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Williams v. Healy

May 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jose L. Linares United States District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the application of Plaintiff Joseph Williams ("Plaintiff" or "Williams") for the appointment of pro bono counsel [CM/ECF #11] and the subsequent motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Heriberto Carattini, Miguel A. Reyes, William Figeroa, James P. Crecco, Erik M. Infantes, and Officer Jane Doe (collectively "Defendants") [CM/ECF #17]. No oral argument was heard. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part.


The Complaint alleges that on May 10, 2006, Sergeant Heriberto Carattini ("Carattini") of the Jersey City police broke down the door to Williams's home-injuring Williams in the process-and proceeded to search the premises without consent or a search warrant. (Compl. at 3-4.) The Complaint further alleges that Carattini, aided by fellow officers Miguel A. Reyes , William Figeroa, James P. Crecco, and Erik Infantes, searched his home and arrested him at gunpoint. (Id. at 4.)

On May 14, 2008, Williams filed suit in this Court seeking in forma pauperis status, which was granted on July 31, 2008. In its Order of July 31, 2008, this Court dismissed the Complaint as to some defendants but permitted all claims to go forward against the remaining defendants. (Order of July 31, 2008 at 1-2.) The Complaint sets forth five counts against the Defendants, alleging generally under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3) that Defendants violated Williams's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution through excessive use of force, unreasonable search and seizure, malicious prosecution, and denials of due process and equal protection.


A. Motion for the Appointment of Pro Bono Counsel

Prior to proceeding to the merits of Defendants's motion, this Court will first discuss Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel. This Court has, within its discretion, the power to appoint pro bono counsel to indigent civil litigants under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). In order to receive the benefit of appointed counsel, a party must assert a non-frivolous claim. Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 457 (3d Cir. 1997). The standard for granting pro bono counsel in this Circuit requires balancing several 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 pursue such investigation; (4) the amount a case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; (5) whether the case will require the testimony of expert witnesses; (6) whether the plaintiff can attain and afford counsel on his own behalf.

Parham, 126 F.3d at 457.

This Court having already found in its Order of July 31, 2008, that Williams's Complaint was sufficiently non-frivolous to be filed under § 1915(e)(2)(B), it is appropriate to engage in an analysis of the Parham factors with respect to Williams's request. Williams urges this Court to appoint counsel because his access to his facility's law library was limited to five occasions in approximately two months, he has no access to typewriters, and the prison law library's contents are out of date. (Pl. Appl. of Sept. 22, 2008 at 3.) He also claims that he is not in a position to afford the services of an attorney. (Id.) Williams has also supplied the Court with additional documentation of his complaints concerning the law library in his detention facility. (Pl. Letters of Oct. 31, 2008 and Nov. 15, 2008.)

This Court finds that the Parham factors do not weigh in Plaintiff's favor. Williams has, so far, been able to present his case clearly and adequately to this Court, and his case does not present any novel or particularly complex legal issue requiring the assistance of counsel. Furthermore, Williams's Complaint sets forth his causes of action clearly and succinctly. Although Williams is incarcerated, and the case, if it goes to trial, could involve issues hinging on the credibility of witnesses, this Court finds that appointment of counsel is not necessary. See Waugh v. Sisco, No. 08-6004, 2009 WL 233490, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2009) (finding incarcerated individual with access to prison law library capable of proceeding without pro bono counsel). Williams's request for pro bono counsel, therefore, is denied.

B. Motion to Dismiss

The applicable inquiry under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is well-settled. Courts must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.*fn1 See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982); Allegheny Gen. Hosp. v. Philip Morris, Inc., 228 F.3d 429, 434-35 (3d Cir. 2000). However, courts are not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429 (3d Cir. 1997). Similarly, legal conclusions ...

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