United States District Court, S.D. California
March 7, 2014
TRENTON QUINTEN CROSS, Plaintiff,
A.M. GONZALES, Warden, et al., Defendant.
ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL
[Doc. No. 3]
JAN M. ADLER, Magistrate Judge.
Petitioner Trenton Quinten Cross, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has requested appointment of counsel to pursue his petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner attacks his conviction for possession and sale of a controlled substance (Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11352(a), § 11351.5) on the grounds the trial court erroneously admitted evidence of a prior narcotics sale in violation of his right to due process. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's request for appointment of counsel is DENIED without prejudice.
The Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not extend to federal habeas corpus actions by state prisoners. McClesky v. Zant , 499 U.S. 467, 495 (1991); Chaney v. Lewis , 801 F.2d 1191, 1196 (9th Cir. 1986), cert denied, 481 U.S. 1023 (1987); Knaubert v. Goldsmith , 791 F.2d 722, 728 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 867 (1986). Under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B), however, financially eligible habeas petitioners seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 may obtain representation whenever a magistrate judge or the district court "determines that the interests of justice so require." 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2), (a)(2)(B); Terrovona v. Kincheloe , 912 F.2d 1176, 1181 (9th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 979 (1991).
The interests of justice can also require appointment of counsel when the Court conducts an evidentiary hearing on the Petition. Terrovona , 912 F.2d at 1177; Knaubert , 791 F.2d at 728; Abdullah v. Norris , 18 F.3d 571, 573 (8th Cir. 1994); Rule 8(c), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The appointment of counsel is discretionary when no evidentiary hearing is necessary. Terrovona , 912 F.2d at 1177; Knaubert , 791 F.2d at 728; Abdullah , 18 F.3d at 573. Here, there is no current indication that an evidentiary hearing is necessary.
In the Ninth Circuit, "[i]ndigent state prisoners applying for habeas relief are not entitled to appointed counsel unless the circumstances of a particular case indicate that appointed counsel is necessary to prevent due process violations." Chaney , 801 F.2d at 1196. A due process violation may occur in the absence of counsel if the issues involved are too complex for the petitioner. Id . In addition, the appointment of counsel may be necessary if the petitioner is of such limited education as to be incapable of presenting his claims. Hawkins v. Bennett , 423 F.2d 948, 950 (8th Cir. 1970). When the issues involved in a section 2254 habeas action can be properly resolved on the basis of the state court record, a district court does not abuse its discretion in denying a motion for appointment of counsel. Travis v. Lockhart , 787 F.2d 409, 411 (8th Cir. 1986).
In the instant case, Petitioner requests counsel be appointed on his behalf because the legal issues are complex and he is "a layman at law with no skills to research, compare, argue and respond properly to any pleadings the court may require." [Doc. No. 3.] Petitioner has sufficiently represented himself to date. Upon review of the petition, it appears that Petitioner has a good grasp of this case and the legal issues involved. The petition in this case was pleaded sufficiently to warrant this Court's issuance of an Order to Respond, which directed Respondent to file an answer or other responsive pleading.
"The district court must scrutinize the state court record independently to determine whether the state court procedures and findings were sufficient." Knaubert , 791 F.2d at 729. Respondent has provided the Court with the state court records relevant to the determination of the issues presented. [Doc. No. 12.] At this stage of the proceedings, it appears that the Court will be able to properly resolve the issues presented on the basis of the state court record.Under such circumstances, a district court does not abuse its discretion in denying a state prisoner's request for appointment of counsel because it is simply not warranted by the interests of justice. See LaMere v. Risley , 827 F.2d 622, (9th Cir. 1987).
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the interests of justice do not require the appointment of counsel at this time. Petitioner's motion for appointment of counsel is, therefore, DENIED without prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.