United States District Court, D. New Jersey
DOUGLAS E. ARPERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court a motion by pro se
Plaintiff, Thomas Crawford for the appointment of pro bono
counsel [ECF No. 8]. Plaintiff, a prisoner at New Jersey
State Prison, brings this civil rights action against the
State of New Jersey, the Department of Corrections, and
several corrections officers alleging that corrections
officers destroyed legal materials belonging to Plaintiff
while those materials were in the possession of another
inmate. For the reasons below, Plaintiff's motion for the
appointment of counsel is denied.
there is no right to counsel in a civil case, Parham v.
Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997); Tabron
v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153-54 (3d Cir. 1993), pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(1), “[t]he court may request an
attorney to represent any person unable to afford
counsel.” Appointment of counsel under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1) may be made at any point in the litigation and may
be made by the Court sua sponte. See
Tabron, 6 F.3d at 156.
deciding whether to appoint counsel under §1915, the
Court must be persuaded that Plaintiff's claim has some
merit in law and fact. See Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155. If
the Court finds Plaintiff's claim has merit, the Court
must then weigh a variety of factors to decide whether it is
appropriate to appoint counsel: (1) the applicant's
ability to present his or her case; (2) the complexity of the
legal issues presented; (3) the degree to which factual
investigation is required and the ability of the applicant to
pursue such investigation; (4) whether credibility
determinations will play a significant role in the resolution
of the applicant's claims' (5) whether the case will
require testimony from expert witnesses; and (6) whether the
applicant can afford counsel on his or her own behalf.
Parham, 126 F.3d at 457-58; Tabron, 6 F.3d
at 155-157. Other factors that must also be considered when
deciding an application for the appointment of pro bono
counsel are “the lack of funding to pay appointed
counsel, the limited supply of competent lawyers willing to
do pro bono work, and the value of lawyers' time”.
Jenkins v. D'Amico, Civ. Action No. 06-2027,
2006 WL 2465414, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 22, 2006) (citing
Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157-58).
preliminary matter, the Court will assume for the purposes of
this motion that Plaintiff's claims have adequate merit
and turn to the Tabron factors. Relevant to the
first factor is Plaintiff's contention that he is
“unlearned in the law, ” and he is
“concerned” that without a lawyer to represent
him his “constitutional rights will be violated.”
ECF No. 8 at 3. However, a lack of legal experience alone
“is not a basis for appointing counsel, because it is a
limitation held in common by most pro se
parties.” Hooks v. Schultz, No. 07-5627, 2010
WL 415316, at *1 n.2 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2010). Plaintiff has,
thus far, demonstrated the ability to adequately represent
himself at this stage of the proceedings. For example,
without the assistance of counsel, Plaintiff has filed a
Complaint, two motions and various correspondence with the
Court that demonstrate literacy and the ability to reference
relevant legal principles. See Lazko v. Watts, 373
Fed. App'x 196, 201 (3d Cir. 2010) (Plaintiff's
numerous submissions indicated that he was able to present
the necessary legal and factual issues to the court.).
the remaining factors, the legal issues Plaintiff faces at
this stage in the litigation do not appear to be unusually
complex in nature. Further, at this early point in the
proceedings, Plaintiff has not demonstrated the degree to
which factual investigations will be necessary, the extent to
which the case is likely to turn on credibility
determinations, or that he will require expert witnesses.
Overall, the factual and legal issues in this case
“have not been tested or developed by the general
course of litigation, making a [number of factors] of
Parham's test particularly difficult to evaluate.”
See Jenkins, 2006 WL 2465414, at *1.
the Court has assessed the appropriate factors in conjunction
with the lack of funding to pay appointed counsel, the
limited supply of competent lawyers willing to do pro bono
work, and the value of a lawyer's time, see Id.
(citing Tabron, 6 F.3d at 157-58), and concludes that the
appointment of counsel is not warranted at this time. The
Court recognizes that the above considerations may change as
this litigation proceeds. The Court will continue to monitor
the issues raised by Plaintiff may exercise ...