United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Pupo Lenihan, Magistrate Judge
case has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Lisa
Pupo Lenihan for pretrial proceedings in accordance with the
Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B),
and Local Rule of Civil Procedure 72.
March 14, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a Memorandum
Order (hereinafter, “Order, ” Doc.
denying Plaintiff Joel Snider's (hereinafter, “Mr.
Snider's” or “Plaintiff's”) Motion
for Appointment of Counsel (hereinafter “Motion,
” Doc. 40) without prejudice to refiling. After being
granted additional time to file objections, Plaintiff timely
filed objections on June 15, 2019 (hereinafter,
“Objections, ” Doc. 63). Plaintiff's Motion
is ripe for this Court's consideration.
Court has conducted a de novo review of the
pleadings and documents in this case, including
Plaintiff's objections, together with the Order. For the
reasons that follow, the Court will adopt the Magistrate
Judge's Order, as supplemented herein.
Order fully and accurately describes the background in this
matter, (see Order 3-5), the Court will assume the
reader's familiarity and will not restate the background
objects to the Memorandum Order on two primary grounds.
First, he argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding
that the factors in Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3d
Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1196 (1994) weigh
against appointment of counsel. (Objections at 11-15.)
Second, Plaintiff insists that appointment of a guardian
ad litem is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 17(c)(2) (hereinafter, “Rule
17(c)(2)”). (Objections at 8-11.) After careful
consideration of Plaintiff's Objections and the
supplemental materials he attached as exhibits, the Court is
constrained to overrule Plaintiff's Objections.
in consideration of all of Plaintiff's Objections, the
Court notes up front that Plaintiff states repeatedly in his
Objections that he is competent to represent himself.
(E.g., Objections at 3 (“Mr. Snider does not
believe he is currently incompetent.”); id. at
10 (“[H]e does not believe he is currently
incompetent.”)). More specifically, as to the first set
of objections, Plaintiff fails to acknowledge that the Court
in Tabron found that a plaintiff's ability to
present his own case is a “significant factor that must
be considered in determining whether to appoint
counsel.” Tabron, 6 F.3d at 156.
Tabron also counsels that “serious
consideration” should be given to appointing counsel if
a plaintiff is “incapable of presenting his or her
case.” Id. This Court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge that both of these factors do not weigh in
Plaintiff's favor. Plaintiff's sound ability to
present his case to the Court are evidenced by his filings
thus far and, by his own admission, he is competent to
represent himself at this time.
objections go into extensive detail about how his case aligns
with some of the factors laid out in Tabron,
focusing heavily on the factors concerning fact-finding and
discovery requests. The Court recognizes, just as the
Magistrate Judge did, that these factors may support
appointment of counsel if the case survives dispositive
motions. However, at this juncture, the Court does not find
these factors to be more convincing or significant than the
factors concerning Plaintiff's ability to present his own
case and his competence to do so.
Plaintiff's second set of objections, Plaintiff argues
that his episodic mental illness mandates appointment of a
guardian ad litem. See Rule 17(c)(2). The
Court must inquire into a party's competency when it is
on notice that a “party is being or has been treated
for mental illness of the type that would render him or her
legally incompetent.” Powell v. Symons, 680
F.3d 301, 307 (3d Cir. 2012). Evidence of such treatment must
be provided by a mental health professional for a court to
present case, Plaintiff attached to his Objections evidence
related to his mental health conditions. (Objections at Exs.
A-D.) The bulk of this evidence is several years old, and
consists reports of Plaintiff's psychiatric history and
examinations performed for use in the criminal matter for
which he is currently incarcerated. This Court does not find
an evaluation conducted that long ago is indicative of
Plaintiff's current mental status, particularly in light
of Plaintiff's declarations of current competence. And
while there is a more recent document, from October 2018, it
does not contain any assessment of the stability of
Plaintiff's mental health conditions or how well they are
controlled on his current regimen of medications.
Plaintiff's mere claims of episodic tendencies and
periods of incompetency are not sufficient evidence for the
Court to appoint a guardian ad litem; the Court must
be provided with medical or mental health records that
evidence periods of incompetency throughout his incarceration
in order to make such a determination. In sum, the Court
acknowledges that Plaintiff has been diagnosed with serious
psychiatric conditions that may have rendered him incompetent
for periods of time in the past; however, the records he has
supplied do not demonstrate Plaintiff has suffered any recent
episodes of incompetency.
the undersigned again agrees with the Magistrate Judge that
Plaintiff may supplement what he has provided if he wishes
for the Court to appoint a guardian ad litem.
Plaintiff should submit current mental health records and the
opinion of a current treating medical provider to support
such a decision by the Court. If Plaintiff can acquire such
records and send them to the Court on his own, he may do so.
If it is not possible for him to have access to those records
on his own, he may have the records sent directly from his
health care provider(s) to the court under seal. These
documents should be sent to the court within thirty (30) days
from the date of issuance of this Memorandum Order.
it hereby is ORDERED that Plaintiff Joel
Snider's objections (Doc. 63) are
OVERRULED; his Motion (Doc. 40) is
DENIED; and the Memorandum Order (Doc. 59)
is ADOPTED as ...