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Harris v. Holmes

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 6, 2017

GARY HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER HOLMES, et al., Defendants.

          GREGORY R. BUENO, NICOLE ELIZABETH ADAMS, SUZANNE MARIE DAVIES On behalf of Defendants

          GARY HARRIS Appearing pro se

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff, Gary Harris, appearing pro se, is in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections and currently incarcerated at South Woods State Prison. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not providing him with hot meals and adequate food, failing to accommodate sufficient prayer time and provide prayer oil, preventing him from wearing religious attire, and harassing and discriminating against Muslim inmates.[1]

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Order (Docket No. 42) denying Plaintiff's motion to “expand class, ” expand discovery time, and appoint pro bono counsel.[2] The Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's request to expand the class because Plaintiff's case is not a class action. (Docket No. 42 at 1.) The Magistrate Judge also denied Plaintiff's request for pro bono counsel because Plaintiff's reason for counsel - that the complexity of legal issues is beyond the abilities of Plaintiff - did not meet the standard for the appointment of counsel. (Id. at 2.) The Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff's request to extend the scheduling deadlines to complete discovery. (Id.)

         In Plaintiff's appeal of the Magistrate Judge's decision, Plaintiff states the he used the wrong terminology in his request to “expand the class.” Instead, what he was seeking was to add five additional plaintiffs to his case, and Plaintiff asks this Court to allow him to do so.

         The Court cannot grant Plaintiff's request, which must be made by way of a motion under the relevant Federal Rules (see, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, 19, 21). Further, because Plaintiff has not articulated how the Magistrate Judge's decision on his request to “expand the class” as worded in his motion was in error, Plaintiff's appeal of the denial of that part of his motion must be denied.

         Plaintiff also appeals the Magistrate Judge's denial of the appointment of pro bono counsel. The Magistrate Judge found, “Having reviewed plaintiff's submissions in the case, the Court finds plaintiff is capable to representing himself.” (Id. at 2.) The Magistrate Judge also noted that he was “at a disadvantage in ruling on plaintiff's motion because there is no supporting brief or coherent explanation for why the motion should be granted.” (Id. at 1.)

         In his appeal, Plaintiff provides several pages of argument as to why he should be appointed counsel. Because none of this argument was presented to the Magistrate Judge, however, this Court cannot find that the Magistrate Judge's decision was clearly erroneous. Plaintiff should present these arguments to the Magistrate Judge through a properly supported motion for the appointment of counsel.[3]

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's appeal of the Magistrate Judge's July 6, 2016 Order must be denied. An appropriate Order will be entered.

---------

Notes:

[1] Because Plaintiff has brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights, this Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.

[2] A United States magistrate judge may hear and determine any non-dispositive pretrial matter pending before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), and a district court judge will only reverse a magistrate judge's opinion on pretrial matters if it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law, ” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(1)(A). A ruling is contrary to law if the magistrate judge has misinterpreted or misapplied applicable law. Gunter v. Ridgewood Energy Corp., 32 F.Supp.2d 162, 164 (D.N.J. 1998). The party filing the notice of appeal bears the burden of demonstrating that the ...


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