United States District Court, Southern District of New York
April 10, 2003
ALVIN SINGLETON, PETITIONER,
HENRY GARVIN, SUPERINTENDENT, MID-ORANGE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge:
OPINION & ORDER
On February 14, 2002, pro se plaintiff Alvin Singleton ("Singleton"), an inmate formerly incarcerated at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility in Warwick, New York, and currently incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. That same day, Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey granted Singleton's application to proceed in forma pauperis. On December 6, 2002, the Honorable Whitman Knapp referred this case to the undersigned. Pending before this Court is Singleton's motion requesting assistance of counsel.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has articulated the factors that a court should consider in deciding whether to appoint counsel for an indigent civil litigant under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). In making this determination, the court "exercises substantial "discretion," subject to the requirements that it be `guided by sound legal principles.'" Cooper v. A. Sargenti Co., 877 F.2d 170, 172 (2d Cir. 1989) (citing Jenkins v. Chem. Bank, 721 F.2d 876, 879 (2d Cir. 1983)). The Court must first ask whether plaintiff can afford to obtain counsel. Terminate Control Corp. v. Horowitz, 28 F.3d 1335, 1341 (2d Cir. 1994). If the court finds that a plaintiff cannot afford counsel, it must then examine the merits of the case and determine whether the "indigent's position seems likely to be of substance." Hodge v. Police Officers, 802 F.2d 58, 61-62 (2d Cir. 1986). "Courts do not perform a useful service if they appoint a volunteer lawyer to a case which a private lawyer would not take if it were brought to his or her attention." Cooper, 877 F.2d at 174.
Once initial determinations have been made as to indigence and merit, the court has discretion to consider the following factors: "the indigent's ability to investigate the crucial facts; whether conflicting evidence implicating the need for cross-examination will be the major proof presented to the fact finder; the indigent's ability to present the case; the complexity of the legal issues involved; and any special reason why the appointment of counsel would be more likely to lead to a just determination." Hodge, 802 F.2d at 61-62.
Singleton satisfies the threshold requirement insofar as his in forma pauperis status establishes his inability to afford counsel. However, in examining the factors set out in Hodge, the court observes that Singleton is capable of presenting his own case. Singleton's claims do not appear so overwhelmingly complex or fact intensive that he cannot be afforded a just determination without legal representation. Furthermore, in his written communication with the Court, Singleton demonstrates his ability to present facts clearly.
After careful review of the plaintiffs application in light of the aforementioned principles, the Court finds that appointment of counsel is not warranted in this case. The plaintiffs motion is DENIED.
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