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Thompson v. Standifer

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

March 6, 2014

DONTRELL L. THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANE STANDIFER, JOHN McALLISTER, and CITY OF CHAMPAIGN, Defendants.

OPINION

COLIN S. BRUCE, District Judge.

This case is before the court for ruling on various pro se Motions filed by Plaintiff, Dontrell L. Thompson. Following a careful review of Plaintiff's Motions, and Defendants' Response (#43) to one of the Motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (#40) is DENIED; (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Hearing (#41) is DENIED; and (3) Plaintiff's Motion for DNA testing (#42) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On February 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint (#1) against Defendants, Shane Standifer, John McAllister and the Champaign Police Department. Plaintiff alleged that Standifer and McAllister used excessive force when they shot Plaintiff at Market Place Mall on May 1, 2011. Plaintiff also filed a Petition to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (#2), his prisoner trust fund ledger (#3) and a Motion to Appoint Counsel (#4). On February 4, 2013, Petitioner's Petition to Proceed in forma pauperis was granted. On April 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed a pro se Amended Complaint (#7) and alleged that the Champaign Police Department failed to adequately train Standifer and McAllister. On May 13, 2013, United States District Judge Michael P. McCuskey entered a text order denying Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel. On June 11, 2013, Defendants Standifer and McAllister filed an Answer to Complaint and Affirmative Defenses (#15). They also filed a Motion to Dismiss (#16) and Memorandum in Support (#17). They asked this court to dismiss any allegation that they were liable in their official capacity for any constitutional violation. On July 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel (#22).

Judge McCuskey held a status conference on July 31, 2013 and granted in part and denied in part the Motion to Dismiss (#16). Judge McCuskey stated that the case would proceed against Defendants Standifer and McAllister in their personal capacities. Judge McCuskey terminated the Champaign Police Department as a Defendant and added the City of Champaign as a Defendant. Another status conference was held on September 13, 2013, and Judge McCuskey ordered that the City of Champaign was to be served with the Amended Complaint. Judge McCuskey also denied Petitioner's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (#22). On November 7, 2013, Defendant City of Champaign filed its Answer to Amended Complaint (#35). On December 11, 2013, Plaintiff's deposition was taken pursuant to video writ.

On December 13, 2013, this case was assigned to this court. On January 29, 2014, this court entered a Scheduling Order (#39) which set a discovery deadline of August 15, 2014 and a dispositive motion deadline of October 1, 2014.

PENDING MOTIONS

I. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

On February 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a pro se Motion for Appointment of Counsel (#40). Plaintiff stated that he had made attempts to retain counsel to represent him in this proceeding and had previously filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis which was a true and correct representation of his financial status. Plaintiff stated that he does not have the ability to represent himself in this case.

"There is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in federal civil cases." Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010), citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 656 (7th Cir. 2007). Nevertheless, a district court does have discretion under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(e)(1) to request counsel for an indigent litigant. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654. "When a pro se litigant submits a request for court-appointed counsel, the district court must first consider whether the indigent plaintiff has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel on his own, or conversely, if he has been precluded from doing so." Romanelli, 615 F.3d at 851, citing Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654. "Next, the district court must evaluate the complexity of the case and whether the plaintiff appears competent to litigate it on his own." Romanelli, 615 F.3d at 851-52, citing Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55.

This court initially notes that, while Plaintiff has stated that he has made attempts to retain counsel, he has not attached any documentation, such as letters from attorneys declining to represent him, to demonstrate that this is true. This court therefore concludes that Plaintiff has not adequately shown that he has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel on his own. This court also concludes that Plaintiff's filings in this case show that he has an understanding of the issues and an ability to represent himself. Moreover, this court concludes that it is too early to make a determination whether Plaintiff's claims are sufficiently meritorious such that appointing counsel would make a difference in the case. Lawyers who accept appointments to represent pro se plaintiffs in civil cases are not guaranteed any compensation. Thus, before this court takes the significant step of seeking out a lawyer willing to take the case, the court has an obligation to insure that the issues raised in a particular case are both substantial and meritorious. The number of lawyers able to take court appointments is very limited. Therefore, it is simply impossible to accommodate all of the requests of pro se plaintiffs, mostly prisoners, who request a lawyer.

For all of the reasons stated, Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (#40) is DENIED at this time.

II. MOTION FOR HEARING

On February 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed a document which appears to be a letter to this court but which was docketed as a Motion for Hearing (#41). Plaintiff stated that there have been delays in mail service at the prison where he is housed which is impacting his ability to get information and proceed with this case. Plaintiff also stated that he does not really understand discovery and how to use ...


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