§ 1915 has ever done is excuse pre-payment of
the docket fees; a litigant remains liable for them, and for
other costs”) (emphasis in original). In the interest
of justice, the court will direct the clerk to send Scruggs a
current docket sheet free of charge, but all other requested
relief will be denied. After reviewing the docket, Scruggs
may re-file his motion and explain what documents, if any, he
needs out of the twenty that he is missing.
these reasons, the motion (ECF 156) for appointment of
counsel is DENIED. The clerk is
DIRECTED to send the plaintiff a current
docket sheet. All other relief ...