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Duross v. Connections CSP, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

September 13, 2019

DONALD DUROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
CONNECTIONS CSP, INC. Defendant.

          Date Submitted: June 21, 2019

          ORDER

          Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

         Upon consideration of the Plaintiffs Motion for Appointment of Counsel[1] and Motion to Amend;[2] and the facts, arguments, and legal authorities set forth in Plaintiffs Motions; statutory and decisional law; and the record in this case, IT APPEARS THAT:

         1. Plaintiff Donald DuRoss is incarcerated in Delaware. On May 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant Connections CSP, Inc. ("Connections CSP") alleging that Connections CSP, as a provider of medical services to persons incarcerated in Delaware, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs serious medical needs.[3] Plaintiff sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted.[4] Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Appointment of Counsel and Motion to Amend.

         2. In support of his Motion for Appointment of Counsel, the Plaintiff states: (1) he unsuccessfully sought legal aid and is unable to afford private counsel; (2) his case involves complex legal issues; (3) he has limited access to the prison law library; and (4) he has limited knowledge of the law.[5]

         3. In civil cases, Delaware courts consider requests for appointment of counsel as a matter of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[6] "Special and compelling circumstances" must exist for appointment of counsel to be constitutionally required.[7] The appropriate test is the three-prong test set forth in Mathews v. Eldridge[8] The Court must consider: "(1) the private interests at stake, (2) the government's interest and (3) the risk that the procedure without counsel would lead to erroneous results."[9]

         4. The private interest at stake in this case is Plaintiffs "right to meaningful access to the Courts."[10] This right may be satisfied by "access to an adequate law library."[11] On this point, Plaintiff alleges that his access to the law library is limited. However, non-specific allegations of limited access to the law library are insufficient to show lack of meaningful access to the courts.[12] The Court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he lacks meaningful access to the Courts.

         5. With regard to the second factor-the government interests at stake-the Court does not find this factor dispositive or significant in this case.

         6. With regard to the third factor-the risk that the procedure without counsel would lead to erroneous results-Plaintiff asserts that the issues in this case are complex and he is not skilled in the law. While a plaintiff with appointed counsel may have a greater chance of success than a pro se litigant, that fact alone does not establish that appointment of counsel is constitutionally required.[13] On this point, the Court notes that Plaintiffs allegations do not "set[] his case apart from the volume of cases in which inmates allege claims of medical negligence and violation of civil rights against prison officials or prison medical staff"[14] On the contrary, Plaintiffs allegations are relatively simple and straightforward.

         7. The subject of the Complaint is medical care Plaintiff received for his ulcerative colitis while incarcerated at the Howard R. Young Correctional Facility ("HRYCI"). In short, Plaintiff alleges that, after considerable delay, he was scheduled to receive a colonoscopy at Saint Frances Hospital in September 2018.[15]The colonoscopy was not performed as scheduled due to incomplete or improper bowel preparation.[16] When Plaintiff returned to HRYCI from the hospital, he experienced a major flare up of his ulcerative colitis after he was not provided with his prescribed medications.[17] These circumstances were the result of the actions or inactions of certain staff and demonstrate, according to Plaintiff, deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The Court does not find that the risk of this case proceeding without counsel, and thereby leading to erroneous results, requires appointment of counsel.

         8. For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated cause for the relief sought in the Motion for Appointment of Counsel. Therefore, the Plaintiffs Motion for Appointment of Counsel is DENIED.

         9. As to Plaintiffs Motion to Amend, because Connections CSP has not served a responsive pleading to the Complaint, Plaintiff is entitled under Superior Court Civil Rule 15(a) to amend the Complaint once "as a matter of course at any time." Therefore, the Court will grant Plaintiffs Motion to Amend as long as Plaintiffs Complaint along with the amendments proposed in the Motion to Amend pass muster under 10 Del. C. § 8803(b).

         10. Pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 8803(b), if the Court grants an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must then conduct a review of the complaint and determine whether the action is factually frivolous, legally frivolous, or malicious. If the Court finds the pleadings factually frivolous, legally frivolous, or malicious, § 8803(b) requires the Court to dismiss the action.[18]

         11. In his Motion to Amend, Plaintiff seeks to add various Department of Correction ("DOC") officials as defendants.[19] Plaintiff alleges that the identified DOC officials were grossly negligent and violated Plaintiffs constitutional rights by failing to ensure that Plaintiff received adequate medical care.[20] The Complaint, even if amended as proposed, is not a model pleading. That said, the two legal theories identified by Plaintiff, however imprecisely, are: (1) medical ...


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