Civil No. 3:16-cv-2088.

RONNIE LAWSON, Plaintiff, v. COUNSELOR MARR, et al., Defendants.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania.

Editors Note
Applicable Law: 28 U.S.C. § 1331
Cause: 28 U.S.C. § 1331 Federal Question: Other Civil Rights
Nature of Suit: 550 Prisoner: Civil Rights
Source: PACER

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Ronnie Lawson, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

Counselor Marr, Defendant, represented by Justin Blewitt , U.S. Attorney's Office.

Lieutenant Beachel, Defendant, represented by Justin Blewitt , U.S. Attorney's Office.

Officer Missingman, Defendant, represented by Justin Blewitt , U.S. Attorney's Office.

Officer Beaver, Defendant, represented by Justin Blewitt , U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mr UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Amicus, represented by Justin Blewitt , U.S. Attorney's Office.


ROBERT D. MARIANI, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Ronnie Lawson, an inmate currently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this Bivens,1, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, action in October, 2016. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint. (Doc. 12). Named as Defendants are Robert Marr, Dallas Beachel, Benjamin Missigman, and Nathen Beaver. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that in June 2016 his cell assignment changed and he was housed with an inmate he did not get along with, which lead to an altercation with the cellmate. (Id. at pp. 2-4). Plaintiff further alleges that he was assaulted by Defendants Beaver and Missigman. (Id. at pp. 4-6).

Presently pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motions to appoint counsel. (Docs. 4, 13). For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied without prejudice.

Although prisoners have no constitutional or statutory right to appointment of counsel in a civil case, the Court has discretion "to request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 1997); Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002); Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that the appointment of counsel for an indigent litigant should be made when circumstances indicate "the likelihood of substantial prejudice to him resulting, for example, from his probable inability without such assistance to present the facts and legal issues to the court in a complex but arguably meritorious case." Smith-Bey v. Petsock, 741 F.2d 22, 26 (3d Cir. 1984).

The initial determination to be made by the Court in evaluating the expenditure of the "precious commodity" of volunteer counsel is whether the case has some arguable merit in fact or law. Montgomery, 294 F.3d at 499. If a plaintiff overcomes this threshold hurdle, other factors to be examined are:

(1) the plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case; (2) the difficulty of the particular legal issues; (3) the degree to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability of the plaintiff to pursue investigation; (4) the plaintiff's capacity to retain counsel on his or her own behalf; (5) the extent to which the case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; and (6) whether the case will require testimony from expert witnesses.

Id. (citing Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155-57). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals added two other factors to be taken into consideration: (1) the court's willingness to aid the indigent party in presenting his or her own case; and (2) the available supply of lawyers willing to accept section 1915(e) requests within the relevant geographic area. See Gordon v. Gonzalez, 232 F. App'x 153 (3d Cir. 2007).

Assuming arguendo that the complaint has merit, Plaintiff fails to set forth any circumstances warranting the appointment of counsel. See Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155-56. Plaintiff bases his motions solely on his inability to afford counsel. (Docs. 4, 13). Upon review of the complaint, the legal issues presented in this case are not complex and likely will not require expert testimony. Furthermore, despite his incarceration, investigation of the facts is not beyond Plaintiff's capabilities and he is familiar with the facts of his case. In his pleadings, Plaintiff demonstrates the ability to adequately present his case. Moreover, the Court notes that it does not have a large group of attorneys who would represent this action in a pro bono capacity.

Based on the foregoing, it does not appear that Plaintiff will suffer prejudice if forced to prosecute this case on his own. The Court's duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), Riley v. Jeffes, 777 F.2d 143, 147-48 (3d Cir. 1985), coupled with Plaintiff's apparent ability to litigate this action, militate against the appointment of counsel. Accordingly, the motions for appointment of counsel will be denied, however said denial will be without prejudice. As the Court in Tabron stated,

[A]ppointment of counsel under § 1915(d) may be made at any point in the litigation and may be made by the district court sua sponte . . . even if it does not appear until trial (or immediately before trial) that an indigent litigant is not capable of trying his or her case, the district court should consider appointment of counsel at that point.

Tabron, 6 F.3d at 156-57. Therefore, in the event that future proceedings demonstrate the need for counsel, the matter may be reconsidered either sua sponte or upon motion of Plaintiff.

A separate Order follows.


1. Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Bivens stands for the proposition that "a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal-question jurisdiction of the district courts to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978).


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