Zandhri v. Dortenzio

Decision Date31 October 2002
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.3:99 CV 1776 (CFD).,CIV.A.3:99 CV 1776 (CFD).
PartiesChristine Hill ZANDHRI, Plaintiff v. Douglas DORTENZIO, et al., Defendants
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

John R. Williams, Williams & Pattis, New Haven, CT, William Sylvester Palmieri, New Haven, CT, for Plaintiff.

Scott M. Karsten, Nicole D. Dorman, Sack, Spector & Karsten, West Hartford, CT, for Defendants.


DRONEY, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Christine Hill Zandhri ("Zandhri"), a former police officer of the Wallingford Police Department, brought this action against its Chief of Police Douglas Dortenzio ("Chief Dortenzio"), its Deputy Chief of Police, Donald McNeil ("McNeil"), and two other Wallingford police officers, Lieutenant Thomas Curran ("Curran") and Lieutenant Peter Cameron ("Cameron") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that they violated certain of her rights under the U.S. Constitution and Connecticut state law. Pending is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 27].

I. Facts1

In June 1995, Zandhri was hired as a police officer for the Wallingford Police Department in Wallingford, Connecticut. After graduating from the police academy and completing the department's "Field Training Program," she was assigned to general police patrol duties as a probationary police officer.2 While Zandhri was a probationary police officer, she was a subject of four internal affairs investigations and two criminal investigations by her department in late 1996 and early 1997. Each is related to Zandhri's domestic disputes with her husband at the time of the investigations, each is relevant to her claims in this case, and each is discussed below.

The first internal affairs investigation, "IA 96-44," was conducted by defendant Lieutenant Curran and arose from a complaint made to the Wallingford Police Department by Zandhri's then-husband, Paul Hill ("Hill"). Hill called the Wallingford police on the night of October 5, 1996 and reported that upon finishing her shift duties that night, Zandhri went to a local bar with two of her fellow officers and then drove while under the influence of alcohol. The ensuing investigation consisted of interviews with Hill, Zandhri, the officers who were with her at the bar, other officers who had talked with Zandhri that night, and a supervisory officer. The investigation did not conclude that Zandhri had driven while under the influence of alcohol, but did find that she had spoken to a fellow officer over a police telephone line in an "unprofessional and inappropriate" manner in violation of police department regulations.3 Several of the other officers involved-including the supervisory officer-were also found to have committed various violations of police department regulations, related to the events of that evening.

The first criminal investigation of Zandhri was undertaken by defendant Lieutenant Cameron and was in response to a complaint of domestic violence made to the Wallingford Police Department, also by Hill, on October 16, 1996. During that night, Hill and Zandhri had argued at their home about the recent filing of a divorce action by Hill, and a physical confrontation occurred while their children were at home. The ensuing investigation by Cameron consisted of an interview with Hill and an examination of his injuries, an interview of Zandhri by Cameron and defendant McNeil, a statement under oath from Hill,4 a visit to Hill and Zandhri's home on October 17, 1996, and a review of an audiotaped recording (made secretly by Hill) of the dispute. Cameron then prepared a warrant application for Zandhri's arrest for disorderly conduct under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-182, which was signed by a Superior Court Judge, and Zandhri was arrested on October 18, 1996. The charge was subsequently nolled.5

The second internal affairs investigation, "IA 96-45," conducted by defendant Lieutenant Curran, also regarded Hill's October 16, 1996 complaint to the Wallingford Police Department and additionally concerned Hill's report that domestic violence had occurred on October 5, 1996, after Zandhri learned that Hill had reported her to the police. Curran's investigation consisted of a review of Cameron's criminal investigation of the events of October 16 and an additional interview with Zandhri. The investigation concluded that domestic violence had occurred between Hill and Zandhri on October 16, 1996 and October 5, 1996 and found that Zandhri's "conduct under the circumstances reflects a propensity for violence attributable to the lack of self control and prudent judgment" and that Zandhri had engaged in conduct "unbecoming an officer" in violation of police department regulations.

The third internal affairs investigation, "IA 96-46," conducted by Sergeant Robert Flis (not a defendant here), was in response to an October 29, 1996 complaint made by Michael Scafidi, a friend of Hill's, concerning Zandhri's telephone call to Scafidi in which she discussed an ongoing investigation of Hill and Scafidi by the Wallingford Police Department involving a stolen motorcycle. This internal affairs investigation found that Zandhri had improperly given Scafidi information about the motorcycle investigation which could have jeopardized it. The internal affairs investigation also found that Zandhri had made a derogatory comment about a superior officer. The investigation concluded that Zandhri had engaged in conduct "unbecoming an officer" in violation of police department regulations.

