Inturri v. City of Hartford, Conn., No. Civ.A. 3:03CV987CFD.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Writing for the CourtDroney
Citation365 F.Supp.2d 240
PartiesJoseph INTURRI, et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT and Bruce P. Marquis, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. 3:03CV987CFD.
Decision Date30 March 2005
365 F.Supp.2d 240
Joseph INTURRI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT and Bruce P. Marquis, Defendants.
No. Civ.A. 3:03CV987CFD.
United States District Court, D. Connecticut.
March 30, 2005.

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Jon L. Schoenhorn, Law Offices of Jon L. Schoenhorn, Hartford, CT, for Plaintiffs.

Helen Apostolidis, Corporation Counsel's Office, Hartford, CT, for Defendants.

RULING ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DRONEY, District Judge.


The plaintiffs, five police officers for the City of Hartford, brought this action against the City and Bruce P. Marquis, the Chief of the Hartford police department,1 challenging the portion of the department's uniform and appearance regulations which provides that "[t]he Chief of Police has the authority to order personnel to cover tattoos that are deemed offensive and/or presenting an unprofessional appearance," as well as Chief Marquis' order requiring the plaintiffs to cover certain tattoos. The parties have moved for summary judgment as to all counts of the complaint. For the following reasons, the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment [Doc. # 19] is DENIED and the defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. # 18] is GRANTED.

I Facts

The parties have stipulated to the following facts: The plaintiffs, Joseph Inturri, Stephen Miele, Matthew Rooney, Darren Besse and Mark Castagna, are police officers for the City of Hartford, and have tattoos on their arms depicting a spider web. Since at least 1985, the police department's General Order 6-15 has provided the standards and requirements for the uniforms and appearance of all officers. In 1997, General Order 6-15 was revised to specifically address tattoos, providing in Section III.C.5 that: "Tattoos that are visible to the public and deemed offensive, immoral, or presenting an unprofessional appearance, as deemed by a supervisor, shall require the officer to cover said tattoo with a bandaging type material or a long sleeve shirt in accordance with the Uniform of the Day Standards." In 1999, Section III.C.5 was revised once again, providing: "Tattoos that are visible to the public and deemed offensive, immoral, or presenting an unprofessional appearance, as deemed by the Chief of Police, shall require the officer to cover said tattoo with a bandaging type material or a long sleeve shirt in accordance with the Uniform of the Day Standards."

On October 17, 2002, Detective Keith Knight, another officer in the department, wrote a letter to Michael Wood, president of the Hartford Police Union, raising several concerns. Knight provided copies of his letter to City of Hartford officials, including

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Chief Marquis, and the mayor, deputy mayor, city manager and council members. One concern raised by Knight in his letter was tattoos of certain officers in the department. Specifically, Knight's letter stated:

Lets debate the issue of a white supervisor along with two other white police officers wearing a racist tattoo of a white supremacy group called the Arian Nation [sic]. The tattoo which is a spider web tattoo, which I am informed by the Department of Corrections who monitors such groups that the tattoo symbolizes race hatred of non-whites and Jews. I know the U.S., Constitution gives everybody the right to free speech and expression, but this is unacceptable for a police officer to wear in plain view knowing that it offends and what it stands for. Where is the enthusiastic debate on this issue?2

After receiving a copy of Knight's letter, the Hartford city manager informed Chief Marquis that the issue of the spider web tattoos was a concern to the mayor and at least some of the members of the city council, and asked him to resolve the situation. Chief Marquis then consulted with the Office of the Corporation Council ("OCC") for the City of Hartford, as well as a contact at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Legal Investigation Unit. The command staff of the department3 then discussed the matter and decided that, pursuant to General Order 6-15, spider web tattoos should be covered while the officers were on duty or in uniform. In reaching this conclusion, the command staff and Chief Marquis stated that they considered the following: an internet web-site maintained by the Anti-Defamation League; the racial composition of the City of Hartford (which is almost seventy percent non-Caucasian); a history of troubled race relations between the population of Hartford and members of the police department; the racial composition of the police department; a consent decree involving the department in Cintron v. Vaughan;4 Article XII of the department's Code of Conduct, which addresses discriminatory acts by police officers; and Chief Marquis' information from the FBI. In particular, the ADL website had a page entitled "Hate on Display: A Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos," which included the spider web

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design in a display of such tattoos. A separate page providing details about the spider web tattoo described it as being favored by "racist convicts" and, in the "Background/History" section, stated the following:

The spider web tattoo is often found on the arm, or under the arm, of racists who have spent time in jail. In some places, one apparently "earns" this tattoo by killing a minority. However, non-extremists may sometimes sport this tattoo as well, unaware of its other symbology, simply because they like the design.

The stipulation of facts here also indicates that, in reaching their conclusion that spider web tattoos should be covered, a "major concern [of the command staff of the department] was that in a predominantly minority community, responding police officers who sport tattoos that have been associated with white supremacist groups may result in an explosive situation, endangering both the officers and the community."

