United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge
summer day in August 2012, two Glastonbury police officers
were investigating an anonymous tip that a high school
student was engaged in drug dealing. In the course of their
investigation, the officers entered the empty attached garage
of the Conroy family residence. The police did not have
permission or a warrant. They claim to have entered the
garage in order to knock on a door inside the garage that led
to the interior of the house. The officers' entry into
the garage set in motion a chain of events that included the
forcible arrest of the student, the issuance of a search
warrant, a subsequent search of the house, and the later
arrests of several members of the family, mostly on charges
that were later dropped.
these events, Christine Conroy and three of her children
filed this federal lawsuit against the Town of Glastonbury
and a number of individual officers. Defendants have moved
for summary judgment on all counts. I conclude that triable
issues of fact remain for the core claims in this case.
Genuine fact issues remain about whether several officers
violated the Fourth Amendment and whether they are entitled
at this time to qualified immunity. Genuine fact issues also
remain as to plaintiffs' state law tort claims and state
constitutional claims. On the other hand, I will grant
summary judgment for defendants on plaintiffs' Fourteenth
and Eighth Amendment claims, their Monell claim
against the Town of Glastonbury, their official- capacity
claims, and their claims against various peripheral
defendants in this case.
light of the standards governing defendants' motion for
summary judgment, the following facts are set forth on the
basis of the parties' submissions and as viewed in the
light most favorable to plaintiffs. Plaintiff Christine
Conroy lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut, with her three
children, Lauren, Martin, and minor P.C.-all plaintiffs in
this case. In August 2012, when Martin was 17 years old,
defendant David Goncalves (a Glastonbury police officer who
was acting in his role as part of the Eastern Central
Narcotics Task Force) was investigating Martin, because
Martin was suspected of dealing drugs to other high school
students. The investigation led to two encounters with the
Conroy family at their residence, the first occurring on
August 22, 2012. The August 22 encounter prompted the
issuance of a search warrant, which police executed on
September 5, 2012. That search, in turn, prompted criminal
charges against several members of the family. Because
plaintiffs allege multiple violations of their state and
federal constitutional rights based on the events of August
and September 2012, it is necessary to describe these events
in some detail.
noon on August 22, 2012, Goncalves was surveilling
plaintiffs' home. He contends that he was acting on two
anonymous tips that he had received regarding possible drug
sales occurring at the house. From his vantage point
somewhere off plaintiffs' property, he could see that
there was a three-bay garage attached to the Conroy home. He
allegedly observed three young people hanging out inside the
garage; he claims he could see inside the garage through the
open middle garage door.
then called defendant Michael Furlong, a fellow Glastonbury
police officer, to assist him in his investigation. Goncalves
left plaintiffs' neighborhood and met Furlong at the
Manchester fire station. The two officers then returned and
parked their cars in front of the Conroy home. They decided
to approach the house for further investigation. Although the
Conroy house has a front door, they bypassed the front door,
walking “up and around” to the garage area
instead. Doc. #66-8 at 12.
officers entered the garage through the middle garage door.
Although the parties agree that the middle garage door was
open in part and that the other two garage doors on either
side of the middle door were fully closed, they dispute how
much the middle garage door was open. Defendants claim that
it was open at least halfway, and Goncalves testified that he
was able to walk under the open door “without doing
anything more than lowering [his] head.” Doc. #66-7 at
6. In contrast, Christine Conroy testified that when she
stopped by the house to drop off 11-year-old P.C. about an
hour before the officers arrived, she observed the middle
garage door much closer to the ground. See Doc.
#75-5 at 9-10 (explaining that when Christine pulled up in
the driveway, the middle garage door was open to “cat
length, ” and that she then watched P.C., who was just
over four feet in height, partially lift the garage door,
stoop to get inside, and pull the door down behind him); Doc.
#75-23 at 10 (P.C. entered house around 11:20 am and pulled
garage door down to “cat height” once he was
Goncalves and Furlong entered the garage, there was no one
inside. They saw a table, chairs, and several beer cans. They
walked towards a door that was at the top of several steps
inside the garage and that connected the garage to the inside
of the Conroy home. As Goncalves stood on the steps leading
up to the internal door, he looked on a shelf near the door
and spotted a multi-colored pipe. Upon closer inspection, he
noticed burnt marijuana residue on the inside of the bowl.
