Thurman v City of Torrington | Equal Protection Clause | Fourteenth Amendment To The United States Constitution

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  Thurman v. City of Torrington  United States District Court D. Connecticut October 23, 1984 595 F.Supp. 1521 [The following are excerpts from the case. The complete case is available in the optional reading section.] RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS BLUMENFELD, Senior District Judge. The plaintiffs have brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ��  1983, 1985, 1986 and 1988, as well as the fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution, alleging that their constitutional rights were violated by the nonperformance or malperformance of official duties by the defendant police officers. In addition, the  plaintiffs seek to hold liable the defendant City of Torrington (hereinafter, the City ). The defendant City has filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, or various claims therein, pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On a motion to dismiss, the sole issue is whether under the facts alleged in the  plaintiff's complaint it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff is entitled to no relief. Holmes v. Silver Cross Hospital of Joliet, Illinois, 340 F.Supp. 125 (N.D.Ill.1972). A complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. U.S. Steel Corp. v. Multistate Tax Commission, 367 F.Supp. 107 (S.D.N.Y.1973). Furthermore, it is well settled that for purposes of a motion to dismiss, the well pleaded material allegations of the complaint are taken as true. 2A Moore's Federal Practice 2267, �  12.08 n. 3. Accordingly, the material facts of this case are as follows: Between early October 1982 and June 10, 1983, the plaintiff, Tracey Thurman, a woman living in the City of Torrington, and others on her behalf, notified the defendant City through the defendant police officers of the City of repeated threats upon her life and the life of her child, the plaintiff Charles J. Thurman, Jr., made by her estranged husband, Charles Thurman. Attempts to file complaints by plaintiff Tracey Thurman against her estranged husband in response to his threats of death and maiming were ignored or rejected by the named defendants and the defendant City. An abbreviated chronology of the plaintiff's attempted and actual notifications of the threats made against her and her son by her estranged husband to the defendant City and police officers is appropriate for consideration of this motion. In October 1982, Charles Thurman attacked plaintiff Tracey Thurman at the home of Judy Bentley and  Richard St. Hilaire in the City of Torrington. Mr. St. Hilaire and Ms. Bentley made a formal complaint of the attack to one of the unnamed defendant police officers and requested efforts to keep the plaintiff's husband, Charles Thurman, off their property. On or about November 5, 1982, Charles Thurman returned to the St. Hilaire- Bentley residence and using physical force took the plaintiff Charles J. Thurman, Jr. from said residence. Plaintiff Tracey Thurman and Mr. St. Hilaire went to Torrington police headquarters to make a formal complaint. At that point, unnamed defendant police officers of the City of Torrington refused to accept a complaint from Mr. St. Hilaire even as to trespassing. On or about November 9, 1982, Charles Thurman screamed threats at Tracey while *1525 she was sitting in her car. Defendant police officer Neil Gemelli stood on the street watching Charles Thurman scream threats at Tracey until Charles Thurman broke the windshield of plaintiff Tracey Thurman's car while she was inside the vehicle. Charles Thurman was arrested after he broke the windshield, and on the next day, November 10, 1982, he was convicted of breach of peace. He received a suspended sentence of six months and a two-year conditional discharge, during which he was ordered to stay completely away from the plaintiff Tracey Thurman and the Bentley-St. Hilaire residence and to commit no further crimes. The court imposing probation informed the defendants of this sentence. On December 31, 1982, while plaintiff Tracey Thurman was at the Bentley-St. Hilaire residence, Charles Thurman returned to said residence and once again threatened her. She called the Torrington Police Department. One of the unnamed police officer defendants took the call, and, although informed of the violation of the conditional discharge, made no attempt to ascertain Charles Thurman's whereabouts or to arrest him. Between January 1, 1983 and May 4, 1983, numerous telephone complaints to the Torrington Police Department were taken by various unnamed police officers, in which repeated threats of violence to the plaintiffs by Charles Thurman were reported and his arrest on account of the threats and violation of the terms of his probation was requested. On May 4 and 5, 1983, the plaintiff Tracey Thurman and Ms. Bentley reported to the Torrington Police Department that Charles Thurman had said that he would shoot the  plaintiffs. Defendant police officer Storrs took the written complaint of plaintiff Tracey Thurman who was seeking an arrest warrant for her husband because of his death threat and violation of his conditional discharge. Defendant Storrs refused to take the complaint of Ms. Bentley. Plaintiff Tracey Thurman was told to return three weeks later on June 1, 1983 when defendant Storrs or some other person connected with the police department of the defendant City would seek a warrant for the arrest of her husband.  