Dunton v. County of Suffolk, State of New York

729 F.2d 903 (1984)

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Dunton v. County of Suffolk, State of New York

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
729 F.2d 903 (1984)

  • Written by Whitney Kamerzel , JD

Facts

Angela Pfeiffer was at a work party when a fellow employee, Emerson Dunton, Jr. (plaintiff) made improper advances toward her. Robert Pfeiffer (defendant), Angela’s husband, who was a Suffolk County police officer, witnessed the advances from his patrol car. Robert hit Dunton, and Dunton suffered nonserious injuries. Dunton sued Suffolk County (the County) and Robert in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for hitting Dunton, failing to make a police report, and covering up the incident. The county attorney represented both the County and Robert, and Robert was given a general conflict-of-interest letter that advised Robert of his right to consult a separate attorney. The county attorney continued to represent both parties. Although the county attorney submitted a defense on Robert’s behalf that Robert was acting within the scope of his employment with the County, the county attorney’s primary theme became that Robert was acting not as an officer, but as an irate husband. The claims against the County were dismissed, but Robert was found liable for compensatory and punitive damages. Although Robert did not originally object to the conflict, he petitioned the court for a new trial due to his attorney’s conflict of interest. The district court denied the motion, holding that any conflict was not prejudicial to Robert. Robert appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Meskill, J.)

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