Goncalves showed the pipe to Furlong.
then knocked on the door leading to the interior of the house
and announced the presence of police. After a few minutes, a
young man, who was not a resident of the house, opened the
door. Goncalves and Furlong asked him to call a resident of
the house to the door.
Conroy, who was 20 years old at the time, appeared at the
door and then entered the garage. The officers asked to speak
to “the blonde kid, ” apparently referring to
Lauren's brother Martin. Lauren asked if the officers had
a warrant and demanded that the officers leave the garage.
The officers refused to leave, stating that they did not need
a warrant, and they insisted that Lauren produce Martin.
went upstairs, where Martin was sleeping. Martin did not want
to come down, but Lauren pleaded with him until he came
downstairs and appeared at the door to the garage, having
just been woken up and wearing only his boxer shorts.
officers ordered Martin, Lauren, and their several friends
into the garage. One friend, J.L., remained inside the door
to the residence and began recording the encounter on his
cell phone. The officers ordered the group to sit down
on the chairs in the garage. Martin remained standing and did
not sit down with his friends and sister, though he disputes
that he was ever asked to sit. Doc. #75-8 at 14. Both Martin
and Lauren asked to see a warrant for the police entering the
threatened Martin and Lauren to turn over their marijuana or
the police would enter the home. Martin politely responded
that the police could not enter the home without a search
warrant, and he asked the officers to leave. He reminded the
officers that he was under 18 years old and that his mother
was not home. At this, Goncalves “got into
[Martin's] face.” Id. at 7. Goncalves and
Martin yelled at each other, and at one point, Martin told
the officers to “[g]et the fuck out of my house.”
Id. at 8. Defendant Matthew Geddes, a third officer,
arrived on scene around this time, while Goncalves and Martin
and without warning, Goncalves kicked Martin's legs out
from under him as Martin was standing on the steps to the
interior door. Martin was swept up and fell backwards,
slamming the back of his head on the concrete garage floor.
While he lay on the floor of the garage, Goncalves and
Furlong hit, kicked, and kneed Martin. Id. at 15-17;
Doc. #66-19 at 8-9, 11, 19. Geddes threatened to use his
taser on Martin. Lauren ran over to intervene but was told
she would be tased if she did not back up and sit down.
was handcuffed and brought to his feet. He was
“crying” and “screaming, ” yelling to
the officers that he needed medical attention. Doc. #75-8 at
21-22. The officers placed Martin in the back of a police car
and returned to the garage to address the rest of the group.
Martin was eventually taken to the Glastonbury Police
Department headquarters. He claims to have suffered a
concussion as well as scrapes and cuts from the encounter.
was issued an infraction for possession of alcohol by a
minor, and a juvenile summons for possession of less than
half an ounce of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia,
disorderly conduct, and interfering. Lauren and her friends
were issued infractions for possession of less than half an
ounce of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and
possession of alcohol by a minor.
August 28, 2012, Goncalves (along with a fellow member of the
Eastern Central Narcotics Task Force who is not a defendant
in this case) applied for a warrant to search plaintiffs'
residence for drugs and paraphernalia. The search warrant was
supported by an affidavit from Goncalves relating the events
of August 22. The affidavit stated that the door to the
garage had been open when the officers entered and that there
were beer cans in the garage where the kids had been observed
sitting, and also that Goncalves had located “in plain
view” the multi-colored pipe containing marijuana
residue. Doc. #75-13 at 2. The warrant was signed by a
Connecticut state court judge on August 28, 2012.
Id. at 7.
September 5, 2012, Christine Conroy filed an in-person
complaint against Goncalves with the Glastonbury Police
Department about the injuries Martin suffered during the
August 22 encounter. Defendant Lieutenant Bisi was assigned
to investigate the complaint.
same night at around 9:20 pm, members of the East Central
Narcotics Task Force (some of whom were Glastonbury police
officers) arrived to execute the search warrant at the
Conroys' home. In the driveway, they encountered
Christine, who was just arriving home; she let them in
through the garage. The police entered the residence wearing
ski masks, accompanied by dogs, and carrying rifles.
11-year-old P.C. was woken up and was crying in the kitchen
during the search. Some officers went to the basement, where
Martin and several friends were watching television, and
ordered the group upstairs at gunpoint. Doc. #75-10 at 10.
contend that Martin became combative with the officers and
did not comply with orders, although Martin denies this.
