Patrizi v. Huff

Citation821 F.Supp.2d 926
Decision Date26 September 2011
Docket NumberCase No. 1:09 CV 2830.
PartiesJudi PATRIZI, Plaintiff v. Scott W. HUFF, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

821 F.Supp.2d 926

Judi PATRIZI, Plaintiff
Scott W. HUFF, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:09 CV 2830.

United States District Court,N.D. Ohio,Eastern Division.

Sept. 26, 2011.

[821 F.Supp.2d 927]

Jennifer L. Branch, Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, Gerhardstein & Branch, Cincinnati, OH, for Plaintiff.

Gary S. Singletary, Joseph F. Scott, City of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH, for Defendants.

[821 F.Supp.2d 928]

LESLEY WELLS, District Judge.

This case arose when defendants Scott Huff and Thomas Connole of the City of Cleveland Police Department arrested plaintiff Judi Patrizi on charges of obstructing official business during an early morning police investigation. As a result of this arrest, Ms. Patrizi filed a three-count complaint against the above-named defendants. The first count of the complaint alleges violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment. The second and third counts of the complaint alleged false arrest and malicious prosecution, respectively. (Doc. 1). Ms. Patrizi has since dismissed these latter two state law claims. (Doc. 12).

On 2 December 2010, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining Section 1983 claim, contending that Ms. Patrizi's arrest was objectively reasonable in light of the circumstances, and, in the alternative, that their conduct should be subject to qualified immunity as action which is not “clearly established” as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 30). Ms. Patrizi opposed the motion. (Doc. 35).

This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Kenneth S. McHargh. On 31 March 2011, Judge McHargh issued a Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) denying summary judgment. (Doc. 42). On 13 April 2011, the defendants submitted objections to this R & R. (Doc. 43). On 27 April 2011, Ms. Patrizi submitted her response to these objections. (Doc. 44). The matter is now ripe for review.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the defendants' motion for summary judgment.


On the evening of 9 December 2007, Ms. Patrizi arrived at a nightclub called “Bounce” in order to meet with several friends—Brandi Mills, Joe Baron, and Amy Lewis. (Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 19–20, 26–27). Meanwhile, Officers Connole and Huff entered the club to investigate a possible assault. (Doc. 35, PX B, Cleveland Police arrest report, at 3). The alleged victim told the officers that the alleged assailant was in the group including Ms. Mills, Mr. Baron, and Ms. Lewis. (Doc. 35, PX B, at 3–4; see also Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 37, 39).

The officers approached this group and asked its members to step into a quieter area, near one of the exits. As the group was moving toward the exit, Ms. Mills signaled Ms. Patrizi to join them. (Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 38, 40, 48; Doc. 35, PX A, Mills decl., at ¶ 3). Ms. Patrizi joined the group. (Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 43). Once Officer Connole had the group gathered near the exit, he began questioning Ms. Mills. Ms. Patrizi recalled that the officer was not abusive or intimidating, “just doing his job asking questions” of Ms. Mills. (Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 45). Ms. Patrizi testified:

It was mostly, tell me what happened kind of questions. Then it, through his line of questioning, became more apparent to me that something had happened and that's when I first asked him, are you accusing—again I don't remember—specifically recall what I said—along the lines, are you accusing her of something? Is she a suspect? Things of that nature.

(Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 46–47; see also Doc. 35, PX A, Mills decl., at ¶ 6).

Ms. Patrizi testified that she questioned Officer Connole, although her recollection as to what she said is unclear:

[821 F.Supp.2d 929]

Q. Do you recall identifying yourself as a lawyer while you were standing there?

A. Yes.

Q. At any point during the proceedings did Officer Connole ask you to desist or quit speaking while he was talking to Miss Mills and the others?

A. No.

Q. Do you recall telling Officer Connole she doesn't have to say anything to you?

A. No.

Q. If I understood you right, do you recall asking him, are you accusing her of something?

A. Like I said, not necessarily specifically what I said, but I was trying to understand what he was—why he was bringing these people here, you know. What was the nature of—you know, what was underlying his questioning.

(Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 48). Later in her deposition, Ms. Patrizi seemed to indicate that she may have told the police that Ms. Mills did not have to cooperate.

A. ... the questioning from the officer turned to more where it was evident to me that Brandi [Mills] was not just being questioned about a general incident, that it was a specific assault on Heather [Wallace], that's again when I asked the officer, you know, is she in custody? Are you, you know—if you're—if she's in custody, you know, she doesn't have to—you know, you have to read her her rights at that point or she doesn't have to continue to talk to you.

