United States District Court, D. Connecticut
GRETA M. STIFEL, Plaintiff
RICH SCHREINER and DONNA MANNING, Defendants.
RULING AND ORDER
N. Chatigny United States District Judge
Greta M. Stifel brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Berlin Police Department Officers Rich
Schreiner and Donna Manning alleging gender-based
discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
The complaint arises out of a domestic violence incident in
which the plaintiff was charged with disorderly conduct and
assault in the third degree, while her husband was charged
only with disorderly conduct, even though her injuries were
more severe. Defendants move for summary judgment on the
grounds that (1) the plaintiff cannot establish an equal
protection violation as a matter of law, and (2) they are
entitled to qualified immunity. Because the record fails to
raise a triable issue of gender discrimination, the motion
for summary judgment is granted.
undisputed facts, taken in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, show the following. On January 9, 2016, Officers
Manning and Schreiner investigated a domestic dispute between
the plaintiff and her estranged husband John Arnone at the
plaintiff's home in Berlin. Plaintiff's sister Karen
was also present when the officers arrived. Plaintiff stated
that her husband had pushed her into the side of the sofa and
she had fallen and been injured as a result. Arnone denied
pushing her and said she had slipped and fallen. Neither
officer found the plaintiff credible at the
provided the defendants with a written statement that the
plaintiff had spit in his face, slapped him, kicked him,
punched him, and thrown a drink at him. Schreiner saw redness
on Arnone's neck that appeared to be consistent with his
account. The plaintiff volunteered that she had spit at
Arnone and kicked a drink at him.
requested an ambulance for the plaintiff. When the ambulance
arrived, the plaintiff complained of pain on her right side,
but she would not let ambulance personnel lift her shirt to
examine that area. An x-ray at the hospital showed a broken
rib and collapsed lung. Manning tried to interview the
plaintiff at the hospital but she was undergoing treatment
and would not sign a statement. She later accused Manning of
harassing her at the hospital. Plaintiff's sister Karen
provided a written statement. She stated that the plaintiff
had called her during the altercation, and that when she
arrived at the house she found the plaintiff on the floor and
that night, the plaintiff received a misdemeanor summons for
disorderly conduct, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-182, and
assault in the third degree, id. § 53a-61.
Arnone was arrested for disorderly conduct only. Several days
later, on January 15, the plaintiff submitted a written
statement to the Police Department concerning the incident.
She stated that Arnone attacked her after she kicked his
drink off a table, and that she spat at him only after he
pushed her. In early February, the plaintiff filed complaints
with the Police Department against Manning and Schreiner,
accusing them of making inaccurate statements and failing to
objectively assess her and Arnone's credibility. These
complaints were investigated and determined to be unfounded.
judgment may be granted when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). To survive summary judgment, the non-moving
party must point to evidence that would permit a jury to
return a verdict in his or her favor. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). In determining
whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law, a court must review all the evidence in the record in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Id. at 255.
contends that defendants' decision to charge her with
disorderly conduct and assault, while charging Arnone only
with disorderly conduct, was motivated by her gender in
violation of the Equal Protection Clause. To prevail on this
claim, “the plaintiff must prove that she suffered
purposeful or intentional discrimination on the basis of
gender.” Back v. Hastings on Hudson Union Free Sch.
Dist., 365 F.3d 107, 118 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing
Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev.
Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 264-65 (1977)). “Any equal
protection claim is grounded on a comparison between the
treatment the state gives similarly situated
individuals.” Okin v. Vill. of Cornwall-On-Hudson
Police Dept., 577 F.3d 415, 439 (2d Cir. 2009).
record evidence does not support a finding that the plaintiff
and Arnone were similarly situated at the time the officers
decided to charge her with assault but not Arnone. The
assault charge against the plaintiff was supported by
Arnone's sworn statement that the plaintiff had assaulted
him, by the plaintiff's admission that she had spit at
him and kicked a drink at him, and by the mark on
Arnone's neck. An assault charge against the plaintiff,
on the other hand, was not similarly supported. Plaintiff did
not provide a sworn statement accusing Arnone of assault
until several days later, Arnone denied assaulting the
plaintiff, there were no admissions by Arnone nor any visible
signs of injury to the plaintiff to support her unsworn
accusation, she refused to let the medics lift her shirt to
examine her right side, and the officers did not find her
credible. Plaintiff's sister was supportive of the
plaintiff but she was not present at the time of the
underlying events and thus could not provide corroboration
for the plaintiff's claim that Arnone had pushed her.
See ECF No. 35-13. Arnone's sworn and partly
corroborated statement that the plaintiff had assaulted him
sufficiently distinguished his situation from that of the
plaintiff's for purposes of the officers' charging
decision that night.
claims that the officers credited Arnone's account of the
incident, and not hers, because he is a man and she is a
woman. To sustain this claim, “[a]t the very least
[she] has to show that it was her gender, and not some other
characteristic, that motivated the treatment she
received.” Okin, 577 F.3d at 439. She has not
presented evidence of gender bias that would permit a jury to
find in her favor. As support for her claim, plaintiff points
to the arrest report's description of her as
“hysterical, ” which she regards as gender-based
stereotyping. See ECF No. 42 at 4. While stereotyped
remarks can constitute evidence of intentional
discrimination, see Back, 365 F.3d at 119-120, the
plaintiff acknowledges that at the time in question she was
“in hysterics.” See ECF No. 35-18 at
4-5. In this context, the arrest report's use of the word
“hysterical” is insufficient to support ...