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Casey v. Schueler

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 18, 2019

EVAN B. CASEY, Plaintiff,
v.
RENEE SCHUELER, ANGIE HODGE, SALAM SYED, DR. LINDNER, FIONA GIBBONS, NURSE DENISE VALERIUS, AND BRYAN GERRY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Evan B. Casey is proceeding on claims that prison staff at Columbia Correctional Institution delayed providing him medical treatment for his seizure disorder and an injury to his left wrist. Casey filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, to which defendants responded on May 24, 2019. Casey's reply brief was due on June 7, but he filed motions requesting that the court extend his time to file a reply brief, Dkt. 26, so that the court can recruit counsel to assist him, Dkt. 25. For the reasons below, I am denying plaintiff's motions.

         Because Casey states that he does not intend to file a reply brief unless the court recruits counsel for him, I am addressing the merits of his motion for preliminary injunctive relief. I am denying the motion because Casey has failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim or that he will suffer irreparable harm without immediate injunctive relief.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Casey's request for 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 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 certain requirements. Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 760-61 (7th Cir. 2010). First, he must show that he is unable to afford counsel. Because Casey is proceeding in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, he has met that requirement.

         Second, he must show that he made reasonable efforts on his own to find a lawyer to represent him. To satisfy this requirement, this court generally requires a plaintiff to show that he asked at least three lawyers to represent him in this case and that the lawyers either declined or failed to respond. Casey says that he has “attempted to contact four attorneys in the past 30 days and has not received any responses.” Dkt. 25 at ¶ 9. But to show that his efforts were adequate, Casey must provide the names of the lawyers or law firms he contacted and the dates on which he contacted them.

         Even I concluded that Casey met his burden to show that he made reasonable efforts to recruit counsel himself, Casey must also show that his is one of the relatively few cases in which it appears from the record that the legal and factual difficulty of the case exceeds the litigant's demonstrated ability to prosecute it. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55. “The question is not whether a lawyer would present the case more effectively than the pro se plaintiff” but instead whether the pro se litigant can “coherently present [his case] to the judge or jury himself.” Id. at 655. Almost all of this court's pro se litigants would benefit from the assistance of counsel, but there are not enough lawyers willing to take these types of cases to give each plaintiff one. I must decide for each case “whether this particular prisoner-plaintiff, among many deserving and not-so-deserving others, should be the beneficiary of the limited resources of lawyers willing to respond to courts' requests.” McCaa v. Hamilton, 893 F.3d 1027, 1036 (7th Cir. 2018) (Hamilton, J., concurring).

         Casey says that he needs a lawyer because he has only a high school education, he is untrained in the law, and because his claims involve medical issues, which can be complex and may require a medical expert. He also states that he has been in segregation with limited access to the law library. But it is simply too early to decide whether these are adequate grounds for seeking counsel in this case. Nearly all pro se litigants are untrained in the law and many of them are raising issues about medical care. There is no categorical rule that all prisoners challenging the adequacy of their medical care are entitled to counsel. See Williams v. Swenson, 747 Fed.Appx. 432, 434 (7th Cir. 2019) (affirming district court's denial of request for counsel in medical care case); Dobbey v. Carter, 734 Fed.Appx. 362, 364 (7th Cir. 2018) (same); Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 853 (7th Cir. 2010) (same).

         It is also too early to determine whether Casey's claims are too complex for him to litigate on his own. His claims appear somewhat complex, as he is suing several defendants regarding the treatment he received for his seizure disorder and a wrist injury. But the law governing his claim is well established and was explained to him in the screening order. And at this point, it is not clear yet whether the case will turn on questions requiring medical expertise or will be resolved on evidence that can be obtained from Casey's medical records and his personal knowledge. See, e.g., Redman v. Doehling, 751 Fed.Appx. 900, 905 (7th Cir. 2018) (“Redman could litigate his claims himself because they turned on historical facts as opposed to medical evidence”).

         Additionally, Casey's complaint and other filings have been clear and easy to follow. His submissions to date suggest that he is intelligent, understands the law, and is capable of explaining his version of events and making legal arguments. He managed to draft a motion and brief in support of preliminary injunctive relief that identified relevant facts and legal principles. In light of Casey's demonstrated abilities, I am not persuaded that Casey requires the assistance of counsel at this time. Therefore, I am denying his motion for court assistance in recruiting counsel.

         Casey states that he is seeking an extension of time to file his reply brief only if the court decides to recruit counsel for him. Because I am denying his request for counsel, I will deny his request for an extension of time as well. Because Casey says that he will not file a reply brief unless the court recruits counsel for him, I will proceed to address the merits of his motion for preliminary injunctive relief.

         B. Casey's motion for preliminary injunctive relief

         In his motion for preliminary injunctive relief, Casey seeks a court order requiring defendants to schedule physical therapy for his wrist and to send him to see a specialist. Dkt. 4. He states in his declaration that although defendant Dr. Syed ordered physical therapy in July 2018, the health services unit (HSU) has failed to schedule it. In the interim, his wrist continues to hurt, and he is losing his ability to use it. Dkt. 5. In a previous order, Dkt. 18, I concluded that Casey had at least some evidence to show (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of his case; (2) a lack of an ...


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