U.S. Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit Civil
Civil Procedure – Indigent plaintiffs – counsel
Even if it was error for the district court not to seek counsel for a prisoner pursuing a civil rights claim, the error was harmless.
“We need not consider whether the district court misapplied the Pruitt standard, however, because we will reverse only upon a showing of prejudice, 503 F.3d at 659, and Tidwell has failed to make such a showing. He offers no reason to think that new counsel or an investigator might have turned up evidence that would have affected the outcome of the case. See Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014); Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592–93 (7th Cir. 1996). The witnesses whom he hoped to find were former inmates who, he says, would have been able to corroborate parts of his testimony (that he tried to submit a grievance about Hoyle; that he complained to another guard—not party to this suit—about Hoyle’s misconduct while delivering food and the defendants’ lack of action; and that Harbison told the inmate-workers to clear the segregation unit for his transfer so that no one would be able to observe the beating administered by Hoyle). But this testimony would at best have duplicated Tidwell’s own testimony. Tidwell does not assert that any of these potential witnesses saw the actual incident. Moreover, as we noted, no one could find the proposed witnesses he identified. This is too thin a reed to support reversal.
14-2365 Tidwell v. Hicks
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Gilbert, J., Wood, J.