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Meekins v. Law

December 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Kosik)


Plaintiff William Meekins, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill (SCI-Camp Hill), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action on July 5, 2006, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The eight (8) defendants named are employees of either SCI-Camp Hill or the State Correctional Institution at Waymart, Pennsylvania. Also named are Doe defendants. In the complaint and accompanying Memorandum of Law, Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical/dental care. On August 3, 2006, service of the complaint was directed on the defendants named therein along with a motion Plaintiff had filed for a temporary restraining order. (Doc. 14.) Since the issuance of the service order, numerous motions have been filed in this case which will be addressed herein.


Plaintiff alleges that despite defendants' knowledge of his serious dental and medical problems, they refuse to properly treat him. He specifically contends that he has "carious lesions" and periodontal disease which has resulted in an infection, and infected teeth and gums to the extent he has "pits excavated to the apex of the gums through such decay." (Doc. 1 at 2.) He appears to claim that his dental records document the opinions of outside dental experts as to his condition, but yet defendants fail to provide him with any treatment or, at best, minimal treatment. While difficult to follow, it seems that he sets forth his claims against both SCIWaymart staff as well as SCI-Camp Hill staff, SCI-Waymart apparently being his former place of incarceration.*fn1 Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

Pending are multiple motions for injunctive relief filed by Plaintiff (Docs. 5, 23, 28, 31) and motions to rule on said motions (Docs. 33, 39). Also pending is Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 17) and a document entitled "Amended Complaint" submitted by Plaintiff on September 5, 2006. (Doc. 19.) Plaintiff has also filed motions for default judgment in this case*fn2 (Docs. 29, 35, 44, 50) along with the following miscellaneous motions: motion for extension of time to oppose motion to dismiss (Doc. 51); motion for production of documents (Doc. 59); motion for hearing (Doc. 62); motion for summary judgment (Doc. 64); and motion for sanctions (Doc. 67). Also pending are the following motions filed by the defendants: motion to dismiss the complaint filed by Defendant Newfield (Doc. 49); Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 60) and Corrections Defendants' motion to stay their motion to dismiss (Doc. 68). The court will address the status of each of these motions.


A. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

It is a well-established principle that prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to appointment of counsel in a civil case. Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997). Yet, district courts have broad discretionary power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Montgomery v. Pichak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002), citing Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993); Ray v. Robinson, 640 F.2d 474, 477 (3d Cir. 1981). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that the appointment of counsel for an indigent litigant should be made when circumstances "indicate the likelihood of substantial prejudice to him resulting, for example, from his probable inability without such assistance to present the facts and legal issues to the court in a complex but arguably meritorious case." Smith-Bey v. Petsock, 741 F.2d 22, 26 (3d Cir. 1984).

The initial determination to be made by the court in evaluating the expenditure of the "precious commodity" of volunteer counsel is whether the plaintiff's case "has some arguable merit in fact and law." Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 499. Plaintiff alleges a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to medical/dental care. He has an amended complaint pending before the court at this time which has not yet been acted upon. He continues to file numerous motions and briefs as well as oppose the filings submitted by defendants. The record gives every indication that Plaintiff has the capability to litigate this action at this point without the assistance of counsel. The only arguments set forth by Plaintiff in his motion requesting the assistance of counsel is that he is unable to afford counsel, his imprisonment limits his ability to litigate the action, he has limited access to the law library, the issues are complex and the trial will necessitate counsel on his behalf.

A weighing of the following factors, in addition to those set forth above, militate against appointment of counsel at this time. Those factors are:

1. The plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case;

2. The difficulty of the particular legal issues;

3. The degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to ...

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