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Segura v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2017

JULIO CEASAR SEGURA, Plaintiff
v.
SECRETARY JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Mr. Segura's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 3) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Plaintiff seeks court appointed counsel in this matter due to his inability to afford counsel, his limited knowledge of law, his limited access to the law library due to his incarceration, need for a possible expert and his belief that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) will not provide him with discovery.

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Julio Segura, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at SCI-Huntingdon brings the instant pro se civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging his placement on the Restricted Release List (RRL) based on his significant history of mental illness.

         III. Standard of Review

         Although prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to the appointment of counsel in a civil case, the Court has broad discretionary power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); see also Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3d Cir. 1993).

         In its decision, the Tabron Court announced the factors to be considered by a district court when deciding whether to exercise its discretion and appoint counsel for an indigent litigant in a civil case. Initially, "the district court must consider as a threshold the merits of the plaintiffs claim." Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155. Next, if a claim has arguable merit, "[t]he plaintiffs ability to present his or her claim is, or course, a significant factor that must be considered in determining whether to appoint counsel." Id. at 156. "If it appears that an indigent plaintiff with a claim of arguable merit is incapable of presenting his or her own case ... and if such a plaintiffs claim is truly substantial, counsel should ordinarily be appointed." Id.

         In addition to the indigent plaintiffs ability to present his or her case, Tabron requires the district court to consider the following additional factors: (1) the difficulty of the particular legal issues; (2) the degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to pursue investigation; (3) the plaintiffs capacity to retain counsel on his own behalf; (4) the extent to which a case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; and (5) whether the case will require testimony from expert witnesses. Id. at 55 - 57. However, while these factors are meant to guide the Court in making its determination, they are not exhaustive and the Court may consider any other factor it deems relevant. Id. at 157. Moreover, it is noted that appointment of counsel under § 1915(d) may be made by the court sua sponte at any point in the litigation. Id. at 156.

         Finally, district "courts have no authority to compel counsel to represent an indigent civil litigant, " id. at 157 n. 7, and courts are cautioned against the indiscriminate appointment of counsel in view of the limited supply of competent attorneys willing to accept such assignments. Id. at 157.

         IV. Discussion

         Applying the relevant Tabron factors in this case, the appointment of counsel is not warranted at this time.

         This case is in its procedural infancy. Defendants were recently served with the Complaint. Defendants will either challenge the legal basis of the Complaint or file an answer. Until then, the Court will not be able to fully assess the threshold question of the arguable factual and legal merit of Plaintiffs claims for the purpose of appointing him counsel. Additionally, the Court notes that to date Mr. Segura's filings have been legible, clearly written and demonstrate clarity of thought and ability to present cogent arguments. He does not suggest, or provide other documentation, that he presently suffers from any impediment unusual to other pro se prisoner litigants that appear before this Court. Although ...


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