United States District Court, W.D. New York
October 30, 2014
DEBRA PRICE, Plaintiff,
ROSWELL CANCER INS., Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
H. KENNETH SCHROEDER, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
This case was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. William M. Skretny, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), for all pretrial matters. Dkt. #12.
Plaintiff commenced this action, pro se, alleging discrimination and termination from her employment on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"). Dkt. #1.
Currently before the Court is plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel. Dkt. #37. In support of her motion, plaintiff sets forth the merits of her complaint and states that she does not know enough to represent herself. Dkt. #37.
There is no constitutional right to appointed counsel in civil cases. However, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court may appoint counsel to assist indigent litigants. See, e.g., Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Charles W. Sears Real Estate, Inc., 865 F.2d 22, 23 (2d Cir. 1988). Assignment of counsel in this matter is clearly within the judge's discretion. In re Martin-Trigona, 737 F.2d 1254 (2d Cir. 1984). The factors to be considered in deciding whether or not to assign counsel include the following:
1. Whether the indigent's claims seem likely to be of substance;
2. Whether the indigent is able to investigate the crucial facts concerning his claim;
3. Whether conflicting evidence implicating the need for cross-examination will be the major proof presented to the fact finder;
4. Whether the legal issues involved are complex; and
5. Whether there are any special reasons why appointment of counsel would be more likely to lead to a just determination.
Hendricks v. Coughlin, 114 F.3d 390, 392 (2d Cir. 1997); see also Hodge v. Police Officers, 802 F.2d 58 (2d Cir. 1986).
The Court must consider the issue of appointment carefully, of course, because "volunteer lawyer time is a precious commodity." Cooper v. A. Sargenti Co. Inc., 877 F.2d 170, 172 (2d Cir. 1989). Therefore, the Court must not allocate pro bono resources "arbitrarily, or on the basis of the aggressiveness and tenacity of the claimant, " but should instead distribute this resource "with reference to public benefit." Id. Moreover, the Court must consider the "likelihood of merit" of the underlying dispute, Hendricks, 114 F.3d at 392; Cooper, 877 F.2d at 174, and "even though a claim may not be characterized as frivolous, counsel should not be appointed in a case where the merits of the... claim are thin and his chances of prevailing are therefore poor." Carmona v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 243 F.3d 629, 632 (2d Cir. 2001) (denying counsel on appeal where petitioner's appeal was not frivolous but nevertheless appeared to have little merit).
This action is in its early stages, making it difficult to assess the merits of plaintiff's claim or the public benefit which could be achieved by the appointment of counsel. Moreover, plaintiff has demonstrated a capacity to communicate the factual basis of her claim to the Court. Accordingly, plaintiff has not established that the appointment of counsel is warranted at this time under the factors set forth above. It is the plaintiff's responsibility to retain an attorney or press forward with this lawsuit pro se. 28 U.S.C. § 1654.