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Bennett v. Sabol

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 4, 2015

BRICE BENNETT, Plaintiff
v.
MARY SABOL, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

Kosik, Judge.

Plaintiff, Brice Bennett, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges incidents occurring while he was confined at the York County Prison (“YCP”), Pennsylvania. Named as defendants are the following: Mary Sabol, YCP Warden; Patricia Bennett, R.N., H.S.A.; York County Prison Board; Donald L. Reihart, YCP Board Solicitor; YCP Deputy Warden Doll; and Correctional Officer Graff. In construing the complaint liberally, Bennett appears to set forth claims of inadequate medical care for his diabetic condition, retaliation for filing grievances, assault, and false medical records.

I. Background

Plaintiff states that he is an insulin-dependent diabetic. While confined at the York County Prison, he alleges that he was denied medical attention for a period of four (4) months when his condition was not monitored, and he was not provided with prescribed insulin. (Doc. 1, Compl. at 2-3.) He claims that he was subjected to handcuffs and shackles, and further alleges that he suffers from Hepatitis C and back problems. (Id. at 3.) He does not specifically allege the denial of treatment for those conditions.

Plaintiff further claims that he was confined in his cell in retaliation for filing grievances in 2012-2013, and that false statements have been placed in his medical records. He claims that on January 20, 2012, Correctional Officer Graff attacked him, but that he ended up being placed in suicide watch for four (4) days. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Doll and Bennett engaged in trickery to cover up the foregoing and have tried to convince Plaintiff that he is the problem. (Id.)

The complaint further includes vague allegations challenging Plaintiff’s underlying criminal conviction on theft charges. He believes that he was “railroaded” and seeks to be cleared of the charges. (Id. at 5.) He also appears to include challenges to conduct occurring at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, Plaintiff’s place of confinement at the time he filed the instant action. These claims include the lack of library passes and delayed mail.

On the face of the complaint, Plaintiff states that he has not exhausted his claims because he has been transferred from the York County Prison, he is in need of counsel, and he is fearful of retaliation. (Id. at 2.) He seeks monetary damages.

Since the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff has filed two motions seeking the appointment of counsel. (Docs. 37, 44.) He has also filed a document entitled “Petition for Extension/T.R.O.” (Doc. 41.) Motions to dismiss the complaint have been filed by Defendant Bennett (Doc. 38) and the remaining Defendants (Doc. 42).

Plaintiff has not filed opposition to the motions to dismiss. Rather, he has filed documents labeled as “Additional Declaration to Amend Complaint” (Doc. 46), “Leave to Supplement Complaint/Amend Complaint” (Doc. 49); “Supplement Complaint” (Doc. 50), and “Amend and Supplement Complaint Additional Information” (Doc. 56). The court will now address the motions pending on the docket.

II. Discussion

A. Motions for counsel

In his first motion for counsel, Plaintiff claims that: (1) he is unable to afford an attorney; (2) he is limited by his confinement; (3) the issues involved are complex; (4) significant research will be involved; (5) he has limited knowledge of the law; and (6) a trial is likely. (Doc. 37). He basically reasserts these same grounds in his second motion, however adds that he has limited access to the law library and that he has been unsuccessful in attempting to secure a lawyer. (Doc. 44.)

There is neither a constitutional nor statutory right to counsel for civil litigants. Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 498 (3d Cir. 2001). 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 28 U.S.C. § 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).

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 ...


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