United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a letter filed by pro se Plaintiff
Alicia Nailia Royal on November 25, 2019, which the Court
deems to be a second motion requesting that this Court
recruit an attorney to represent her. (ECF 41).
Plaintiff's first request for counsel was denied because
she had not indicated whether she had contacted at least
three attorneys concerning her case. (ECF 37, 39). While
Plaintiff has now satisfied that threshold requirement, her
motion for the appointment of counsel is unsuccessful on the
merits for the following reasons.
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); Luttrell v.
Nickel, 129 F.3d 933, 936 (7th Cir. 1997); Zarnes v.
Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 288 (7th Cir. 1995); Jackson v.
Cty. of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1071 (7th Cir. 1992).
Rather, district courts are empowered to recruit an attorney
to represent a plaintiff without charge when she is
“unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has
instructed that several factors should be weighed by the
district court when determining whether recruitment 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
herself. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654.
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
[herself].” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712
(7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655).
Factors to be considered include “the plaintiff's
literacy, communication skills, educational level, and
litigation experience.” Pruitt, 503 F.3d at
655. Finally, in conducting this inquiry, the district court
must ascertain “whether the plaintiff appears competent
to litigate [her] 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.”
Id. (emphasis omitted).
stated above, Plaintiff indicates that she has contacted five
attorneys or legal associations about this matter, but none
have taken her case. See Jackson, 953 F.2d at 1073
(“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.”). Therefore, she has satisfied the threshold
element of a request for counsel. Having said that, several
attorneys have chosen to pass up the opportunity to represent
Plaintiff, which speaks rather directly to the merits of her
case and raises a fair inference that these attorneys did not
view her case as meritorious. See Id. (considering
plaintiff's unsuccessful attempts to retain counsel when
denying his motion to appoint counsel).
the second portion of the inquiry, it is relevant that
Plaintiff has not, to date, consistently complied with the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requiring her to confer in
good faith with Defendants' counsel about scheduling and
other matters in this case, and that she has failed to timely
respond to Defendants' discovery requests. (See
ECF 28, 40, 43). Plaintiff's noncompliance, however,
appears to stem more from her distrust of Defendants'
counsel and perceived mistreatment by such counsel, rather
than any incompetence on Plaintiff's part.
alleges in this matter that Defendants committed due process
violations of her parenting rights. (ECF 1). While
Plaintiff's claims may involve some legal complexity,
many of the facts of this case are within her particular
knowledge, and thus, the task of factual discovery is apt to
be quite limited. See Lovelace v. Dall, 820 F.2d
223, 226-27 (7th Cir. 1987) (denying a motion to appoint
counsel where pro se plaintiff could adequately
handle the discovery process and trial in a relatively simple
§ 1983 case). Plaintiff has already articulated her
claims (ECF 1) and survived a motion to dismiss (ECF 13, 19,
20, 22); sought various forms of relief through filing
motions (ECF 2, 4, 37, 38, 41); and participated in a Rule 16
preliminary pretrial conference (ECF 32) and a hearing on
Defendants' motion to compel (ECF 43).
evident from Plaintiff's participation in the preliminary
pretrial conference and hearing on Defendants' motion to
compel that Plaintiff has adequate communication skills to
proceed pro se. (ECF 32, 43). Specifically,
Plaintiff is not illiterate, as she expressly stated at the
hearing on Defendants' motion to compel that she prefers
to communicate with counsel in writing. Cf. 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). Plaintiff is not presently
incarcerated and thus has the freedom to perform her own
research. And while Plaintiff did mention at one point that
she has been dealing with some “health issues, ”
she does not suggest, much less explain how, such issues may
impede her ability to represent herself in this action.
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
date, Plaintiff's primary obstacle appears to be her
resistance to conferring in good faith with Defendants'
counsel as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
and her failure to respond to Defendants' discovery
requests. However, all parties in a federal lawsuit
have a duty to “act in good faith in complying with
their discovery obligations and to cooperate with and
facilitate forthright discovery.” Retail Experts
Consulting & Mgmt., Inc. v. Premium Retail Servs.,
Inc., No. 05 C 6337, 2006 WL 1719564, at *4 (N.D. Ill.
June 15, 2006) (citations omitted). The Court REMINDS
Plaintiff that it is she who filed this case, and
“although pro se litigants are given wide
latitude, pro se litigants do not enjoy unbridled
license to disregard clearly communicated court orders, nor
are they entitled to a general dispensation from the rules of
civil procedure or court-imposed deadlines.”
Balensiefen v. Princeton Nat'l Bancorp, Inc.,
No. 10-CV-1263, 2012 WL 3113290, at *3 (C.D. Ill. July 10,
2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), R.
& R. adopted by 2012 WL 3114593 (July 31, 2012).
these reasons, Plaintiff's request that the Court recruit
counsel for her (ECF 41) is DENIED. The Court will reconsider
recruiting counsel for Plaintiff in the future if it becomes
evident that the case has sufficient merit to require more
complex proceedings. 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 ...