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Carter v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 22, 2017

MARK ANTHONY CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          GWYNNE E. BIRZER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 13); Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time (ECF No. 17); and Defendants' Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion to Compel (ECF No. 19). For the reasons outlined below, all Motions are GRANTED.

         I. Nature and Posture of the Case

         On September 9, 2016, Plaintiff Mark Anthony Carter filed this case against his former employer, Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., claiming he was unlawfully terminated from his job in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. Plaintiff asserts Defendant excluded him from working overtime, harassed him, threatened him with a job assignment he was physically unable to perform, and subjected him to various types of harassment, in part due to his own disabling conditions and due to his wife's disability. He claims after his internal discrimination complaint to Spirit's EEO department, he began receiving negative performance reviews and disciplinary action, ultimately leading up to his termination.

         Plaintiff was permitted to file his case in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), and after Defendant filed its Answer, the Court held an in-person Scheduling Conference on February 28, 2017 (ECF No. 15). During the conference, Plaintiff made an oral motion to amend his Complaint, which the Court granted (ECF No. 15, at 10), and Plaintiff's deadline to file his amended pleading was set for April 14, 2017. In the course of the February 28 conference, Plaintiff suggested to the Court that he was uncomfortable proceeding pro se, and anticipated seeking appointment of counsel.

         Immediately following the conference, Plaintiff filed his Motion for Appointment of Counsel and Declaration of Good Faith Efforts to Obtain Counsel (ECF No. 13). That motion is currently unopposed. One day prior to his deadline for amendment, Plaintiff then submitted his Motion for Extension of Time (ECF No. 17), seeking to extend the deadline for amendment of his Complaint and his deadline to respond to Defendant's first set of discovery requests, until after the Court enters a decision on the appointment of counsel. The Court considers Plaintiff's requests below.

         II. Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 13)

         There is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in an employment discrimination action.[1] Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), “[u]pon application by the complainant and in such circumstances as the court may deem just, the court may appoint an attorney for such complainant.”[2] Likewise, for a party who proceeds in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) provides discretionary authority to “request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.”[3] “The discretion granted to the district court [under the statute] is extremely broad.”[4] In determining whether to grant Plaintiff's request, this Court is guided by the Tenth Circuit's decision in Castner v. Colorado Springs Cablevision.[5]

         In Castner, the Tenth Circuit identified four factors which are relevant to the district court's discretionary decision whether to appoint counsel: (1) Plaintiff's financial inability to pay for counsel; (2) his diligence in attempting to secure counsel; (3) the existence or nonexistence of meritorious allegations of discrimination; and (4) his capacity to present the case without counsel.[6] By approving Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis, (ECF No. 4), the Court accepts the veracity of his affidavit of poverty and inability to afford legal counsel. The Court also accepts Plaintiff's statement that he has conferred with at least six attorneys who have either declined this case or whom Plaintiff cannot afford to hire. But the Court presently does not have sufficient information to fully evaluate factors 3 and 4.

         After review of the pleadings, and observing Plaintiff's appearance at the February 28, 2017 conference, the Court provisionally appoints attorney Randall K. Rathbun, of Depew Gillen Rathbun & McInteer, LC, to represent Plaintiff.[7] Mr. Rathbun's initial responsibility will be to confer with Plaintiff and make such investigation as may be necessary to assist Plaintiff in the filing of an amended complaint and completion of his responses to Defendant's initial written discovery requests (see schedule below).

         If, upon completion of his initial investigation, filing of the Amended Complaint, and service of Plaintiff's initial discovery responses, Mr. Rathbun does not wish to accept permanent appointment, he shall notify the court. In doing so, to the extent consistent with professional responsibility, counsel should report his reasons in order to assist the Court in making further determinations under factors 3 and 4 of the Castner test.[8]

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of counsel (ECF No. 13) is provisionally GRANTED as set forth above.

         The clerk is directed to send this order to Plaintiff by U.S. Mail. Mr. Rathbun will be notified regarding his appointment through the Court's electronic filing system. Upon receipt of this order, Plaintiff Mark Carter is ordered to contact Mr. Rathbun at ...


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