United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
INTERNATIONAL UNDERWATER DIVE & EXPLORATIONS LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
BOART LONGYEAR COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs International
Underwater Dive & Explorations, LLC and Vernon W.
Officer, Jr.'s Motion to Appoint Counsel (Dkt. # 12) and
Motion for Extension on Counsel (Dkt. # 13). For the reasons
that follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motions.
action, Plaintiffs allege an array of misconduct by numerous
individuals, entities, and government institutions, including
Boart Longyear Company (“BLC”), Richard P.
Parkin, Ace American Insurance, Robert G. McCarthy, the
Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Homeland
Security. The Court describes the facts as Plaintiffs allege
them in the complaint, suggesting no opinion on whether these
allegations will prove true.
short, Plaintiff Vernon W. Officer, Jr. is the C.E.O. of a
corporation called International Underwater Dive &
Explorations, LLC (“Underwater Dive”). On
November 28, 2014, the driver of a vehicle owned by BLC fell
asleep at the wheel and caused an accident severely injuring
Mr. Officer and damaging Underwater Dive's property. Dkt.
# 1 at 5. In the aftermath of this accident, certain
Defendants named in this action mistreated and exploited Mr.
Officer and Underwater Dive in numerous ways. Id. at
5-7. As a consequence, Mr. Officer was wrongfully
both appear pro se. On November 30, 2016, the Court
entered an order stating that corporations cannot appear in
federal court except through an attorney. Dkt. # 6. The Court
directed Underwater Dive to obtain counsel no later than
December 30, 2016, or face sua sponte dismissal of
its claims. Id. On December 13, 2016, the Court
granted Underwater Dive an extension to secure counsel,
ordering that it must do so by February 21, 2017. Dkt. # 9.
February 3, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion requesting that
the Court appoint counsel to represent Underwater Dive. Dkt.
# 12. On February 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion
reiterating their request for counsel, emphasizing Mr.
Officer's indigence and lack of legal skills, and
requesting a one-year extension to secure counsel. The Court
will construe these motions as requesting the appointment of
counsel for Underwater Dive, as well as Mr. Officer in his
both request that counsel be appointed. This is a civil
action and, as a general matter, Plaintiffs have no right to
counsel. See, e.g., Storseth v. Spellman,
654 F.2d 1349, 1353 (9th Cir. 1981). In “exceptional
circumstances, ” the Court may appoint counsel for
indigent civil litigants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(1). Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328,
1331 (9th Cir. 1986). “A finding of exceptional
circumstances requires an evaluation of both ‘the
likelihood of success on the merits and the ability of the
petitioner to articulate his claims pro se in light
of the complexity of the legal issues involved.'”
Id. (brackets omitted) (quoting Weygandt v.
Look, 718 F.2d 952, 954 (9th Cir. 1983)). The Court,
however, lacks authority to appoint counsel to represent a
corporation. See, e.g., Specialty Vehicle
Acquisition Corp. v. Am. Sunroof Corp., No. 07-13887,
2008 WL 344546, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 7, 2008) (“There
is no provision in a statute, the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, or the Local Rules allowing this Court to appoint
counsel for a corporation in a civil matter.”).
noted, the Court lacks authority to appoint counsel to
represent a corporation. Accordingly, the Court DENIES
Underwater Dive's motion to appoint counsel, including
its request for a one-year time extension. As Underwater Dive
has not complied with the Court's order directing that it
secure counsel by February 21, 2017 (Dkt. # 9), the Court
sua sponte DISMISSES without prejudice all claims
alleged by Underwater Dive.
Court also DENIES Mr. Officer's motion. He maintains that
counsel should be appointed because he cannot afford to hire
an attorney. He maintains that his lack of funds is
attributable to Defendants' misconduct in damaging and
misappropriating his property. He also notes that he lacks
the bar certification necessary to represent his interests.
Indigence and lack of legal skills, however, are not
exceptional circumstances that warrant the appointment of
counsel. See, e.g., Mahoney v. Kitsap Cty.
Jail, No. C10-5140 RBL/KLS, 2010 WL 3239318, at *1 (W.D.
Wash. Aug. 16, 2010). The Court has reviewed the complaint
and attached exhibits. Having done so, the Court finds that
Mr. Officer has not demonstrated that the legal issues
underlying this matter are so complex that he is unable to
articulate his claims pro se. Thus, he has not met
the requisite standard for appointment of counsel and his
motion must be denied.
reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Underwater Dive and
Vernon W. Officer, Jr.'s Motion to Appoint Counsel (Dkt.
# 12) and Motion for Extension on Counsel (Dkt. # 13). The
Court sua sponte ...