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Young v. Alton Mental Health Center

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 10, 2013

LAVONDAS V. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTON MENTAL HEALTH CENTER, BARBARA AUSTON, KAREN KLUNK, and ANITA BRAZIL, Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM D. STIEHL, District Judge.

Before the Court are pro se plaintiff LaVondas V. Young's motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), recruitment of counsel (Doc. 3), and service of process at government expense (Doc. 4). This is an employment-discrimination case. Plaintiff al-leges that defendants Alton Mental Health Center, Barbara Auston, Karen Klunk, and Anita Brazil discriminated against her based on her race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Regarding the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, a federal court may authorize the commencement of a civil case without the prepayment of fees or security if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets she possesses and showing that she is unable to pay the fees or give a security. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). "The privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many tru-ly impoverished litigants who, within a district court's discretion, would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc., 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). The court must determine whether the plaintiff could pay the fees and still be able to provide herself and her dependents "with the necessities of life.'" Lumbert v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 827 F.2d 257, 260 (7th Cir. 1987) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948)). The court must dismiss the case, however, if it determines that the plaintiff's allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief from an immune defendant. § 1915(e)(2); Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003).

The Court first considers whether plaintiff is unable to pay the fees or security to commence this case. She is currently unemployed. She has received income in the past 12 months, but she does not disclose how much, the source of the money, or whether she ex-pects to receive more. She has $41, 000 in a money-market account. Under property she owns, including real estate, she says she is a "home resident." She does not include a mort-gage payment or rent among her expenses. She does say, though, that she pays real-estate taxes every year. The Court therefore assumes she owns her home. Her monthly expenses include food ($240), transportation ($100), utilities ($300), phone ($130), medication ($200), and household items ($60). She has $2, 800 in credit-card debt.

The cost of filing a civil case is $350. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).[1] Given plaintiff's assets and financial position, despite being unemployed at this time, the Court does NOT FIND that she is truly impoverished and would remain without legal remedy if she is not permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. Therefore, plaintiff's motion will be denied. The Court need not consider the other parts of § 1915(e)(2), such as whether plaintiff fails to state a claim.

Plaintiff also moves for service of process at government expense. "[T]he court may order that service be made by United States marshal... or by a person specially ap-pointed by the court. The court must so order if the plaintiff is authorized to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c)(3) (emphasis added). Since plaintiff has not been authorized to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is not re-quired to order service, and plaintiff's motion will be denied. Plaintiff can avoid the costs of formal service by requesting a waiver from defendants. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d). The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to send plaintiff Form 5 (Notice of a Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons and Form 6 (Waiver of Service of Summons) with a copy of this order.

Plaintiff asks the Court to recruit counsel for her because she has found their attor-neys' fees to be very high, and she is unemployed. There is no right to counsel in civil cas-es. E.g., Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010). Under § 1915(e)(1), "[a] court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." The deci-sion whether to request a pro bono attorney is "left to the district court's discretion." Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc). The court should ask whether the in-digent plaintiff has made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel, or been effectively pre-cluded from doing so; and, if so, whether the plaintiff appears competent to litigate the case herself, given the difficulty of the case. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654; accord Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 761 (7th Cir. 2010). Here, the Court's form for recruitment of counsel tells plaintiff to describe in detail everything she has done to try to get an attorney and to attach any documents that show she has tried to find an attorney. But plaintiff does not in-clude any information. The space is blank. The Court therefore FINDS that plaintiff has not made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel. Her motion for recruitment of counsel will be denied. Plaintiff may file a new motion if she is unable to find an attorney after put-ting forth more effort.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), recruitment of counsel (Doc. 3), and service of process at gov-ernment expense (Doc. 4) are DENIED. Plaintiff must pay the Court's filing fee by June 10, 2013, or risk dismissal of her case for failure to prosecute. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41.

Since she is proceeding pro se, plaintiff is ADVISED that she is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk of Court and defendants informed of any change in her ad-dress. A notice of change of address must be filed within seven days of any such change occurring. Failure to do so will cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of her case for failure to prosecute. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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