On May 6, 1983, Tracey filed an application for a restraining order against Charles Thurman in the Litchfield Superior Court. That day, the court issued an ex  parte restraining order forbidding Charles Thurman from assaulting, threatening, and harrassing Tracey Thurman. The defendant City was informed of this order. On May 27, 1983, Tracey Thurman requested police protection in order to get to the Torrington Police Department, and she requested a warrant for her husband's arrest upon her arrival at headquarters after being taken there by one of the unnamed defendant police officers. She was told that she would have to wait until after the Memorial Day holiday weekend and was advised to call on Tuesday, May 31, to  pursue the warrant request. On May 31, 1983, Tracey Thurman appeared once again at the Torrington Police Department to pursue the warrant request. She was then advised by one of the unnamed defendant police officers that defendant Schapp was the only policeman who could help her and that he was on vacation. She was told that she would have to wait until he returned. That same day, Tracey's brother-in-law, Joseph Kocsis, called the Torrington Police Department to protest the lack of action taken on Tracey's complaint. Although Mr. Kocsis was advised that Charles Thurman would be arrested on June 8, 1983, no such arrest took place. On June 10, 1983, Charles Thurman appeared at the Bentley-St. Hilaire residence in the early afternoon and demanded to speak to Tracey. Tracey, remaining indoors, called the defendant police department asking that Charles be picked up for violation of his probation. After about 15 minutes, Tracey went outside to speak to her husband in an effort to persuade him not to take or hurt Charles Jr. Soon thereafter, Charles  began to stab Tracey repeatedly in the chest, neck and throat. Approximately 25 minutes after Tracey's call to the Torrington Police Department *1526 and after her stabbing, a single police officer, the defendant Petrovits, arrived on the scene. Upon the arrival of Officer Petrovits at the scene of the stabbing, Charles Thurman was holding a bloody knife. Charles then dropped the knife and, in the presence of Petrovits, kicked the plaintiff Tracey Thurman in the head and ran into the Bentley-St. Hilaire residence. Charles returned from within the residence holding the plaintiff Charles Thurman, Jr. and dropped the child on his wounded mother. Charles then kicked Tracey in the head a second time. Soon thereafter, defendants DeAngelo, Nukirk, and Columbia arrived on the scene but still permitted Charles Thurman to wander about the crowd and to continue to threaten Tracey. Finally, upon approaching Tracey once again, this time while she was lying on a stretcher, Charles Thurman was arrested and taken into custody.  It is also alleged that at all times mentioned above, except for approximately two weeks following his conviction and sentencing on November 10, 1982, Charles Thurman resided in Torrington and worked there as a counterman and short order cook at Skie's Diner. There he served many members of the Torrington Police Department including some of the named and unnamed defendants in this case. In the course of his employment Charles Thurman boasted to the defendant police officer  patrons that he intended to get his wife and that he intended to kill her. I. Motion to Dismiss the Claims of Tracey Thurman  The defendant City now brings a motion to dismiss the claims against it. The City first argues that the plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for failure to allege the deprivation of a constitutional right. Though the complaint alleges that the actions of the defendants deprived the plaintiff Tracey Thurman of her constitutional right to equal protection of the laws, the defendant City argues that the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment does not guarantee equal application of social services. Defendant's Memorandum at 4. Rather, the defendant City argues that the equal  protection clause only prohibits intentional discrimination that is racially motivated citing Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1979) and Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 48 L.Ed.2d 547 (1976). The defendant City's argument is clearly a misstatement of the law. The application of the equal protection clause is not limited to racial classifications or racially motivated discrimination. The equal protection clause will be applied to invalidate state laws which classify on the basis of alienage for the purpose of the distribution of economic  benefits unless that law is necessary to promote a compelling or overriding state interest. Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 91 S.Ct. 1848, 29 L.Ed.2d 534 (1971); In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717, 93 S.Ct. 2851, 37 L.Ed.2d 910 (1973). The equal  protection clause will be applied to strike down classifications based on legitimacy at  birth if they are not related to a legitimate state interest. Pickett v. Brown, 462 U.S. 1, 103 S.Ct. 2199, 76 L.Ed.2d 372 (1983); Mills v. Habluetzel, 456 U.S. 91, 97-99, 102 S.Ct. 1549, 1553-1554, 71 L.Ed.2d 770 (1982). Classifications on the basis of gender will be held invalid under the equal protection clause unless they are substantially related to an important governmental objective, Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 197, 97 S.Ct. 451, 456, 50 L.Ed.2d 397 (1976), reh'g denied, 429 U.S. 1124, 97 S.Ct. 1161, 51 L.Ed.2d 574 (1977). And lastly, the equal protection clause will be applied to strike down classifications which are not rationally related to a legitimate governmental  purpose. San Antonio School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 55, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 1308, 36 L.Ed.2d 16, reh'g denied, 411 U.S. 959, 93 S.Ct. 1919, 36 L.Ed.2d 418 (1973).
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