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Robert Young v. Oleseyi Afywape and William J. Palatucci

September 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.


Presently before this Court is Plaintiff, Robert Young's ("Plaintiff"), Motion for the Appointment of Counsel. For the reasons set forth below, this Motion is denied.


Plaintiff filed suit under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants, Oleseyi Afywape and William J. Palatucci, alleging false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. (Compl. at 3.) This action arose from an incident at Coleman Hall, ("Coleman"), an educational and treatment center used by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff was a detainee at Coleman, Defendant Afywape was a staff member and Defendant Palatucci was employed as the Vice President of Operations for Community Education Centers, Inc., which oversees operations at Coleman. (Id.)

On November 7, 2011, Plaintiff, while confined at Coleman in the Tranquility Unit Secured Section for a sixty day program, was accused of assault by Defendant Afywape. (Id.)

As a result of this accusation, Plaintiff was arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department and placed in Philadelphia County Prison. (Id.) These charges were later dismissed. (Id.) After the dismissal, Plaintiff filed a civil complaint against Defendants that forms the basis for this litigation. (Compl. at 1.)

On May 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Motion for the Appointment of Counsel. (See Doc. No. 9.) We denied Plaintiff's Motion as premature noting that Defendants had not been served and that the Complaint was only recently filed. (See Doc. No. 11.) On August 31, 2012, we ordered Plaintiff to submit an affidavit responding to questions relevant to our determination concerning the appointment of counsel in this case. (See Doc. No. 16.) Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff submitted a timely response adequately answering the questions posed to him. (See Doc. No. 19.)


It is well settled that "indigent civil litigants possess neither a constitutional nor a statutory right to appointed counsel." Gordon v. Gonzalez, 232 F. App'x 153, 156 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 498 (3d Cir. 2002)). However, a district court is empowered with the discretion to "request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). The court's decision whether to appoint counsel is to be given wide latitude and will only be overturned if its ruling is clearly an abuse of discretion. Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 1993).

As a preliminary matter, the district court must first determine if the plaintiff's claim has arguable merit in fact and law. Upon a favorable finding, the court then proceeds to consider certain additional factors that bear on the necessity for the appointment of counsel. Id. at 155.

These factors enunciated in Tabron include: (1) the plaintiff's ability to present his 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 pursue investigation; (4) the plaintiff's capacity to retain counsel on his own behalf; (5) the extent to which a case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; and (6) whether the case will require testimony from expert witnesses. Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 499 (quoting Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155). This list is not exhaustive, nor is any one factor determinative. Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 458 (3d Cir. 1997).

At the early stage of this litigation, it is difficult to discern whether Plaintiff's claim possesses "merit in fact and law." However, upon review of the Complaint, it appears Plaintiff's claim has arguable merit in fact and law. Consequently, we proceed upon the analytical course charted in Tabron.

A. The Plaintiff's Ability to Present His Own Case

The ability of a plaintiff to present his own case is arguably the most significant of the Tabron factors. Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 501. This determination is based on several criteria including plaintiff's education, literacy, prior work experience, prior litigation experience, ability to understand English and the restraints placed on him by incarceration (i.e., access to resources such as a typewriter, telephone and computer). Tabron, 6 F.3d at 156; see also Parham, 126 F.3d at 459. However, it is not necessary that plaintiffs have the skills and expertise of a trial lawyer; only that they possess the ...

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