United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
TRINIDAD MARTINEZ FLORES, No. 435145, Petitioner,
WARDEN JAMES HOLLOWAY, Respondent.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are the Petitioner's two motions seeking
the appointment of counsel (Doc. Nos. 3 and 12) as well as a
“motion for status conference on appointment of
counsel” (Doc. No. 21). The Respondent has filed
Objections to the Petitioner's most recent motion (Doc.
No. 22) and a memorandum in support of his Objections (Doc.
February 1, 2017, Petitioner Trinidad Martinez Flores filed a
pro se petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a
writ of habeas corpus challenging his 2011
conviction and sentence for conspiracy to sell more than
three hundred pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money
laundering, possession with intent to deliver three hundred
pounds of marijuana, and using proceeds from the sale of
marijuana for which he currently is serving a term of
imprisonment of fifty-six (56) years with in the Tennessee
Department of Correction. (Doc. No. 1).
Order entered on March 3, 2017, the Court conducted a
preliminary review of the petition and found that the
Petitioner had stated at least one colorable claim for
relief. (Doc. No. 7 at 1). The Court ordered the Respondent
to file an answer, plead or otherwise respond to the
petition. (Id.) The Respondent filed his response on
April 24, 2017, contending that the Petitioner is not
entitled to federal habeas relief. (Doc. No. 20).
Petitioner has filed two motions seeking the appointment of
counsel (Doc. Nos. 3 and 12) as well as a “motion for
status conference on appointment of counsel” (Doc. No.
21). The Respondent has filed Objections to the
Petitioner's most recent motion (Doc. No. 22) and a
memorandum in support of his Objections (Doc. No. 23). As the
Respondent notes, in the Petitioner's most recent motion,
the Petitioner appears not only to move for a status
conference regarding his motion for court-appointed counsel
but also for court-appointed counsel, discovery, and an
extension of time to file a reply to the Respondent's
response to the petition. (Id. at 1 n.1). The Court
will address the Petitioner's pending motions herein.
Motions for appointment of counsel
support of his requests for the appointment of counsel, the
Petitioner states that he is an indigent layman who does not
possess “the specialized education and knowledge
necessary to proceed in this action in an adequate or
competent fashion.” (Doc. No.12 at 1). He further
states that he filed his petition “with the help of an
Inmate legal helper and the petitioner is a Mexican who can
not speak or read English.” (Id.)
Supreme Court has held that “an indigent's right to
appointed counsel . . . exists only where the litigant may
lose his physical liberty if he loses the litigation.”
Lassiter v. Dep't of Social Servs., 452 U.S. 18,
25 (1981). Thus, unlike criminal proceedings, there is no
constitutional right to an appointed counsel in a civil
action, such as this action. Willett v. Wells, 469
F.Supp. 748, 751 (E.D. Tenn. 1977), aff'd, 595
F.2d 1227 (6th Cir. 1979); see Williamson v.
Autorama, Inc., No. 91-5759, 947 F.2d 947
(6th Cir. 1991)(citing Willett
favorably). The appointment of counsel for a civil litigant
is a matter within the discretion of the district court and
will occur only under exceptional circumstances. Lavado
v. Keohane, 992 F.2d 601, 604-05 (6th Cir.
1993). When deciding whether exceptional circumstances exist,
a district court considers the type of case, the ability of
the pro se litigant to represent himself or herself,
and the nature of the factual and legal issues involved.
Id. at 606.
Petitioner's circumstances of proceeding pro se
and indigent are typical to many prisoners and do not suggest
anything exceptional in nature. Murray v.
Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) (pro se
litigant); Richmond v. Settles, 450 Fed. App'x
448, 452-53 (6th Cir. 2011) (indigent litigant); Debow v.
Bell, No. 3:10-cv-1003, 2010 WL 5211611, at *1 (M.D.
Tenn. Dec. 15, 2010) (inmates are typically indigent and
untrained, pro se litigants).
Petitioner also asserts that his illiteracy and unfamiliarity
with the English justify the appointment of counsel; however,
neither circumstance constitutes an exceptional circumstance
warranting the appointment of counsel in a civil case.
See Cobas v. Burgess, 306 F.3d 441, 444 (6th Cir.
2002) (language barrier insufficient for tolling because
record showed petitioner could clearly communicate with
someone to assist him); Green v. United States, No.
11-59, 2013 WL 209019, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 13, 2013)
(illiteracy and unfamiliarity with English does not relieve
party from burden of showing genuine issue of material fact
at summary judgment stage). The Petitioner has demonstrated
that he can communicate with someone who can assist him with
this case. See Cobas, 306 F.2d at 444 (noting that
“the translator acting on behalf on a non-English
speaking petitioner need have no qualification other than the
ability to communicate in English”). With the
assistance of an inmate legal helper, the Petitioner
submitted a lengthy petition for habeas corpus
relief. He does not allege that he suffers from any mental
defects or physical disabilities that would limit his ability
to prosecute his case. As long as the Petitioner has access
to an inmate legal helper or a translator who can read and
write English, and the Petitioner is clearly able to
communicate with the helper or translator, the Court finds
that the Petitioner is able to prosecute his case.
the Petitioner maintains that his case is “legally
complex, ” necessitating the appointment of counsel.
(Doc. No. 12 at 1). According to the Respondent, the petition
alleges exhausted sufficiency of the evidence claims, an
exhausted ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and a
number of procedurally defaulted claims. (Id.) While
the Petitioner states that this case involves a
“voluminous” state court record, the Respondent
disagrees. (Id.) Considering all of the arguments
made by both sides and the record currently before the Court,
the Court finds that the Petitioner possesses the ability to
represent himself under the circumstances set forth in the
Petitioner's pending motions. His motions seeking the
appointment of counsel, therefore, will be denied.
Motion for a status conference
Petitioner seeks a status conference regarding
“scheduling” and “certain issue[s] related
to the voluminous record in the underlying criminal case and
state post-conviction proceeding.” (Doc. No. 21 at 2).
The Petitioner does not identify or explain what issues he
believes require a status conference, and ...