United States District Court, D. Connecticut
SHARLENE A. McEVOY, Plaintiff,
KRISTOPHER MATTHEWS and OFFICER CONLON #063, Defendants.
RULING GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
police officers decided to enter the home of someone they
believed was an elderly woman after they saw that the doors
of her home had been left wide open and when no one responded
to their knocking and calls from outside the house. It turns
out that nothing was wrong and that plaintiff had merely left
the doors open to “air out” the house while she
was away on an errand.
has now sued the police for money damages, claiming that
their warrantless entry into her house violated the Fourth
Amendment. I will dismiss this action on grounds of qualified
immunity for lack of a showing that the law was clearly
established that the police could not enter someone's
home under the circumstances presented here.
facts of this case stem from a dispute among neighbors in
Derby, Connecticut. Plaintiff owned an empty wooded lot
across the street from the home of Benito Ortiz. The empty
lot had many trees, and Ortiz complained to the town that
some of the trees were rotting and posed a hazard to
surrounding properties. Plaintiff was upset about Ortiz's
complaint, and she hired an attorney and wrote a letter to
Ortiz in February 2016 to warn him not to trespass on her lot
and accusing him of making false reports about her property.
weeks later, Ortiz and his spouse went to the police station
to lodge a complaint against plaintiff. They met with
Officers Matthews and Conlon who are the two defendants in
this action. Ortiz told the officers that they were being
harassed by plaintiff whom they described as an elderly
woman. He gave the officers two letters sent to
him by plaintiff and her attorney. Ortiz claimed that
plaintiff regularly drove by the wooded lot, got out of her
vehicle, and then stared at Ortiz's property and at
Ortiz's children while they were playing basketball in
front of the Ortiz home.
officers decided to go to plaintiff's home to talk to her
about Ortiz's complaint. Plaintiff owned two houses on
the next street over from the empty lot. The officers knocked
on the door of one of the houses and announced themselves but
no one answered. They noticed that the side doors and back
doors leading to the basement of the house were all open, and
they also saw that the keys to the side door were still in
the lock of one of the side doors. There was no sign of
forced entry. After again announcing their presence, the
officers went to plaintiff's second house next door but
got no response there.
officers then returned to the first house and now they
decided to go inside. They “cleared” the house
and found nobody was there. As they left the house, the
officers closed and locked the doors, and they left notes for
plaintiff at both houses advising that the police had locked
the doors and taken the found keys with them for plaintiff to
pick up at the police station.
this time plaintiff had been out of town at another one of
her properties to take care of her horse. She had left her
doors open while she was gone in order to “air the
places out.” Doc. #23-2 at 28. When she got back, she
found the officers' notes, let herself into her house
with a spare set of keys, and did not otherwise find anything
amiss inside the house.
then went to the police station to retrieve her keys, and she
spoke to the officers at that point about the complaint from
Ortiz. The officers cautioned plaintiff to avoid contact with
Ortiz and not to stare at his children.
filed this lawsuit against the defendant officers pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that their warrantless
entry into her house was a violation of her rights under the
Fourth Amendment. Defendants have now moved for summary
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, 477 U.S. at 249).
Fourth Amendment provides that the “right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. A
“search” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment
occurs either when the police intrude upon a person's
reasonable expectation of privacy or, alternatively, if the
police otherwise trespass upon a suspect's person, house,
papers, or effects for the purpose of ...