Thurman v. City of Torrington

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Tracy Thurman v. City of Torrington
Connecticut blank.svg
CourtUnited States District Court for the District of Connecticut
Full case nameTracy Thurman v. City of Torrington, et al
DecidedJune 25 1985
Citation(s)595 F.Supp. 1521 (C.D.1 1984)
Local police of the City of Torrington ignored domestic violence reports pertaining to the husband of Tracey Thurman and further failed to enforce a court ordered restraining order. The court further finds that the City of Torrington did not maintain a standard policy of legal discrimination against all women.
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingSenior District Judge Blumenfeld
Laws applied
Connecticut Family Violence Prevention and Response Act of 1986

Thurman v. City of Torrington, DC, 595 F.Supp. 1521 (1985) was a court decision concerning Tracey Thurman, a Connecticut homemaker who sued the city police department in Torrington, Connecticut, claiming a failure of equal protection under the law against her abusive husband Charles "Buck" Thurman, Sr.


After Tracey Thurman was attacked, stabbed, and nearly killed by her husband on June 10, 1983, a subsequent civil lawsuit judged that the local police had ignored growing signs of domestic violence and had casually dismissed restraining orders and other legal bars to keep Charles "Buck" Thurman, Sr. away from his wife.[1]

The case was brought by Bridgeport, Connecticut, attorney Burton M. Weinstein, well known for his work involving police misconduct, along with attorney Judith A. Mauzaka from his office. Together they tried the case to its successful conclusion. With this lawsuit, filed in 1984, Thurman was the first woman in America to sue a town and its police department for violating her civil rights, claiming the police had ignored the violence because she was married to the perpetrator.[2] She was awarded $2.3 million.[3]

The complaint had alleged that for months Tracey Thurman was assaulted and abused by her estranged husband, but despite obtaining a restraining order that he refrain from contact with her, complaints of actual and threatened attacks upon her and his violation of the restraining order were repeatedly met with inaction by the Torrington, Connecticut, police department, refusing to take a formal complaint. After these repeated attempts to secure protection by the police all through May 1983, June 10, 1983 Charles "Buck" Thurman, Sr. appeared where she was residing. Calls to the Torrington Police did not result in any response. After approximately 15 minutes, the plaintiff alleged, she tried to speak to Mr. Thurman, and was then stabbed multiple times by him. A single officer arrived approximately 25 minutes after her call. Plaintiff alleged that even then, holding a bloody knife, he was not arrested, and allowed to kick her in the head. Later, other officers arrived, but Mr. Thurman was only finally arrested and restrained when he approached her on a stretcher.

The case was allowed to proceed in a ruling by Senior Judge M. Joseph Blumenfeld (who had been appointed to the bench by President Kennedy in 1961) [4]. The claim survived a Motion to Dismiss which asserted that it had not asserted a constitutionally based claim of a violation of equal protection. The claim was that either by practice and custom, or the custom over months of failing to address the complaints of a single victim of domestic violence, that the plaintiff as a woman and victim of domestic violence was being afforded differential treatment than other victims of violence, hence making a viable constitutional claim for damages. [5]The Motion to Dismiss was denied, the case was allowed to proceed and was tried to verdict.


The Thurman lawsuit brought about sweeping national reform of domestic violence laws, including the "Thurman Law" (aka the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act) instituted in Connecticut in 1986, making domestic violence an automatically arrestable offense, even if the victim does not wish to press charges.[6]

Tracey Thurman's story was later made into a 1989 television movie, entitled A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story, starring Nancy McKeon as Tracey, Dale Midkiff as Buck, Bruce Weitz as Tracey's lawyer Burton Weinstein, and Philip Baker Hall as presiding Judge Blumenfeld.


  1. ^ CHRIS PARKERRepublican-American (2011-07-22). "No nonsense, no bitterness, better policing The Republican-American". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2011-09-04.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
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  4. ^ New York Times url=
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  6. ^ "Thurman v. City of Torrington". Retrieved 2011-09-04.