Officers ultimately knocked Martin to the ground and
handcuffed him, threatening again to tase him if he did not
comply; Martin was “roughed up” in this process.
Doc. #66-7 at 28; Doc. #75-10 at 12.
seized a number of items from the house during the September
5 search, including three glass pipes, a grinder, and a
plastic container, each of which contained marijuana residue;
a bottle containing a white powder that turned out to be a
(legal) workout supplement; several bottles of liquor, which
were found in the garage and in one of the children's
bedrooms; and a small amount of marijuana, some of which was
found on J.L.'s person and some of which was found in the
house. In total, the amount of marijuana seized was
approximately 3.4 grams, or less than one-eighth of an ounce.
on the items seized on September 5, all of the plaintiffs
(including 11-year-old P.C.) were charged with possession of
less than half an ounce of marijuana and possession of drug
paraphernalia, and Lauren, Martin, and P.C. were charged with
possession of alcohol by a minor. Doc. #75-16 at 5. In
addition, Martin was charged with interfering with a search
warrant. Doc. #75-17.
also submitted an application for a warrant to arrest
Christine for risk of injury to a minor. After the initial
application was denied by the state's attorney,
see Doc. #66-7 at 32, Goncalves revised it to charge
Christine with delivering alcohol to a minor, hosting an
underage drinking party, possession of less than half an
ounce of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Doc. #66-7 at 35; Doc. #75-18. The revised application was
approved, and a warrant for Christine's arrest was
issued. Christine reported to the police station to turn
herself in on September 19. Although all charges against
Christine were later dismissed by the prosecutor, her arrest
was the subject of press releases by the police and of media
coverage. Docs. #75-21, #75-22.
result of Christine's in-person complaint on September 5,
which she had made prior to the execution of the search
warrant at her house, defendant Lieutenant Bisi investigated
the events of August 22, including the officers' entry
into the garage, the force used against Martin, and an
allegation that Geddes deleted a video of the encounter from
S.M.'s cell phone. Bisi found that there was some merit
to the complaint-namely, that Geddes had improperly seized
and looked through S.M.'s phone, even though it was not
clear whether he deleted any video- but that the entry into
the garage and the force used against Martin were both lawful
and reasonable. Doc. #75-23 at 13-14.
(on her own and P.C.'s behalf), Martin, and Lauren Conroy
filed this federal lawsuit in August 2014. They bring a
variety of state and federal claims against the Town of
Glastonbury and eleven individual members of the Glastonbury
Police Department: Chief David Caron, Donald Bisi, Michael
Furlong, Cory Davis, James Kennedy, David Goncalves, Steven
Moyer, Matthew Geddes, Michael Bachand, Bryan Verillo, and
Brandon Ritchie. Plaintiffs claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
that various individual defendants violated their Fourth
Amendment rights to be free from illegal search and seizure,
excessive force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.
Plaintiffs also claim violations of the Fourteenth Amendment
(equal protection and substantive due process), as well as
the Eighth Amendment (deliberate indifference to medical
needs). Further, plaintiffs claim that defendants Caron,
Bisi, Furlong, Davis, and Kennedy are liable under §
1983 on a theory of supervisory liability, and that the Town
of Glastonbury is liable under § 1983 because it had a
policy or practice of allowing excessive force and other
police misconduct. In addition to their federal
constitutional claims, plaintiffs claim that defendants
violated their rights under Article First, §§ 7 and
9, of the Connecticut Constitution. Finally, plaintiffs bring
several state tort claims, including negligent and
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and
battery. Defendants have moved for summary judgment
as to all claims.
principles governing a motion for summary judgment are well
established. Summary judgment may be granted only “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Tolan
v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per
curiam). “A genuine dispute of material fact
‘exists for summary judgment purposes where the
evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, is such that a reasonable jury could decide in that
party's favor.'” Zann Kwan v. Andalex Grp.
LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Guilbert v. Gardner, 480 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir.
2007)). The evidence adduced at the summary judgment stage
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and with all ambiguities and reasonable inferences
drawn against the moving party. See, e.g.,
Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866; Caronia v. Philip
Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013). All
in all, “a ‘judge's function' at summary
judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine
the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan, 134
S.Ct. at 1866 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).
Fourth Amendment Claims
core claims arise under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth
Amendment protects the rights of the people “to be
secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend.
