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Mines v. Piazza

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


July 22, 2009

DONALD MINES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH PIAZZA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's second Motion to Appoint Counsel, filed July 14, 2009. (Doc. 8.) The Court denied a previous motion by Plaintiff to appoint counsel in its Memorandum Order of June 23, 2009. (Doc. 7.) There, the Court considered the factors set forth by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3d Cir. 1993) to assist district courts in determining when appointment of counsel is appropriate.*fn1 The Court concluded that the factors did not warrant appointment of counsel in Plaintiff's case, but denied his request without prejudice to reapply at a later date should his circumstances change.

Plaintiff reapplied for appointment of counsel within several weeks. He does not allege changed circumstances, but asserts that another prisoner with superior knowledge of the law prepared his complaint and previous motions.*fn2 He states in an affidavit that the prisoner assisting him will not continue to do so. (Doc. 9.) He therefore calls into question the Court's prior analysis of the first Tabron factor, namely Plaintiff's ability to present his own case.

In the June 23 Memorandum Order, the Court noted: "Plaintiff ... argues that he is hampered by a limited knowledge of the law. However, a section of his complaint entitled 'Legal Argument' reveals a relatively sophisticated understanding of the legal analysis behind several of his claims." (Mem. Order 4, June 23, 2009, Doc. 7.) Although Plaintiff asserts he no longer has the assistance of the person to whom this understanding of the law should be attributed, he nonetheless has the benefit of a cogent complaint from which to proceed. Beyond this, Plaintiff's limited knowledge of the law presents the same problem faced by the majority of pro se prisoner plaintiffs. At this time, the Court has no indication that Plaintiff faces a particularized inability to present his own case.

When volunteer lawyer time is such a scarce resource, district courts must strive to ensure it is allocated to the cases of the greatest merit and to those plaintiffs in greatest need of assistance of counsel. See Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157. The Court cannot say that Plaintiff's limited knowledge of the law places him in the category of those pro se plaintiffs in greatest need.

NOW this 22nd day of July, 2009,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 8) is DENIED without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to reapply if his circumstances change.

A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge


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