United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge.
plaintiff Fredrick Andrew Morris is proceeding on a claim
that defendant Jason T. Zeimer, a correctional officer at the
Columbia Correctional Institution, violated his Eighth
Amendment rights by failing to prevent plaintiff's
attempted suicide. Plaintiff has filed a motion for
assistance in recruiting counsel, dkt. #22, and a motion for
preliminary injunctive relief to stop the prison from taking
deductions from his inmate account, dkt. #30. For the reasons
below, I am denying both motions.
Motion for Assistance in Recruiting Counsel
se litigant does not have a right to counsel in a civil case,
Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014),
but a district court has discretion to assist pro se
litigants in finding a lawyer to represent them. Pruitt
v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 2007). A party who
wants assistance from the court in recruiting counsel must
meet several requirements. Santiago v. Walls, 599
F.3d 749, 760-61 (7th Cir. 2010). First, he must show that he
is unable to afford to hire his own lawyer. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1) (“The court may request an attorney to
represent any person unable to afford counsel.”).
Second, he must show that he made reasonable efforts on his
own to find a lawyer to represent him. Jackson v. County
of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070 (7th Cir. 1992). Finally, he
must show that the legal and factual difficulty of the case
exceeds his ability to prosecute it. Pruitt, 503
F.3d at 654-55.
meets the first requirement because the court has already
granted him leave to proceed in forma pauperis under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). He also meets the second
requirement, as he submitted evidence that he contacted three
lawyers about representing him in this case and none agreed
to do so. Dkt. #26. However, I am denying plaintiff's
motion because he has not shown that the case is too
difficult for him to litigate on his own.
is concerned that he may not be able to litigate this case
himself because he lacks legal training and has had limited
formal education. In that respect, plaintiff is in the same
position as most other pro se litigants, almost none of whom
has legal training of any kind. Moreover, in contrast to the
submissions filed by many pro se litigants, plaintiff's
communications with the court thus far have been legible,
coherent and focused on relevant issues.
also says that the case is complex and will require discovery
and investigation, but he does not explain why he believes
that. His claim is relatively straightforward compared with
other types of claims. It is based on a one-time event,
during which he was present and about which he has personal
knowledge. Because he has personal knowledge of the most
important facts and circumstances, he will likely not need
extensive discovery from defendant. Plaintiff's primary
task in litigating this case will be to tell the court what
happened, when, where and who was involved. Plaintiff's
submissions so far show that he is capable of doing this. In
fact, he has already submitted sworn declarations from two
inmates who witnessed the relevant incident.
also says that because he now being housed in segregation, he
does not have access to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
He does not say whether he has requested and been denied
access to these rules or other legal materials kept in other
parts of the prison. Even assuming he has no way to consult
the federal rules at this time, this is not sufficient reason
to recruit counsel for plaintiff. At this stage in the case,
plaintiff's primary job is to gather the facts and
evidence he needs to prove his claim. If he has not already
done so, plaintiff should obtain statements from all
eyewitnesses as well as any documents defendant and the
Department of Corrections have pertaining to the relevant
incident. He should also gather any medical records he
believes are relevant to his claim. Although the federal
rules provide important information about how to gather such
evidence, the Preliminary Pretrial Conference Order, dkt.
#21, also provides extensive information about how to conduct
discovery. Plaintiff should review that order again and, if
he is still confused about how to obtain evidence, he should
write a letter to defendant's counsel explaining
precisely which documents or other evidence he wants to
obtain. If he is still confused after conferring with
defendant's counsel, he should contact the court for
help. I am convinced that plaintiff is capable of making
these efforts on his own.
I am not persuaded that plaintiff's case is so complex or
that his skills are so poor that I should recruit a lawyer
for him at this time. Accordingly, I am denying his motion
without prejudice. If the issues involved in this case turn
out to be more complicated than they appear now, then
plaintiff is free to renew his motion.
Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief
has also filed a motion asking the court to enjoin the prison
from making any deductions from the monetary gifts or
refunded money in his inmate account. Dkt. #30. He says he
needs the money to buy “things” and to pay for
copies. He states that the institution's legal loan
program will be insufficient to meet his litigation needs,
especially if he is required to pay for extensive copying.
denying plaintiff's motion. Prison officials have the
authority to deduct money from plaintiff's account as
part of established state procedures to pay for restitution
and other obligations. See, e.g., Wolfe v.
Litscher, No. 03-C-302-C, 2003 WL 23221146, at *3 (W.D.
Wis. July 7, 2003) (“[S]tate corrections officials can
freeze or debit an inmate's account to enforce
restitution orders issued by prison disciplinary bodies. . .
.”); Richards v. Cullen, 150 Wis.2d 935, 941,
442 N.W.2d 574, 576-77 (Ct. App. 1989) (rule requiring
prisoners to save percentage of deposits for release did not
violate due process). Plaintiff does not suggest that the
prison has made or is making unauthorized deductions or that
it has violated any of his rights by deducting money from his
account. He does not even say that any deductions have
hampered or interfered with his ability to litigate this case
in any specific way. Instead, he suggests that he
may not have enough money for copies and other
“things” he needs. These statements are far too
vague to support a request for preliminary injunctive relief.