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Watford v. LaFond

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 7, 2017

MARLON L. WATFORD, #R-15678, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge United States District Judge

         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Marlon Watford filed the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 24, 2016. (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, Plaintiff set forth numerous unrelated federal and state law claims against officers at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 1). On November 2, 2016, the Court dismissed the Complaint for violating the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 8). The dismissal was without prejudice, and Plaintiff was granted leave to file a First Amended Complaint on or before November 30, 2016. (Doc. 8, p. 6).

         A day before the deadline, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 11). He requested an additional 150 days to prepare the amended complaint. Id. The Court granted Plaintiff an additional 30 days, after explaining that this matter would not be allowed to linger indefinitely. (Doc. 12). Under the extended deadline, the First Amended Complaint was due on or before December 30, 2016. Id.

         On December 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a “Motion to Object, Motion to Spread the Record, and Motion for Reconsideration.” (Doc. 13). The motion included requests for reconsideration of the Order Dismissing Complaint (Doc. 8), the (non-existent) decision to deny Plaintiff counsel, and the decision to grant Plaintiff a 30-day extension of the deadline for filing an amended complaint (Doc. 12). The Court found no reason to grant the motion for reconsideration of its Order Dismissing Complaint (Doc. 8), and Plaintiff offered none. (Doc. 14). The Court also pointed out that Plaintiff did not actually request assistance in recruiting counsel, and the Court therefore did not deny his request. Id. At the same time, the Clerk was directed to provide Plaintiff with a form for use in making this request. Id. In addition, the Court granted Plaintiff's second request for an extension of the deadline to file his amended complaint. Id. Under the second extended deadline, the First Amended Complaint was due on or before January 30, 2017. Id.

         On December 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed yet another Motion for Extension of Time to Amend Complaint. (Doc. 15). He did not request the Court's assistance in recruiting counsel on his behalf. In fact, Plaintiff indicated that he intended to prepare his own amended complaint. Plaintiff again requested an additional 150 days to do so. (Doc. 15, p. 4). Because it appeared that Plaintiff filed this request before receiving the Court's order granting his second motion for extension, the Court denied it as moot. (Doc. 16). The deadline for filing the First Amended Complaint remained January 30, 2017. Id.

         Plaintiff missed the deadline for filing his First Amended Complaint on January 30, 2017. He failed to request an extension of this deadline. More than a week has passed since the First Amended Complaint was due under the second extended deadline. The Court has already allowed Plaintiff 3 months to file his First Amended Complaint and will not allow this matter to continue lingering.

         Accordingly, this action shall be dismissed with prejudice based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with three Orders of this Court (Docs. 8, 14, 16) and his failure to prosecute his claims. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997); Johnson v. Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994). However, the dismissal will not count as one of Plaintiff's three allotted “strikes” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         Pending Motions

          1. Motion for Recruitment of Counsel (Doc. 17)

         Plaintiff filed a Motion for Recruitment of Counsel for the first time on January 27, 2017. (Doc. 17). Although he was provided with this Court's standard form motion pursuant to the Order dated December 27, 2016 (Doc. 14), he chose to file a handwritten motion instead. (Doc. 17). Plaintiff cites the following reasons for his request: (1) his unsuccessful attempts to secure counsel on his own; (2) his appointment of counsel in other cases; and (3) the complexity of his constitutional claims in this case. Id.

         There is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in federal civil cases. Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1006 (7th Cir. 2006). But see Ray v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 706 F.3d 864, 866-67 (7th Cir. 2013) (district court has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) to recruit counsel for an indigent litigant). When a pro se litigant submits a request for assistance of counsel, the Court considers whether the indigent plaintiff has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel on his own and, if so, whether the factual and legal difficulty of the case exceeds the Plaintiff's capacity to coherently present it. Navejar v. Iyiola, 718 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 (7th Cir. 2007)). The Court also considers such factors as the Plaintiff's “literacy, communication skills, education level, and litigation experience.” Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655.

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff has not demonstrated sufficient efforts to secure representation in this case. Plaintiff asserts that he sent 30 letters to attorneys seeking representation and received written responses from only 3 prior to commencing this action. Plaintiff attached the 3 responses to his motion. None of them refer to this case. They are dated March or May 2016, long before he filed this action in late August. (Doc. 17, pp. 9-11). At the time, Plaintiff was proceeding pro se in at least one other matter and was also in the process of preparing an amended complaint for filing in that case. See Watford v. Doe, et al., Case No. 15-cv-09540 (N.D. Ill. 2015). He failed to provide the Court with copies of his 30 letters requesting representation. Counsel was ultimately recruited on his behalf in the prior case during the same time period. This was 9 months before he filed his motion for recruitment of counsel in this case. Under the circumstances, the Court cannot determine whether Plaintiff attempted to retain counsel in this case or another pending matter.

         Moreover, the Court cannot assess Plaintiff's ability to competently litigate this matter on his own because Plaintiff omitted information from his handwritten motion that is relevant to the Court's analysis. Id. In his handwritten motion, Plaintiff offers no information regarding his level of education, language difficulties, medical issues, and mental health issues. In addition, the Court cannot assess the complexity of the case because Plaintiff's original Complaint does not focus on a single set of related claims. It refers to numerous, unrelated claims against different defendants. The Court cannot determine which of these claims Plaintiff intends to pursue going forward and whether he possesses the skills necessary to represent himself. Without this information, the Court cannot fully analyze the difficulty of Plaintiff's case or his ability to proceed pro se. Under the circumstances, the Motion for Recruitment of Counsel (Doc. 17) shall be DENIED.

         2. Motion for Substitution ...

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