Ross v. New Canaan Environmental Commission
To prevail on equal protection, an individual may be required to allege that a government actor intentionally discriminated on the basis of race, national origin or gender. Cristina Ross sought to conduct regulated activities on her property, and the New Canaan Environmental Commission denied the request. Allegedly, the chair of the commission called Ross a "trifecta," and Ross believed that meant she was Jewish, Hispanic and female. Ross sued the commission, alleging gender discrimination, and argued that the commission was more critical of her application than those of similarly situated males. The District Court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, and Ross appealed. "To state a claim for an equal protection violation, appellants must allege that a government actor intentionally discriminated against them on the basis of race, national origin or gender," pursuant to Hayden v. County of Nassau, a 1999 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The meeting minutes of the environmental commission did not indicate that the commission possessed a discriminatory motive or treated Ross differently than similarly situated applicants who were male. Commissioners apparently considered Ross's application very difficult and complex. The alleged "trifecta" comment, without more, was insufficient to create an inference of discriminatory motive, especially in the absence of any indication it was made in connection with the plaintiff's application. No other evidence of discriminatory intent existed. "[N]o reasonable jury," wrote the court, "could have concluded based on the record here that [the environmental commission's] actions with regard to Ross's application were based on her gender." The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Kravitz, J. Attorney John Williams represented the plaintiff, and Scott Ouellette represented the defendant.