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 64).
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 61, 63). 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).
initial matter, the Court notes that in her first request for
an attorney, Plaintiff complains of her inability to properly
communicate with the “lawyer that represents SCAN. . .
.” (ECF 61). There is, however, no SCAN defendant
currently in this case. Rather, Plaintiff appears to be
referring to the attorney representing the defendants in a
separate civil matter where she is a party. See Alicia
Nailia Royal v. Paige Walker, SCAN, et al.,
1:18-cv-00122-HAB-SLC. As such, Plaintiff does not appear to
raise any issues as to her ability to adequately litigate the
present case, and provides no reasons why she believes
recruited counsel is appropriate here. In the interest of
completeness, however, the Court will analyze Plaintiff's
request pursuant to the previously cited case law.
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, Plaintiff 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 18, 28, 30, 32); has properly responded to
motions pending against her (ECF 28, 29), and participated in
a Rule 16 preliminary pretrial conference (ECF 55).
also evident from Plaintiff's participation in the
preliminary pretrial conference that Plaintiff has adequate
communication skills to proceed pro se. (ECF 55).
Specifically, Plaintiff is not illiterate, as she has
consistently filed written documents in open court. 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). Further,
Plaintiff is not presently incarcerated and thus has the
freedom to perform her own research.
Plaintiff appears to have not complied with the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure requiring her to confer in good faith with
Defendants' counsel about setting pretrial schedules (ECF
55), Plaintiff's noncompliance seems to have stemmed more
from her issues receiving mail rather than to any inability
to understand these proceedings or represent herself. See
Harper v. Bolton, 57 F.Supp.3d 889, 900 (N.D. Ill. 2014)
(“Mr. Harper's contention that defendants . . .
delayed delivery of a piece of legal mail . . . . [has]
nothing to do with the plaintiff's competency to
represent himself.”). As such, Plaintiff raises no
specific issues regarding her ability to communicate and
confer with the attorneys in this case. (ECF 61).
these reasons, Plaintiff's request that the Court recruit
counsel for her (ECF 64) 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 appears
that the action has sufficient merit to require complex
discovery or an evidentiary hearing.” (citation