Howd & Ludorf, LLC partners Thomas R. Gerarde and Beatrice S. Jordan recently convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse a U. S. District Court decision denying summary judgment to the Fairfield, CT Police Department in a federal civil rights claim brought against it by Plaintiff John Mara. The suit stemmed from an assault that occurred on a New Year’s Eve party in January 2012. Mara was identified as the perpetrator by an eyewitness and thereafter was interrogated by the FPD; and while he did not confess to the assault, he admitted he was intoxicated, there were parts of the night he did not remember, and that he could have been the perpetrator. After Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a warrant, additional information came to the attention of the FPD that another person, who looked similar to Mara, committed the assault. The FPD took supplemental statements and provided them to the prosecutor, who ultimately dismissed all charges as to plaintiff Mara.
Plaintiff brought a federal civil rights claim for false arrest, coerced interrogation, and violation of due process rights. The district court denied summary judgment to the involved FPD officers, but the Court of Appeals has now reversed, finding that the interview and presentation of photo arrays to the eyewitness were constitutional; the interrogation of Mara, while unpleasant, was not coercive in violation of the Constitution; and that the overall conduct of the FPD officers did not meet the high threshold for a due process violation— The net result being that the three involved officers were entitled to qualified immunity, as the existing case law did not clearly establish that the course of conduct implemented by the Fairfield P.D. was unconstitutional.
The Court of Appeals ordered that judgment enter for all Fairfield P.D. defendants.