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Predham v. State

November 17, 2006

GEORGE P. PREDHAM, PETITIONER,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joel A. Pisano United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

By Opinion and Orders [docket entries nos. 2, 3] entered August 24, 2006, this Court Ordered Petitioner to submit, within 30 days thereafter, a complete application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and an amended petition naming a proper respondent and setting forth his claims, or the petition would be dismissed.

Petitioner has since submitted an Application [8] for leave to proceed in forma pauperis which indicates that he qualifies for such status. In addition, however, Petitioner has failed to submit an amended petition. Petitioner has submitted, however, several letters [5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12]. It is apparent from Petitioner's letters that he seeks to challenge his involuntary civil commitment. Petitioner asserts that his commitment is based not on a mental illness but on his homelessness and religious beliefs.

Accordingly, on its own motion, this Court will consider whether appointment of counsel at this time is in the interest of justice. See 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B).

There is no absolute constitutional right to appointed counsel in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 752 (1991); Reese v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247, 263 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 988 (1992), superseded on other grounds by statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B), however, this Court may appoint counsel to represent an indigent habeas petitioner if it determines "that the interests of justice so require." See also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (permitting appointment of counsel for indigent civil litigants proceeding in forma pauperis).

In exercising its discretion under §3006A,

the district court must first decide if the petitioner has presented a non-frivolous claim and if the appointment of counsel will benefit the petitioner and the court. Factors influencing a court's decision include the complexity of the factual and legal issues in the case, as well as the pro se petitioner's ability to investigate facts and present claims. Courts have held, for example, that there was no abuse of a district court's discretion in failing to appoint counsel when no evidentiary hearing was required and the issues in the case had been narrowed, or the issues were "straightforward and capable of resolution on the record," or the petitioner had "a good understanding of the issues and the ability to present forcefully and coherently his contentions."

Reese, 946 F.2d at 263-4 (citations omitted).

This standard is essentially the same as that applied under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). See Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997). In determining whether to appoint counsel to civil litigants proceeding in forma pauperis, a court should consider the following factors:

As a preliminary matter, the plaintiff's claim must have some merit in fact and law. ... If the district court determines that the plaintiff's claim has some merit, then the district court should consider the following factors:

(1) the plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case;

(2) the complexity of the legal issues;

(3) the degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to ...


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