IV. A “search” in the context of the Fourth
Amendment occurs when the police intrude upon a person's
reasonable expectation of privacy or if the police otherwise
trespass upon one's person, house, papers, or effects for
the purpose of acquiring information. See Florida v.
Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409, 1414 (2013); United States
v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 408 n.5 (2012). A
“seizure” under the Fourth Amendment occurs when
the police intentionally terminate one's freedom of
movement by means of physical force or by show of their
official law enforcement authority. See Brendlin v.
California, 551 U.S. 249, 254 (2007); Russo v. City
of Bridgeport, 479 F.3d 196, 208 (2d Cir. 2007).
Alternatively, “[a] ‘seizure' of property
occurs when there is some meaningful interference with an
individual's possessory interests in that
property.” United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S.
109, 113 (1984).
every police violation of the Fourth Amendment justifies an
award of money damages. That is because the doctrine of
qualified immunity protects government officials “from
liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982);
see also Carroll v. Carman, 135 S.Ct. 348, 350
(2014) (per curiam). In this manner,
“[q]ualified immunity ‘gives government officials
breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments
about open legal questions.'” Lane v.
Franks, 134 S.Ct. 2369, 2381 (2014) (quoting
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 743 (2011)).
immunity protects an officer from liability if “(1) his
conduct [did] not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known, or (2) it was objectively reasonable for him to
believe that his actions were lawful at the time of the
challenged act.” Simpson v. City of New York,
793 F.3d 259, 268 (2d Cir. 2015); see also Amore v.
Novarro, 624 F.3d 522, 529-30 (2d Cir. 2010). As the
Supreme Court has explained, “a defendant cannot be
said to have violated a clearly established right unless the
right's contours were sufficiently definite that any
reasonable official in the defendant's shoes would have
understood that he was violating it.” Plumhoff v.
Rickard, 134 S.Ct. 2012, 2023 (2014). Thus, an officer
is entitled to qualified immunity if, on the basis of the
facts known to the officer when he engaged in the conduct at
issue, “officers of reasonable competence could
disagree as to the lawfulness of such conduct.”
Manganiello v. City of New York, 612 F.3d 149, 165
(2d Cir. 2010).
Second Circuit has noted that “[t]o determine whether
the relevant law was clearly established, we consider the
specificity with which a right is defined, the existence of
Supreme Court or Court of Appeals case law on the subject,
and the understanding of a reasonable officer in light of
preexisting law.” Terebesi v. Torreso, 764
F.3d 217, 231 (2d Cir. 2014). The law may be clearly
established if “decisions from this or other circuits
clearly foreshadow a particular ruling on the issue.”
Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). Although
there need not be “a case directly on point, ” it
must nonetheless be clear that “existing precedent
[has] placed the . . . constitutional question beyond
debate.” Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308
(2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). See also White
v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552 (2017) (denial of qualified
immunity on excessive force claim was in error where court
“failed to identify a case where an officer acting
under similar circumstances . . . was held to have violated
the Fourth Amendment, ” and instead relied on cases
that “lay out excessive-force principles at only a
Warrantless Entry to Garage on August 22, 2012
first allege that the entry by Goncalves and Furlong into the
garage on August 22 constituted an unlawful search, and that
the subsequent seizure of beer cans and the glass pipe
constituted an unlawful seizure, in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that
the officers' entry into the garage was lawful (and that
the subsequent seizures were reasonable under the plain view
exception), or in the alternative, that the officers are
protected by qualified immunity.
well established that “physical entry of the home is
the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth
Amendment is directed.” United States v. United
States Dist. Court for E. Dist. of Mich., 407 U.S. 297,
313 (1972). Indeed, “[t]he core premise underlying the
Fourth Amendment is that warrantless searches of a home are
presumptively unreasonable.” Harris v.
O'Hare, 770 F.3d 224, 231 (2d Cir. 2014) (citing,
inter alia, Kentucky v. King, 131 S.Ct.
1849, 1856 (2011)). If police officers have neither a warrant
nor valid consent, they need no less than both probable cause
and exigent circumstances in order to lawfully enter or
remain in a person's home. Harris, 770 F.3d at
231 (citing Kirk v. Louisiana, 536 U.S. 635, 638
(2002) (per curiam)); Fernandez v.
California, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 1132 (2014).
protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment extend also to a
home's curtilage, or the “area immediately
surrounding and associated with the home.”
Jardines, 133 S.Ct. at 1414. The curtilage is
considered “part of the home itself for Fourth