United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Donta Jenkins is proceeding these three cases on
various claims relating to alleged violations of excessive
force, unconstitutional conditions of confinement and
inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment
and state law. Plaintiff was represented by Attorney Lisa
Goldman, who withdrew her representation of plaintiff in all
three cases with the court's approval on November 21,
2017. Dkt. #30 in case no. 16-684; dkt. #31 in case no.
16-694; dkt. #32 in case no. 17-25. Now before the court in
all three cases are plaintiff's motion for assistance in
recruiting counsel, unopposed motion for a four-month
extension of all pretrial deadlines and motion for a
telephone status conference. Dkt. ##31, 32, 33 in case no.
16-684; dkt. ##32, 34, 35 in case no. 16-694; dkt. ##33, 34,
35 in case no. 17-25. For the reasons below, I am denying the
motion for assistance in recruiting counsel without prejudice
and granting the motions for an extension of time and a
telephonic scheduling conference.
Assistance in Recruiting Counsel
court explained to plaintiff when denying his earlier motions
for assistance in recruiting counsel, a pro 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 lawyers 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.
text-only order entered in all three cases on November 21,
2017, Magistrate Judge Crocker found that plaintiff satisfied
the first two requirements but explained that plaintiff must
show why any or all of his cases exceed his ability to
litigate them. E.g., dkt. #30 in case no. 16-684. In
his motion, plaintiff states briefly that he is inexperienced
and that an attorney would help him investigate, perform
legal research, present evidence, question witnesses and hire
an expert witness. However, the question is not simply
whether a lawyer might do a better job. Court assistance in
recruiting counsel is appropriate only when the plaintiff
demonstrates that his is one of those relatively few cases in
which it appears from the record that the legal and factual
difficulty of the case exceeds his ability to prosecute it.
Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 (7th Cir.
2007). I have no basis for concluding 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.
plaintiff is concerned with his limited experience and access
to legal materials, his primary task at this stage is telling
the court what happened, when, where and who was involved.
His efforts should focus on obtaining the evidence he needs
to prove his claims, including collecting medical and other
prison records, declarations from witnesses and any other
relevant documents or evidence. The Preliminary Pretrial
Conference Order provides extensive information about how to
conduct discovery and obtain evidence. Plaintiff should
review that order again and, if he is confused about how to
obtain evidence, he should write a letter to defendants'
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. In deciding any future motion for summary
judgment, the court will apply the appropriate law to the
facts, even if plaintiff cannot find and provide the law on
his own or does not understand how the law applies to his
I am denying his motion without prejudice. If the issues
involved in this case turn out to be more complicated than
they appear right now, or if plaintiff is unable to proceed
on his own as this case progresses, then plaintiff is free to
renew his motion.
Motions to Extend Deadlines and Set Status
with assistance from Attorney Goldman, has filed an unopposed
motion seeking to extend the schedules in all three of his
cases by four months to account for his anticipated time
being held in detention facilities that do not have law
libraries and where plaintiff does not currently have access
to his case materials. In the November 2017 text only order,
Magistrate Judge Crocker noted that plaintiff was back in the
Eau Claire County Jail and was headed to the Milwaukee
Detention Facility, where he was likely to remain until March
2018. The government stated at the hearing that it would not
oppose an extension of the deadlines in plaintiff's
cases. In light of the withdrawal of plaintiff's counsel
and plaintiff's reincarceration, I will grant
plaintiff's motion for extension of time and request for
a telephonic status conference. I will direct the clerk of
court to set a telephonic scheduling conference before
Magistrate Judge Crocker for the purpose of scheduling new
pre-trial deadlines and trial dates in all three of
Plaintiff Donta Jenkins's motion for assistance in
recruiting counsel, dkt. #32 in case no. 16-684, dkt. #34 in
case no. 16-694 and dkt. #34 in case no. 17-25, is DENIED
Plaintiff's unopposed motion for extension of time, dkt.
#31 in case no. 16-684, dkt. #32 in case no. 16-694 and ...