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Williams v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 29, 2019

MARK-ALONZO WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are pro se Plaintiff Mark-Alonzo Williams (“Williams”)' motion for injunction and sanctions (Doc. No. 126), his declaration in support thereof (Doc. No. 127), Defendants' brief in opposition (Doc. No. 131), and Williams' reply brief (Doc. No. 131), as well as Williams' motion to compel discovery (Doc. No. 129) and declaration in support thereof (Doc. No. 132). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Williams' motion for injunction and sanctions (Doc. No. 126) and deny as moot his motion to compel discovery (Doc. No. 129).

         I.BACKGROUND

         Williams is proceeding on an amended complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[1](Doc. No. 52.) He alleges that after he was sexually assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at SCI Dallas, staff there, along with Secretary John Wetzel, attempted to cover up the assault by denying him medical treatment, failing to interview him, and initiating a series of retaliatory transfers. (Id.) Williams also maintains that he was denied equal protection because he, as a homosexual inmate, was not afforded the same protections as heterosexual inmates. (Id.)

         By Order entered on May 24, 2018, the Court directed that all discovery be completed by November 23, 2018 and that all dispositive motions be filed on or before December 24, 2018. (Doc. No. 82.) On December 10, 2018, Williams filed a motion to compel discovery (Doc. No. 93), to which Defendants filed a brief in opposition (Doc. No. 95). Defendants also filed a motion to stay the dispositive motions deadline given Williams' motion to compel. (Doc. No. 96.) On January 15, 2019, the Court granted the motion to stay the dispositive motions deadline. (Doc. No. 98.)

         In a Memorandum Order entered on March 14, 2019, Magistrate Judge Carlson granted in part and denied in part Williams' motion to compel. (Doc. No. 104.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Carlson denied the motion as to Williams' requests for documents regarding information about other inmates, his requests for medical records, video footage, and transfer documents that Defendants attested did not exist, and his requests for copies of policies regarding inmate transfers and staff retaliation given Defendants' assertion that those policies were available in the law library for Williams to review. (Id.) However, Magistrate Judge Carlson granted the motion as to Williams' requests for copies of the “death threat” received from his attacker as well as the “block notes” concerning his assaults and directed Defendants to provide such documents on or before April 15, 2018. (Id.) Defendants were also directed to produce answers to Williams' interrogatories on or before that date. (Id.) Finally, he denied the motion to the extent Williams sought to compel Defendants to produce documents not requested in his initial request for production of documents. (Id.)

         Williams subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration (Doc. No. 105), arguing that Defendants committed fraud by providing in discovery what he believed is a fraudulent letter from Defendant Demming. By Order entered on May 29, 2019, the Court denied Williams' motion, noting that he had not demonstrated that the alleged fraud established manifest injustice. (Doc. No. 117.)

         Williams then filed several discovery-related motions and documents. By Memorandum and Order entered on July 2, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part Williams' various motions. (Doc. Nos. 124, 125.) Of note, the Court reopened the discovery period for thirty (30) days and directed Defendants to produce the following to Williams: (1) responses to the interrogatories posed to Defendant Klopotoski; (2) documents in response to Williams' request regarding his “parole packet” in 2014; and (3) copies of the 2014 and 2015 DOC policies regarding inmate transfers and staff retaliation that were relevant to Williams' requests. (Id.) The Court also directed the parties to file any dispositive motions within ninety (90) days. (Id.)

         II.DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Injunction and Sanctions

         In his motion for injunction and sanctions, Williams maintains that on July 5, 2019, Defendants retaliated again him by having their agents at SCI Huntingdon, where Williams is currently incarcerated, place him in the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) and seize his boxes of legal property related to this action. (Doc. No. 126 at 2.) Williams suggests that his legal property would be destroyed if the Warden did not approve him to possess excess property and that he has not been charged with any violation of prison rules. (Id.) As relief, Williams seeks the appointment of counsel, an Order enjoining staff at SCI Huntingdon from holding him in isolation without due process and directing them to return his legal property, a transfer to SCI Rockview, and permission to file a supplemental complaint to add staff at SCI Huntingdon as defendants. (Id. at 6-7.)

         1.Request for Counsel

         Although prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to the appointment of counsel in civil cases, district courts have broad discretionary power to appoint counsel for indigent civil litigants under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 498 (3d Cir. 2002). In Tabron v. Grace, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit developed a non-exhaustive list of factors to aid district courts in determining whether to appoint counsel for such litigants. Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155-57 (3d Cir. 1993). Such factors include the plaintiff's ability to present his case, the complexity of the legal and discovery issues in the case, the amount of factual investigation that will be required, the necessity of expert witnesses, and whether “witness credibility is a key issue.” Id. Additionally, “[a]s a threshold matter, a district court must assess whether the claimant's case has some arguable merit in fact and law.” Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 498-99 (citing Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155). Finally, “[t]he plaintiff's ability to present a case is ‘[p]erhaps the most significant' consideration and depends on factors such as ‘the plaintiff's education, literacy, prior work experience, and prior litigation experience . . . along with a plaintiff's ability to understand English . . . [and] the restraints placed upon a prisoner plaintiff by confinement.'” Nunez v. Wertz, Civ. No. 14-cv-0727, 2017 WL 4698092, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 19, 2017) (quoting Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 501).

         The Court concludes that the Tabron factors do not warrant appointing counsel at this time. The Court finds that, at present, Williams has the ability to present his case, read and write in English, and to litigate this action pro se. There is no indication that Williams “presently suffers from any impediment unusual to other pro se prisoner litigants that appear before this Court.” Segura v. Wetzel, Civ. No. 17-0931, 2017 WL 3495184, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 14, 2017). Additionally, this Court's duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Riley v. Jeffes, 777 F.2d 143, 147-48 (3d Cir. 1985), coupled with Williams' apparent ability to litigate this action, militate against the appointment of counsel at this time. Accordingly, the Court declines to ...


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