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Prisoner wins right to recruit counsel in federal civil suit

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A prisoner was improperly denied counsel to help with discovery in his federal lawsuit that claimed a medical provider was deliberately indifferent to glaucoma that ultimately required removal of part of his eye.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of the healthcare provider Friday in Leonard Dewitt v. Corizon, Inc., et al., 13-2930.

District Judge William T. Lawrence in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division, denied Leonard Dewitt’s motions to recruit counsel and granted summary judgment to Corizon, which provided medical care to Dewitt while he was incarcerated.

“Because we find that the district court abused its discretion in denying the motions for recruitment of counsel, and those denials affected Dewitt’s ability to develop and litigate his case, we will not reach the merits of the summary judgment order. Therefore, we reverse and remand so that the court may recruit counsel and so Dewitt can conduct further discovery in order to litigate the case,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for the 7th Circuit panel.

Lawrence found in favor of Corizon because he reasoned that doctors exercised reasoned professional judgment inconsistent with deliberate indifference to Dewitt’s condition, but the 7th Circuit found Dewitt was prejudiced by denial of counsel to assist with discovery.

“(C)ould a lawyer have helped Dewitt present sufficient facts to create a genuine issue about why the doctor declined to follow a specialist’s recommendations or advised a continuation of ineffective treatments that prolonged his pain? We think there is a reasonable likelihood counsel could have aided here and made a difference in the outcome,” Williams wrote.

The District Court also improperly disregarded Dewitt’s Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) request for additional time for discovery. “While a district court has broad discretion to deny such motions … it is improper to decide summary judgment without first ruling on a pending 56(f) motion,” the 7th Circuit held.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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