United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA
PAUPERIS AND DENYING MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL
PATRICK HANLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, dkt. , is granted to the
extent that the Court determines that the
plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to hire a private attorney.
plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel, dkt. , has
been considered. Litigants in federal civil cases do not have
a constitutional or statutory right to court-appointed
counsel. Walker v. Price, 900 F.3d 933, 938 (7th
Cir. 2018). Instead, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) gives courts
the authority to “request” counsel. Mallard
v. United States District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 300
(1989). As a practical matter, there are not enough lawyers
willing and qualified to accept a pro bono assignment in
every pro se case. See Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d
708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014) (“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.”).
questions guide [this] court's discretionary decision
whether to recruit counsel: (1) ‘has the indigent
plaintiff made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or been
effectively precluded from doing so,' and (2)
‘given the difficulty of the case, does the plaintiff
appear competent to litigate it himself?'”
Walker, 900 F.3d at 938 (quoting Pruitt v.
Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 (7th Cir. 2007)).
threshold matter, litigants must make a reasonable attempt to
secure private counsel on their own. Pruitt v. Mote,
503 F.3d 647, 653 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Thomas v.
Anderson, 912 F.3d 971, 978 (7th Cir. 2019) (because
neither of the plaintiff's requests for counsel showed
that he tried to obtain counsel on his own or that he was
precluded from doing so, the judge's denial of these
requests was not an abuse of discretion) (citing
Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55 (7th Cir. 2007) (en
banc)); Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851-52
(7th Cir. 2010) (explaining that the denial of a motion to
recruit counsel was justified by the district court's
finding that the plaintiff had not tried to obtain counsel)).
Here, the plaintiff has reasonably attempted to secure
private counsel without success.
decide the second question, the Court considers
“‘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.'” Olson, 750 F.3d at 712 (7th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655). These
questions require an individualized assessment of the
plaintiff, the claims, and the stage of litigation. The
Seventh Circuit has specifically declined to find a
presumptive right to counsel in some categories of cases.
McCaa v Hamilton, 893 F.3d 1027, 1037 (7th Cir.
2018) (Hamilton, J., concurring); Walker, 900 F.3d
plaintiff's current motion to appoint counsel reflects
that he is competent to litigate this action on his own. His
claim that he has received unsatisfactory medical treatment
for hemorrhoids is straightforward. He has personal knowledge
of the alleged events. He reads and writes at a high school
level. Although he dropped out of school in the tenth grade,
he later earned his G.E.D. He states that his hemorrhoids
make it difficult to sit for long periods of time and that he
has trouble understanding legal texts. He has received help
with this litigation from another inmate in the past, but he
prepared the current motion on his own. The motion is
comprehensible and adequately conveys the plaintiff's
situation to the Court.
plaintiff's motion reflects that he faces the same
challenges as nearly all prisoners proceeding pro se. As the
Seventh Circuit has recognized, “imprisonment only
exacerbates the already substantial difficulties that all pro
se litigants face. But Congress hasn't provided lawyers
for indigent prisoners; instead it gave district courts
discretion to ask lawyers to volunteer their services in some
cases.” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712
(7th Cir. 2014). Given the massive amount of pro se prisoner
litigation, it is simply impossible to recruit pro bono
counsel for each of these cases.
plaintiff is competent to litigate this action himself.
Although physical limitations keep him from sitting for long
periods of time, he may request an extension of time if this
limitation interferes with his ability to meet a
Court-ordered deadline. Should he find that a particular
litigation task is beyond his abilities, he may renew his
motion for counsel. Furthermore, the Court will be alert to
the possibility of recruiting representation for the
plaintiff at trial or at other points in the case where the
plaintiff's incarceration and pro se status would make it
particularly difficult for him to proceed without
representation and where the assistance of counsel would be a
benefit to both the plaintiff and the Court in the
presentation of the case. For now, the motion to appoint
counsel, dkt. , is denied without