I mean, I guess I was trying at that point to see if it was a custodial interview or a social encounter from the perspective of the officer.

(Doc. 33, Patrizi dep., at 49–50).

At his deposition, Officer Connole agreed that part of what Ms. Patrizi was trying to figure out was whether Ms. Mills was in custody. (Doc. 32, Connole dep., at 50). Officer Connole also testified as follows:

Q. Did any of the three people answer your questions before Miss Patrizi was arrested?

A. They—I don't know how far I got before Miss Patrizi was walked out, but they had started to and every time she would talk, she would either prevent me from asking a question or she would stop them from talking to me.

Q. Did she directly address the individuals and tell them not to talk to you?

A. Yes.

Q. Did she directly address you and ask you any questions?

A. Yes.

Q. And best you can recall, what were the questions she asked you?

A. That she asked me do you consider my client a suspect? Why are you questioning them? What are they being charged with? Stuff along that line. That's probably the best I could do.

Q. What did she say to the three individuals?

A. That they don't have to talk to me, that I have no reason to talk to them.

(Doc. 32, Connole dep., at 17–18).

Officer Connole's responses are corroborated by Ms. Mills who said that “[Patrizi] reminded me that I had the right to remain silent and that I did not have to respond to the officer's continued questions. I considered her statements to me to be legal advice.” (Doc. 35, PX A, Mills decl., at ¶ 6).

However, despite Ms. Patrizi's statements and questions, Officer Huff testified that he never noticed Ms. Patrizi raise her voice during the questioning. (Doc. 31, Huff dep., at 58). As well, Ms. Mills stated that Ms. Patrizi never raised her voice when she was involved in the exchange

[821 F.Supp.2d 930]

with Officer Connole. (Doc. 35, PX A, Mills decl., at ¶ 8).

Furthermore, Ms. Patrizi asserts that she was never asked to back away or otherwise let Officer Connole proceed with his questions. She was simply arrested. (Doc. 35, at 4). This, however, is disputed by the defendants. Officer Huff testified that Officer Connole nodded to him, yelled his name, and told him to “get her out of here.” (Doc. 31, Huff dep., at 60). Regarding the arrest of Ms. Patrizi, Officer Huff testified as follows:

Q. Up to that point had you observed her engage in acts yourself that you believed gave you probable cause to arrest her for obstructing official business?

A. I had not, no.

Q. What happened when your partner indicated to you you should get her out of here?

A. To the best of my recollection, because obviously it was a long time, I advised her she had to leave. I grabbed her by the arm and took her outside the club.

Q. At that point did you know why you were doing that?

A. I was trying to separate her from the group so he could do what he needed to do.

Q. You advised her she had to leave, what did she say?

A. I believe she said she didn't have to leave.

Q. Did she resist your direction?

A. Absolutely.

Q. How did she resist?

A. You know, subtle things. Stiffening up, not walking with us, having to be pulled.

Q. She had to be pulled?

A. Yes. I'm not saying literally pulled, you know, escorted out. There is different versions—

Q. Did you cuff her before she left the building?

A. You know, I couldn't remember—it was either outside—I couldn't remember if it was outside or in the lobby at the time.

(Doc. 31, Huff dep., at 60–62).

Further, according to the arrest report, Ms. Patrizi “attempted to start pointing at [Huff] when [he] grabbed her arm and said you need to go outside while we finish our invest[igation].” (Doc. 35, PX B, arrest rpt., at 4). Ms. Patrizi pulled away from Officer Huff, and said “I don't have to leave.” Id. Officer Huff advised her she must leave now, and Ms. Patrizi swung her arm around at him and said “I don't have to go anywhere.” Id. The report continues that Officer Huff then advised Ms. Patrizi that she was under arrest, placed her in handcuffs and physically escorted her out of the door “while she stiffened up and was stopping her walk.” Id. Ms. Patrizi, however, disputes this series of events, and refers to the security video camera which videotaped (without audio) a portion of the incident. (Doc. 35, at 1; see Doc. 4, DVD). There is no evidence on the video of Ms. Patrizi pointing her finger in Officer Connole's face (or Officer Huff's). There is no evidence on the video of Ms. Patrizi pulling away from Officer Huff after he seized her. There is no evidence on the video of Ms. Patrizi swinging her arm at Officer Huff. There is no evidence on the video of Ms. Patrizi stiffening her walk, or otherwise resisting while Huff walks her out the door. (Doc. 4).

After Officer Huff arrested Ms. Patrizi, she was charged with “obstructing official business” under the City of Cleveland's Ordinance § 615.06. (Doc. 1, compl., at ¶¶...

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