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Linwood A. Williams, Jr v. Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency For D.C.

July 23, 2012

LINWOOD A. WILLIAMS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COURT SERVICES AND OFFENDER SUPERVISION AGENCY FOR D.C., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Linwood A. Williams, Jr. sues the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia ("CSOSA") and three agency officials alleging sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Williams has moved for appointment of counsel and to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). Williams' motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted because Williams qualifies for IFP status. Williams' motion for appointment of counsel will be denied because Williams has not demonstrated that appointing counsel is warranted.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Williams served as a Supervisory Community Supervision Officer at CSOSA and alleges that the agency retaliated against him and ultimately terminated him in response to complaints that Williams filed against the agency. Williams appealed his termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board ("MSPB"), and an MSPB administrative judge affirmed the agency action and denied Williams' petition to reconsider. A January 9, 2012 memorandum opinion and order granted Williams' motion for reconsideration of an earlier order that had dismissed the complaint as untimely. Discovery is now ongoing and Williams has moved for IFP status and appointment of counsel.

DISCUSSION

I. MOTION TO PROCEED IFP

In general, courts determine whether to allow a litigant to proceed in forma pauperis on a case-by-case basis. Hurt v. Social Security Admin., 544 F.3d 308, 309 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (per curiam). In forma pauperis status is appropriate if a litigant demonstrates that paying for the costs of the suit would require him to give up basic necessities of life. Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948). A litigant need not be "absolutely destitute" to qualify for IFP status. Id. In this case, Williams has asserted that he "does not have the money to pay for an attorney" (Pl.'s Mot. to Appoint Counsel ("Pl.'s Mot.") at 1) and "cannot afford to hire an attorney" (Pl.'s Reply and Mot. for IFP status ("Pl.'s Reply") at 3). Williams submitted a financial affidavit that shows that his monthly income of around one thousand dollars is far outstripped by his debts and monthly bills. (Pl.'s Am. Mot. to Proceed IFP, Ex. 1, Financial Affidavit.) These financial circumstances are sufficient to qualify Williams for IFP status.

II. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

IFP status does not automatically entitle a litigant to appointed counsel. "The law is well established that there is no constitutional right to appointment of counsel in a civil case, and no indigent civil litigant is guaranteed counsel." Brown v. Children's Nat'l Med. Ctr., 773 F. Supp. 2d 125, 140 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Dantzler v. EEOC, 810 F. Supp. 2d 312, 317 (D.D.C. 2011) (recognizing that Title VII does not create a statutory right to appointment of counsel). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, courts have discretion to appoint counsel to represent an indigent pro se party. 28 U.S.C. § 1915; see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (providing that "[u]pon application by the complainant and in such circumstances as the court may deem just, the court may appoint an attorney"). The following factors guide the exercise of courts' discretion:

(i) the nature and complexity of the action;

(ii) the potential merit of the pro se party's claims;

(iii) the demonstrated inability of the pro se party to retain counsel by other means; and

(iv) the degree to which the interests of justice will be served by appointment of counsel, including the benefit the Court may derive from ...


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