The last internal affairs investigation, "IA 96-47," also conducted by Sergeant Flis, concerned an October 30, 1996 complaint from a state prosecutor regarding conversations among Zandhri, her mother, the prosecutor, and the prosecutor's secretary about the disorderly conduct charge. The prosecutor had claimed that Zandhri's mother called the prosecutor's office twice and was offensive and that Zandhri had called the secretary, was "very rude," and asked why her husband had not been arrested. The prosecutor subsequently withdrew the complaint and the investigation was closed.

Finally, Zandhri was the subject of a second criminal investigation undertaken as a result of a report to the Wallingford Police Department by Hill on January 13, 1997 regarding the domestic dispute that occurred on October 5, 1996-the night Hill had previously reported to the police that Zandhri drove while under the influence of alcohol, and which was the subject of the first and second internal affairs investigations. That criminal investigation resulted in Sergeant Flis' January 29, 1997 warrant application for Zandhri's arrest. However, the prosecutor declined to approve the warrant application.

In January 1997, following these internal affairs and criminal investigations, Chief Dortenzio referred Zandhri to a psychologist for a "fitness for duty examination." The psychologist concluded in her report that Zandhri was only "conditionally fit for duty as a police officer."6 A proposed agreement was drafted by the Town of Wallingford which set forth recommendations by the psychologist as conditions of Zandhri's continued employment as a police officer, but Zandhri refused to sign it.7 On March, 12, 1997, Chief Dortenzio terminated Zandhri's probationary employment with the Wallingford Police Department.

Zandhri's complaint here alleges that, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the defendants subjected her to false arrest, warrantless arrest, unlawful seizure, and malicious prosecution, and deprived her of her First Amendment rights, right to due process, right to equal protection, and right to privacy. In addition, Zandhri alleges false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligence, and violations of her rights to due process, equal protection, and privacy under Connecticut common law and the Connecticut constitution.

The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Zandhri has failed to create a genuine issue of material fact that the defendants violated her rights under the U.S. Constitution or Connecticut law; and (2) the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on the section 1983 claims. At the outset, the Court grants, absent objection, the motion for summary judgment as to Zandhri's First Amendment and federal right to privacy claims, as Zandhri has failed to address these in her opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment.8 The Court will address the remaining claims below.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no issue warrant judgment for the moving party as a matter of law." Quinn v. Green Tree Credit Corp., 159 F.3d 759, 765 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). 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.'" Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir.1992) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 965, 113 S.Ct. 440, 121 L.Ed.2d 359 (1992). After discovery, if 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," then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The Court resolves "all ambiguities and draw[s]...

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3 cases
  • Bourguignon v. Guinta, 3:01CV1151(SRU)(WIG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 24 Febrero 2003
    ...accurateness or truthfulness of the statements. See Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 103 (2d Cir.1994)." Zandhri v. Dortenzio, 228 F.Supp.2d 167, 176 (D.Conn.2002) (citations omitted). See also Singer v. Fulton County Sheriff, 63 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir.1995) ("An arresting officer advis......
  • Bourguignon v. Guinta, Prisoner Case No. 3:01cv1151 (SRU)(WIG) (D. Conn. 2/24/2003), Prisoner Case No. 3:01cv1151 (SRU)(WIG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 24 Febrero 2003
    ...accurateness or truthfulness of the statements. See Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 103 (2d Cir. 1994)." Zandhri v. Dortenzio, 228 F. Supp.2d 167, 176 (D. Conn. 2002) (citations omitted). See also Singer v. Fulton County Sheriff, 63 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 1995) ("An arresting officer ......
  • McMullen v. Rossmy, 3:06-cv-263 (CFD).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 12 Febrero 2009
    ...conscience-shocking, or oppressive in a constitutional sense," and not merely "incorrect or ill-advised." Zandhri v. Dortenzio, 228 F.Supp.2d 167, 178 (D.Conn.2002) (citing Kaluczky v. City of White Plains, 57 F.3d 202, 211 (2d Cir.1995), Natale v. Town of Ridgefield, 170 F.3d 258, 262-63 (......

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