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Gilberto G. Munoz, An Individual v. Carolyn W. Colvin

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


March 19, 2013

GILBERTO G. MUNOZ, AN INDIVIDUAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL [Doc. No. 102]

On March 18, 2013, Plaintiff Gilberto Munoz ("Plaintiff") filed a motion seeking the appointment of counsel. [Doc. No. 102.] Plaintiff has requested court-appointed counsel on three previous occasions. [Doc. Nos. 3, 11, 23.] A jury trial to decide the amount of damages, if any, Plaintiff should be awarded for impermissible medical inquiries made by Defendant is scheduled to begin on April 30, 2013. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion.

The Constitution provides no right to appointment of counsel in a civil case. See Lassiter v. Dept. of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18, 25 (1981). However, a district court may appoint counsel "[u]pon application by the complainant and in such circumstances as the court may deem just . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-(5)(f)(1)(B). "Three factors are relevant to a trial court's determination of whether to appoint counsel: (1) the plaintiff's financial resources; (2) the efforts made by the plaintiff to secure counsel on his or her own; and (3) the merit of the plaintiff's claim."

Bradshaw v. Zoological Society of San Diego, 662 F.2d 1301, 1318 (9th Cir. 1981).

Regarding the first factor, Plaintiff has not shown that he lacks the financial resources to hire an attorney. His motion indicates that he is employed by the County of San Diego and earns approximately $1,800 per month. He further states that he is unable to find an attorney willing to represent him on terms he can afford. However, Plaintiff fails to detail the financial arrangements offered to him, so the Court cannot effectively analyze whether he can afford an attorney.

Regarding the second factor, Plaintiff has not shown that he made sufficient efforts to secure counsel. A party seeking appointment of counsel need not "exhaust the legal directory," but is required to show that he made a "reasonably diligent effort under the circumstances to obtain counsel." Bradshaw, 662 F.2d at 1319. Plaintiff states he has contacted three attorneys, but "due to the short amount of time [between now and trial], [they] are either unwilling to take the case, set too many conditions, and ask for too much up front. They also spend too much time just criticizing how Plaintiff has handled his case." [Mot. at 4.] It is clear from Plaintiff's motion that he cannot obtain representation due in part to his own tardiness. Trial of this matter is scheduled to begin on April 30, 2013, but Plaintiff failed to contact potential counsel until March 5, March 7, and March 13, respectively. Furthermore, Plaintiff was aware that the case would reach trial as early as November 26, 2012, when the Court granted partial summary judgment in his favor. He could have sought representation then in order to afford counsel the maximum amount of preparation time prior to the trial date, yet failed to do so. Thus, under the circumstances, the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to make a reasonably diligent effort to obtain counsel.

Finally, with respect to the third factor, the Court notes that while Plaintiff's claims may have merit this does not outweigh the findings on the previous two factors.

In any event, it appears that Plaintiff has a sufficient grasp of his case, the legal issues involved, and is able to adequately articulate the basis of his claims. Plaintiff has represented himself throughout the duration of the case, and is capable of doing so in a non-complex, one-issue trial. The Court finds that the circumstances here do not warrant appointing counsel to represent Plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel.

20130319

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