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Braude v. Vilnyanskaya

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 17, 2017

ILYA BRAUDE, Plaintiff,


          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         On February 8, 2017, Ilya Braude, plaintiff, brought suit against Alla Vilnyanskaya, the self-represented defendant, alleging claims of defamation and invasion of privacy - false light. ECF 4. Braude alleges that Vilnyanskaya, with whom he was previously in a relationship (id. ¶ 5), repeatedly made false claims in public places and also to Braude's former employer, claiming that Braude had sexually assaulted and otherwise abused her. See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 14, 37. Vilnyanskaya moved to dismiss the Complaint on March 20, 2017. ECF 11. Braude responded in opposition on March 31, 2017 (ECF 16) and Vilnyanskaya replied on April 18, 2017. ECF 18.

         On April 7, 2017, during the pendency of the motion to dismiss, Vilnyanskaya filed a “Motion for an appointment of council [sic].” ECF 17. By Order of April 11, 2017, I denied the motion. ECF 20. But, sua sponte, I stayed the case for thirty days to provide defendant with time to seek counsel. Id. On April 19, 2017, defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of my decision to deny her motion to appoint counsel. ECF 21. By Order of April 21, 2017, I denied, without prejudice, the motion for reconsideration. ECF 23.

         On May 10, 2017, Mark Sobel, Esq., entered his appearance on behalf of Vilnyanskaya. In light of Mr. Sobel's entry of appearance, by Order of May 12, 2017, I denied defendant's motion to dismiss (ECF 11), without prejudice, and provided time for counsel to answer or move to dismiss the Complaint, consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 12. ECF 27.

         But, later on May 12, 2017, Mr. Sobel moved to withdraw as counsel (ECF 28), stating that Vilnyanskaya had discharged him and instructed him not to contact her. ECF 28. Then, on May 15, 2017, defendant filed a notice of dismissal of Mr. Sobel. ECF 29.[1]

         On May 15, 2017, the Clerk docketed several motions from Vilnyanskaya: a “Motion for Reconsideration of Defendant's Motion for Appointment of Council [sic]” (ECF 30, “Motion for Reconsideration”); a “Motion for the sealing of documents related to the case” (ECF 31, “Motion to Seal”); a “Motion for a Change of Venue” (ECF 32); and a “Motion to Request a Hearing” (ECF 34) (collectively, “Motion”).[2]

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny each of the motions, without prejudice.

         I. Motion for Reconsideration

         In her Motion for Reconsideration (ECF 30), Vilnyanskaya asks the Court reconsider its prior rulings (ECF 20; ECF 23) denying her requests to appoint counsel, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1).

         In my Orders of April 11, 2017 (ECF 20) and April 21, 2017 (ECF 23), I explained that a federal district court's power to appoint counsel in civil actions under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) is a discretionary one, and may be considered where an indigent claimant presents exceptional circumstances. See Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th Cir. 1975); see also Branch v. Cole, 686 F.2d 264, 266 (5th Cir. 1982). The question of whether such circumstances exist in a particular case hinges on the characteristics of the claim and the litigant. See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989).

         Because defendant had failed to provide sufficient evidence of indigency, in my Order of April 21, 2017 (ECF 23), I stated that, if she wanted to renew her request for the appointment of counsel, she must complete an “Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs” (“Form”). Id. I also directed the Clerk to mail a copy of the Form to defendant. Although I noted that the Form is ordinarily used by pro se plaintiffs, I explained that the information required by the Form would be pertinent in assessing defendant's financial situation. Id. Vilnyanskaya did not provide a copy of the Form with her Motion for Reconsideration. See ECF 30.

         Moreover, in ECF 23, I explained, id. at 3:

The appointment of counsel would require an attorney admitted to practice in this Court to provide legal services in a civil case, without compensation for his or her efforts. Before the Court requires an attorney to provide free legal services to the defendant, she should attempt to obtain legal representation from one of the several community organizations that provide such services.

         Although Vilnyanskaya states that she contacted several entities in the greater Baltimore area that provide pro bono legal services, without success, defendant does not explain how she was able to retain Mr. Sobel. Nor does she offer any explanation for why she immediately discharged him. See ECF 29; ECF 30. Moreover, Vilnyanskaya did not dispute the claim of Michael J. Harper, Esq., a Pennsylvania attorney who represents defendant's mother, to the ...

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