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Coffman v. Hutchinson Community College

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 7, 2017

DUSTIN D. COFFMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
HUTCHINSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          GWYNNE E. BIRZER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the following motions:

• Plaintiff s motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 3);
• Plaintiff s motion for mediation (ECF No. 4);
• Plaintiff s motion to accept petitions (ECF No. 5);
• Plaintiff s motion for sealed documentation under title 79.4 (ECF No. 6);
• Plaintiffs motion to make all exhibits and evidence for discovery to the defendants (ECF No. 9);
• Plaintiffs motion for motion for [amended] exhibit list for mediation or summary judgement brief order (ECF No. 10); and
• Plaintiff s (amended) motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 11). For the reasons set forth below, all motions are DENIED.

         I. Background

         On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed this case, acting pro se. He is a former student of Hutchinson Community College, and claims the school and certain of its instructors and administrators violated his federal and state constitutional rights by dismissing him from the college's nursing program in approximately fall 2015 (see Complaint, ECF No.

         I, and Supplement, ECF No. 7). It appears Plaintiff has attempted service on all named defendants (see Returns of Service, ECF Nos. 12-17).

         In the month since filing his case, Plaintiff has filed eight motions for the Court's consideration. In addition to the seven motions addressed herein, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 8), which was recently denied without prejudice by Senior District Judge Sam A. Crow (Order, ECF No. 19, Aug. 30, 2017). Judge Crow found Plaintiff's motion only contained “general guidelines regarding common legal practices for summary judgment motions, but did not “expressly ask for judgment upon a particular claim or against a particular defendant” or include a statement of material facts or memorandum of law, as required. (Id.)

         II. Plaintiff's Motions for Appointment of Counsel (ECF Nos. 3 and 11)

         Simultaneous with the filing of this action, Plaintiff submitted an initial Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 3) which was largely incomplete. The motion contained the name of only one attorney with whom Plaintiff had consulted prior to filing, and Plaintiff did not submit a financial affidavit as required. However, Plaintiff later submitted an amended motion (ECF No. 11), along with a financial affidavit (ECF No. 18); both of which appear complete. The Court is now prepared to address the issue of appointment of legal counsel.

         A. Legal Standard

         Although a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to representation by an attorney, there is no similar constitutional right to counsel in a civil action such as this one.[1] Some statutes, however, provide the court with discretion to appoint counsel for a civil litigant. For example, both the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), provide discretionary authority for appointing counsel “in such circumstances as the court may deem just.”[2] If a plaintiff sues under a statute which provides no authority for appointment of counsel, general authority for requesting counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) may govern.[3]

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), in its discretion, the “court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.”[4] When evaluating whether to appoint counsel, the court considers multiple factors, including (1) the merits of the litigant's claims, (2) the nature of the factual issues raised in the claims, (3) the litigant's ability to present his claims, and (4) the complexity of the legal issues raised by the claims.[5] The court also considers the movant's diligence in attempting to secure counsel.[6] Thoughtful and prudent care in appointing representation is necessary so that willing counsel may be located.[7] The court has an obligation not to make indiscriminate appointments on every occasion that a plaintiff seeks court-ordered counsel, [8] particularly in light of the expanding federal court dockets, increased filings by pro se parties, and decreasing number of ...


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