United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB, DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Khaled Shabani is proceeding on First and Fourth
Amendment claims against the City of Madison and several
police officers. Before the court are (1) plaintiff's
statement regarding additional retaliation by defendant
Michael Koval, the chief of police; and (2) plaintiff's
motion for court assistance in recruiting counsel to
represent him. Dkt. ##16 and 17. For the reasons below, the
motions will be denied.
Allegations Against Koval
has submitted a brief statement in which he alleges that
defendant Koval recently encouraged plaintiff's landlord
to terminate the lease for plaintiff's hair salon on
State Street in Madison, Wisconsin by raising the rent
unfairly. Although plaintiff says the conduct is retaliation,
he does not explain why he filed the statement with the
court, and he does not ask for any particular relief. If
plaintiff wants to include these allegations as an additional
basis for his First Amendment claim against Koval, he should
file a motion for leave to file an amended complaint under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), along with a proposed amended
complaint that clearly sets forth Koval's alleged conduct
with respect to plaintiff's lease and explains why
plaintiff believes that the conduct was retaliatory.
Motion for Assistance in Recruiting Counsel
in civil cases do not have a constitutional right to counsel,
and I do not have the authority to appoint counsel to
represent a pro se plaintiff in a civil matter. Olson v.
Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014). Rather, I
only can assist in recruiting counsel who may be willing to
serve without compensation. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1);
Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 653-54, 656 (7th Cir.
2007) (en banc) (“Section 1915(e)(1) thus codifies the
court's discretionary authority to recruit a lawyer to
represent an indigent civil litigant pro bono publico; it
‘does not authorize the federal courts to make coercive
appointments of counsel.'”) (quoting Mallard v.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa,
490 U.S. 296, 310 (1989)).
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. Perez v.
Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 784 (7th Cir. 2015);
Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654-55.
has met the first requirement because the court has
determined that he is indigent. With respect to the second
requirement, plaintiff identifies three attorneys who denied
his request for representation. However, to prove that a
plaintiff has made reasonable efforts to find a lawyer, the
court usually requires copies of the letters from the lawyers
who denied plaintiff's request for representation, or
alternatively, a sworn declaration that includes the date he
sent the letters and a copy of the letters themselves.
Plaintiff's conclusory and unsworn statement about
receiving rejections from three lawyers does not meet this
requirement. In any event, even if plaintiff can satisfy the
second requirement, he has not provided any evidence to meet
the third requirement.
the litigant's abilities to prosecute the case is a
“practical” inquiry, Santiago, 599 F.3d at 762,
and courts generally consider the litigant's
“literacy, communication skills, educational level, and
litigation experience” in light of the complexities of
the case. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655. “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. Plaintiff has not
explained why he is unable to litigate this case on his own,
submitted any evidence showing that his mental abilities are
limited in any respect or allege that he is unable to read,
write, follow directions or understand basic legal concepts.
In sum, he has not provided any reason from which I can
conclude that his case is so complex or that his skills are
so poor that I should recruit a lawyer for him at this time,
and it is too early to make that determination in this case.
Preliminary Pretrial Conference Order, dkt. #18, that was
recently issued in this case provides extensive information
about how plaintiff is to conduct discovery and obtain
evidence. Plaintiff should review that order 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 defendants' 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 the facts of his case.
plaintiff should know that the court would recruit counsel
for every pro se plaintiff who asked for one if there were
enough volunteer attorneys to take on such representation.
The fact is that there are not. Each year more than 300
lawsuits are filed in this district by pro se plaintiffs,
most of whom are in state custody. Only about 30 lawyers have
the time, willingness and expertise in civil rights
litigation to accept appointments and not all of them
volunteer to handle one new case a year. Between 2016 and
2017, for example, the court was able to find only 17
volunteer lawyers to represent pro se litigants. In the past
year, the court has had little success in finding counsel for
a No. of more complex cases, although the effort to do so is
continuing. In the meantime, the claims of these litigants
have been delayed significantly. Although the court is
continually trying new approaches to recruiting counsel,
there continue be many more litigants who want the help of
counsel than there are counsel who can fill that need. For
this reason, the court must carefully consider each
plaintiff's abilities and the complexities of the claim
in determining whether to recruit counsel in any particular
I am denying plaintiff's motion without prejudice. If
plaintiff is later able to show that he has made reasonable
efforts to find a lawyer and the issues involved in this case
turn out to be more ...