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Martinez v. Jones

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 13, 2014

JUAN MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. B JONES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on the application of pro se Plaintiff Juan Martinez for the appointment of pro bono counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). (Doc. 15, Mot. Appt. of Counsel.) After carefully considering Mr. Martinez's request, the motion will be denied without prejudice.

II. Background

This matter involves events that transpired while Mr. Martinez was incarcerated at SCI-Camp Hill, in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, Compl.) Mr. Martinez, however, commenced this action after his release from prison and paid the full filing fee in this matter. (Doc. 1-1, Receipt.) Following Mr. Martinez's service of a summons and a Complaint on the named defendants, the Commonwealth defendants filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 10).[1]

Mr. Martinez alleges that he was assaulted by several Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees on March 28, 2010, while at SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 1, Compl.) He alleges other prison officials witnessed the assault but failed to intervene. ( Id. ) Following the assault, Mr. Martinez claims he was denied personal property, food, and an impartial misconduct hearing which resulted in his placement in a restricted housing unit. ( Id. ) Finally, Mr. Martinez names additional prison officials who were charged with investigating the events of March 28, 2010, and alleged they have covered up the true facts of the event.

III. Discussion

There is neither a constitutional nor statutory right to counsel for civil litigants. Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 498 (3d Cir. 2002). Congress has granted district courts the discretion to "request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1)(Noting that appointment of counsel pursuant to § 1915(e)(1) is "discretionary"). A court's discretionary authority to appoint an attorney to represent a civil litigant (prisoner or non-incarcerated individual) only comes into play when the party is proceeding within the terms of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Proceedings In Forma Pauperis, which necessarily implies the litigant's indigent status, and is made on a case-by-case basis. Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 157-58 (3d Cir. 1993).

In Tabron, the United States Court of Appeals outlined the standards to be considered by district courts when reviewing an application to appoint counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). 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." Tabron, 6 F.3d at 156-57. Next, if plaintiff's claims meet this threshold review, other non-exclusive factors to be examined 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 pursue investigation;
4. the extent to which a case is likely to turn on ...

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