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Wright v. Chatman

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 11, 2019

TAMARKUS LAKEITH WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
Warden BRUCE CHATMAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHEN HYLES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motions for class certification (ECF No. 67), appointment of counsel (ECF No. 79), leave to interview potential witnesses (ECF No. 80), and leave to amend his complaint (ECF No. 84). For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that his motion for class certification be denied. Plaintiff's motions for appointment of counsel and leave to interview potential witnesses are denied. His motion to amend is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C § 1983, alleging Defendants violated his procedural due process rights by confining him in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”) at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (“GDCP”). Compl. 6, ECF No. 1. On April 14, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 20. Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendants' motion, but instead filed an amended complaint that added claims for excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and violation of his due process rights relating to a 2012 prison riot. Am. Compl. 7-10, ECF No. 24. Plaintiff also added a federal deliberate indifference to medical needs claim, a state law tort claim relating to a slip and fall incident, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) claims, and access to court claims. Id. at 13-19. The Court allowed Plaintiff's procedural due process claims arising after October 28, 2014, against Defendants Bruce Chatman, June Bishop, William Powell, William McMillian, Rufus Logan, Rodney McCloud, Michael Cannon, Caldwell, Betty Dean, Homer Bryson, Victor Walker, Timothy Ward, and Rick Jacobs to proceed. Order 11, Nov. 14, 2017, ECF No. 60.[1] All Plaintiff's other claims were dismissed. Id. Plaintiff now seeks class certification of similarly situated inmates in the GDCP SMU (ECF No. 67), appointment of counsel (ECF No. 79), leave to interview witnesses (ECF No. 80), and leave to amend his complaint (ECF No. 84). These motions are ripe for review.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion for Class Certification

         Plaintiff moves for class certification of claims by similarly situated inmates held in the SMU at GDCP. Mot. for Class Certification 1, ECF No. 67. His proposed class would include various plaintiffs who have already filed suit in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Georgia as well as other known and unknown prisoners confined in the SMU. Id. at 1-2, 4.

         It is recommended that Plaintiff's motion be denied. A pro se Plaintiff may not bring a class action on behalf of other prisoners. Smith v. Hill, No. 5:16-CV-333-MTT-CHW, 2016 WL 4414788, at *1 (M.D. Ga. Aug. 18, 2016). Moreover, one of the other similarly situated SMU prisoners identified by Plaintiff, Timothy Gumm, has already been appointed counsel in his action, and that counsel filed for class certification. Pls.' Am. Mot. to Certify Class at 1, Gumm v. Sellers, No. 5:15-cv-41-MTT-CHW (M.D. Ga. July 13, 2018). Preliminary approval of a class action settlement has been granted and a fairness hearing scheduled. Gumm v. Ford, No. 5:15-cv-41-MTT-CHW, 2019 WL 479506, at *8-9 (M.D. Ga. Jan. 17, 2019). Certification of a class action in this case, therefore, would be duplicative.

         II. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

         For the second time, Plaintiff requests appointed counsel. 2nd Mot. to Appoint Couns. 2, ECF No. 79. Plaintiff's first request (ECF No. 25) was denied. Order & R. & R. 16-17, ECF No. 29. As previously explained, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), the district court “may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.” There is, however, “no absolute constitutional right to the appointment of counsel” in a § 1983 lawsuit. Poole v. Lambert, 819 F.2d 1025, 1028 (11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). Appointment of counsel is a privilege that is justified only by exceptional circumstances. Lopez v. Reyes, 692 F.2d 15, 17 (5th Cir. 1982). In deciding whether legal counsel should be provided, the court considers, among other factors, the merits of Plaintiff's claim and the complexity of the issues presented. Holt v. Ford, 862 F.2d 850, 853 (11th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff has failed to present any extraordinary circumstances which would justify the appointment of counsel in this case and has filed pleadings and motions setting out his contentions such as to allow review by this Court. Plaintiff's request for court-appointed counsel is denied.

         III. Motion to Interview Witnesses

         Plaintiff also seeks a court order compelling Defendants to allow him to interview several inmates he contends are within their custody and control. Mot. to Interview Witnesses 1, ECF No. 80. Plaintiff asserts these inmates are material witnesses due to their knowledge of conditions in the SMU. Id. at 2-3. The Plaintiff's motion is denied as moot. Discovery may be taken in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. No. further court order is required before the parties may conduct discovery.[2]

         IV. Motion to Amend Complaint

         Finally, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend his complaint to add various new defendants and claims. As Plaintiff previously amended his complaint (ECF No. 24), any further amendment requires written consent of the opposing party or the Court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 86), and so Plaintiff must obtain leave of the Court. The Court should freely grant leave to amend when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, the Court may deny leave to amend “(1) where there has been undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (2) ...


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