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Houston v. Luzerne County Children & Youth

September 4, 2007

ERIC ERNEST HOUSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LUZERNE COUNTY CHILDREN & YOUTH, ET AL., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Before me is Plaintiff's Motion for Voluntary Attorney (Doc. 27). I will continue it as a motion for the appointment of counsel.

I. History of the Case

This is a § 1983 action brought against Luzerne County Children and Youth Services and six individuals connected with Luzerne County Children and Youth Services. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff has been granted informa pauperis status. (Doc. 10). The complaint alleges that defendants forced his wife to place their children in temporary placement until secure and stable housing could be provided. The complaint was amended to add a clause for slander against Luzerne County Children and Youth Services and Jaime Stuart and Randy R. which he alleges damaged him and caused his wife to divorce him.

While there is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel for civil litigants, it is within the discretion of the district court to appoint counsel under § 1915(d). Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997). In considering whether to appoint counsel, a court should first determine that the plaintiff's claim has some arguable merit in fact and law. Id. at 457 (citing Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147(3d Cir. 1993)). Once the court has assured itself that the action is sufficiently meritorious to warrant appointment of counsel, it should consider the six Tabron factors to determine whether or not to make the appointment:

(1) the plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case;

(2) the complexity of the legal issues;

(3) the degree to which the factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to pursue such investigation;

(4) the amount a case is likely to turn on credibility determinations;

(5) whether the case will require the testimony of expert witnesses;

(6) whether the plaintiff can attain and afford counsel on his or her own behalf.

Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d at 458. This list is not exhaustive, and the decision of whether or not to appoint counsel must be made on a case-by-case basis after considering all relevant factors. Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d at 158-59.

Since the claims are recited in general terms it is difficult to assess merit at this point, so I will assume merit and proceed to a consideration of the Tabron factor.

The first Tabron factor, plaintiff's ability to represent his own case, favors not appointing counsel. Plaintiff's complaint is general in its terms, yet comprehends that there is a claim for improper government ...


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