On April 14, 2003, Chief Marquis revised Section III.C.5 of General Order 6-15 as follows: "The Chief of Police has the authority to order personnel to cover tattoos that are deemed offensive and/or presenting an unprofessional appearance. Personnel shall cover the tattoo with either a flesh tone, navy blue or white type material that matches the uniform shirt or wear a long sleeve shirt in accordance with the Winter Uniform of the Day Standard." On that same day, Chief Marquis, "acting as a final policy maker and pursuant to official policy," issued a memorandum to all officers which stated: "It has been determined that a visible spider web tattoo is offensive, and therefore as Chief of Police and in consultation with Corporation Counsel, I am ordering everyone to cover this tattoo, in accordance with [General] Order 6-15, while you are in an on-duty capacity or wearing the Hartford Police Uniform." The plaintiffs have complied with the order by covering their tattoos with either sweatband-type material or by wearing long sleeve shirts. Accordingly, they have not been disciplined or lost any pay as a result of the issuance of the April 14, 2003 memorandum.5 Other officers in the department, including one or more of the plaintiffs, also have arm tattoos other than the spider web design. They have not been directed to cover these other tattoos.

Finally, the defendants state that they have no evidence that the plaintiff police officers have this particular tattoo as "symbols of any racist or anti-Semitic philosophy or statement," and the plaintiffs have made clear that they do not intend the tattoos to have any symbolic effect; they state they were unaware that the spider web tattoo had any such connotation.6

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II Procedural History

The plaintiffs have filed a two-count complaint in this Court. Count one alleges that the defendants violated 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 by denying them their right to free expression under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and by singling them out for different treatment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Count two alleges that Section III.C.5 of General Order 6-15 is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The defendants have denied the allegations in the complaint and set forth several special defenses. As mentioned, the parties have moved for summary judgment, and this opinion considers both motions.

III Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits ... show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A party seeking summary judgment "bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the undisputed facts establish [its] right to judgment as a matter of law." Rodriguez v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1051, 1060-1061 (2d Cir.1995) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970)). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). When addressing a motion for summary judgment, a court must resolve "all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party in order to determine how a reasonable jury would decide." Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir.1992). "Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.1991). Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate if, after discovery, the nonmoving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [its] case with respect to which [it] has the burden of proof." Celotex...

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12 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Awan, No. CR-06-0154 (CPS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • October 26, 2006
    ...(discussing the alternative standards) (internal citations and quotations omitted); see also Inturri v. City of Hartford, Conn., 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 253 n. 13 (D.Conn.2005) (evaluating the statute at issue under both standards, noting that the Second Circuit has yet to decide which standard ......
  • Albert v. City of Hartford, No. 3:03 CV 1280(DJS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • December 21, 2007
    ...from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment." Inturri v. City of Hartford, 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 251 (D.Conn.2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he standard for determining whether another person's circumstances are similar to th......
  • Tarantino v. City of Hornell, No. 05-CV-6587L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • May 18, 2009
    ...(internal quotation marks omitted); accord LeClair v. Saunders, 627 F.2d 606, 611 (2d Cir.1980); Inturri v. City of Hartford, Conn., 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 252 (D.Conn. 2005) ("Even if the Court assumes that the plaintiffs were intentionally treated differently than similarly situated police of......
  • Congregation Rabbinical Coll. of Tartikov, Inc. v. Vill. of Pomona, Case No. 07–CV–6304 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 29, 2015
    ..."has been subject to a heated debate in the Supreme Court, where it has not been consistently followed"); Inturri v. City of Hartford, 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 253 n. 13 (D.Conn.2005) ("Although in some limited situations a facial challenge to a statute that does not implicate the First Amendment......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • U.S. v. Awan, No. CR-06-0154 (CPS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • October 26, 2006
    ...(discussing the alternative standards) (internal citations and quotations omitted); see also Inturri v. City of Hartford, Conn., 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 253 n. 13 (D.Conn.2005) (evaluating the statute at issue under both standards, noting that the Second Circuit has yet to decide which standard ......
  • Albert v. City of Hartford, No. 3:03 CV 1280(DJS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • December 21, 2007
    ...from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment." Inturri v. City of Hartford, 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 251 (D.Conn.2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he standard for determining whether another person's circumstances are similar to th......
  • Tarantino v. City of Hornell, No. 05-CV-6587L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • May 18, 2009
    ...(internal quotation marks omitted); accord LeClair v. Saunders, 627 F.2d 606, 611 (2d Cir.1980); Inturri v. City of Hartford, Conn., 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 252 (D.Conn. 2005) ("Even if the Court assumes that the plaintiffs were intentionally treated differently than similarly situated police of......
  • Congregation Rabbinical Coll. of Tartikov, Inc. v. Vill. of Pomona, Case No. 07–CV–6304 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 29, 2015
    ..."has been subject to a heated debate in the Supreme Court, where it has not been consistently followed"); Inturri v. City of Hartford, 365 F.Supp.2d 240, 253 n. 13 (D.Conn.2005) ("Although in some limited situations a facial challenge to a statute that does not implicate the First Amendment......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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