United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF
THE FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 2), DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE MOTION
TO APPOINT COUNSEL (DKT. NO. 3), ORDERING THE PLAINTIFF TO
PAY THE FILING FEE BY MARCH 10, 2017, AND DISMISSING
PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.
to the date of the complaint, plaintiff Jamesetta
McFarland-Lawson worked at the United States Department of
Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). Dkt. No. 1
at 4. During her time at HUD, she allegedly experienced a
hostile work environment due to her sex, race, veteran status
and disability. Id. Consequently, the plaintiff
filed several complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. at
5. Although she received a favorable determination and
settlement on one of her complaints, dkt. no. 1-1 at 62, on
March 10, 2016, HUD issued a final agency decision finding
that she was not subjected to discrimination based on
disability (mental), race (African American), and sex
(female). Dkt. No. 5-3 at 1. The decision also explained that
within ninety days of the day she received the March 10, 2016
decision, she had a right to file a lawsuit in the
appropriate United States District Court. Id. at 21.
plaintiff timely filed suit in federal court on June 8, 2016.
Dkt. No. 1. She alleges that HUD did not properly investigate
her discrimination claims. Id. at 6. She attached to
the complaint a copy of the favorable determination, dkt. no.
1-1, but did not include a copy of the March 10, 2016 final
decision against her. She also filed a motion for leave to
proceed without prepaying the filing fee, dkt. no. 2, and a
motion to appoint counsel, dkt. no. 3. The motion to appoint
counsel asks the court to appoint the plaintiff an attorney,
but does not explain why she needs a lawyer or describe
previous efforts she may have made to find an attorney. Dkt.
No. 3 at 1.
December 19, 2016, the court issued an order requesting
additional documents in support of the plaintiff’s
claim. Dkt. No. 4. On January 26, 2017, the court received
those additional documents from the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 5.
For the reasons explained below, the court will deny without
prejudice plaintiff’s motion to appoint counsel. Dkt.
No. 3. The court also denies the plaintiff’s motion to
proceed without prepaying the filing fee. Dkt. No. 2. Once
the plaintiff pays the filing fee, the court will allow the
plaintiff to proceed on her discrimination claims against
Secretary Craig Clemmensen in his capacity as Acting
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Motion to Appoint Counsel
litigants do not have a constitutional or statutory right to
appointed counsel, but the court has the discretion to
request lawyers to represent indigent litigants in
appropriate cases under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(1).
Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 653 (7th Cir. 2007)
(en banc); Lutrrell v. Nickel, 129 F.3d
933, 936 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Zarnes v. Rhodes,
64 F.3d 285, 288 (7th Cir. 1995)). As a threshold matter, a
litigant must make a reasonable attempt to obtain a lawyer on
his own. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55;
Zarnes, 64 F.3d at 288. The court cannot appoint a
lawyer for every person who asks, because the court’s
resources are limited; that is why it asks a litigant to
first try to find a lawyer on her own. After a litigant shows
that she has tried to find a lawyer and has been
unsuccessful, the court moves on to determine whether the
case is so complicated, both factually and legally, that the
litigant does not appear able to handle the case herself.
Id., 503 F.3d at 654 (citing Farmer v.
Hass, 990 F.2d 319, 322 (7th Cir. 1993).
Seventh Circuit has not clearly defined the phrase
“reasonable attempt to obtain counsel,” but it
has affirmed one court’s requirement that the litigant
provide the names and addresses of at least three attorneys
that the litigant contacted and who turned him down.
Romanelli v. Suilene, 615 F.3d 847, 852 (7th Cir.
2010). The plaintiff’s motion simply asks the court to
appoint a lawyer to represent her. It does not state whether
she has made efforts to hire a lawyer on her own. Dkt. No. 3.
The plaintiff has not, therefore, met the first
the plaintiff has not met the first Pruitt
requirement-that she show that she has made reasonable
attempts to find her own lawyer and has been unsuccessful-the
court will deny her motion without prejudice. If the
plaintiff provides the court with proof that she has
contacted at least three attorneys, without being able to
find one to represent her, she then may file another motion
asking for appointment of a lawyer, and explain why she
thinks the case is so complicated that she is not able to
Motion to Proceed Without Prepayment of the Filing
evaluating a motion to proceed without prepayment of the
filing fee, courts consider (1) whether the plaintiff has the
ability to pay the filing fee and (2) whether the lawsuit is
frivolous or fails to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
§§1915(a) and (e)(2)(B).
plaintiff appears to have the ability to pay the filing fee.
In her Non-Prisoner Request to Proceed in District Court
Without Prepaying the Filing Fee, filed on June 8, 2016, the
plaintiff indicated that her total monthly wages varied from
$800 to $1,000. Dkt. No. 2 at 2. She indicated that she did
not have an employer, and that she receives $190 in food
stamps (presumably per month). Id. She must own her
home, because she reports a mortgage payment of $1,090 per
month. Id. She also owns a Dodge Ram truck.
Id. at 3. She indicated that she had about $200 in a
checking account. Id. In the “other
circumstances” section, the plaintiff explained that
she had won an EEOC case, but that she hadn’t seen any
money. She stated that when she received the settlement, she
would pay the filing fee. Id. Documents the
plaintiff submitted with her case verified that an
administrative law judge had awarded the plaintiff $50,000 on
the successful EEOC claim. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 65.
time she filed this document last June, it appeared that the
plaintiff did not have the funds to pay the filing fee. But
on January 26, 2017, the court received from the plaintiff
the additional documentation that it had asked for in its
December 19, 2016 order. Dkt. No. 5. The plaintiff stated in
this document that “the Respondents paid out the
settlement amount and, as far as I know, followed the Judges
orders.” Dkt. No. 5 at 2. It appears, therefore, that
at some point between June of 2016 and January 2017, the
plaintiff received the $50,000 award from the EEOC. Based on
the plaintiff’s statement in the January 26, 2017