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Revell v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

March 22, 2010

GREGG C. REVELL; ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY RIFLE & PISTOL CLUBS INC.
v.
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY; SCOTT ERICKSON
v.
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF
v.
CONTINENTAL AIRLINES; COUNTY OF ESSEX; ESSEX COUNTY JAIL; ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR;
JOHN DOES 1-10, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS
GREGG C. REVELL, APPELLANT.



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 06-cv-402) District Judge: Honorable Katharine S. Hayden.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jordan, Circuit Judge.

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued January 26, 2010

Before: RENDELL and JORDAN, Circuit Judges, and PADOVA*fn1, District Court Senior Judge

OPINION OF THE COURT

Gregg C. Revell appeals from the dismissal of his claims, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking to impose liability upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority") and Port Authority Police Officer Scott Erickson for arresting him under New Jersey's gun laws and seizing his firearm and ammunition. According to Revell, his arrest was unlawful because he was in compliance with a provision of the Firearm Owners' Protection Act ("FOPA"), 18 U.S.C. § 926A, which allows gun owners licensed in one state to carry firearms through another state under certain circumstances. Because we conclude that, at the time of his arrest, Revell's conduct did not bring him within the protection of that statute, we will affirm both the dismissal of his § 926Abased claim and the grant of summary judgment to the Port Authority and Erickson on Revell's closely related Fourth Amendment claim. We will likewise affirm the grant of summary judgment against Revell on his due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment.

I. Background

A. Revell's Arrest

On March 31, 2005, Revell, a resident of Utah, embarked on a flight from Salt Lake City to Allentown, Pennsylvania, via Minneapolis/St. Paul and Newark, New Jersey. When he arrived at the Northwest Airlines counter*fn2 in the Salt Lake City Airport, he checked his luggage through to his final destination and declared that, in the luggage, he was carrying an unloaded firearm contained in a locked hard case and ammunition in a separate locked hard case. He signed an orange firearm declaration tag, which was placed inside the locked hard case containing the firearm. That was apparently the last thing on the trip that went as expected. The several mishaps that followed ultimately relate to the accessibility of the firearm and ammunition and are thus key to this dispute.

Because his flight into Newark was late, Revell missed his connection from Newark to Allentown. He booked the next flight to Allentown, which was scheduled to leave Newark at 8 p.m. that evening, but, after the airline changed arrangements, the passengers scheduled for that flight were asked to board a bus, instead of a plane, headed for Allentown. Revell got on the bus; however, when he learned that his luggage was not on board, he got off to locate it.*fn3 By the time he retrieved his luggage, he had missed the bus, and no other connections to Allentown were available. He then went directly to the Newark Airport Sheraton Hotel in a hotel shuttle, taking his luggage with him. The driver of the shuttle van placed Revell's luggage, which contained the locked hard case containers, in the rear storage area of the van, which was not immediately accessible from the passenger compartment where Revell was seated. Revell stayed at the hotel overnight but did not open either of the locked containers during his stay.

The next morning, he took the hotel's airport shuttle back to the Newark Airport and, again, his luggage was placed out of his reach in the rear of the shuttle. Upon arriving at the airport around 8:30 a.m., he proceeded to the ticket counter to check his luggage and declared that he was carrying an unloaded firearm in a locked hard case and ammunition in a separate locked hard case. Revell was told to take his luggage to the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") area so that it could be xrayed. After the luggage went through the x-ray machine, the TSA agent at the other end of the machine took the hard cases out and asked Revell for the key to them, which Revell provided. The TSA agent opened the cases using Revell's key and removed the firearm and ammunition. The orange declaration sheet from Salt Lake City was still in the case with the firearm.

About twenty minutes later, several Port Authority officers, including Officer Erickson, escorted Revell to an area away from other passengers where they questioned him about the firearm and ammunition. Revell explained that he had declared his weapon and ammunition, and that he was merely passing through New Jersey en route to Allentown, Pennsylvania. He also showed the officers his Utah concealed firearm permit and his driver's license. When Erickson questioned Revell about why he had the firearm, Revell explained that he was traveling to Pennsylvania to pick up a car to bring back to Utah and that "he was going to need the weapon for protection" as he drove the car home. (App. at 33.) Revell also informed Erickson that, upon missing his flight the day before, he had taken possession of his bag with the firearm in it and had gone to a hotel in Newark to stay for the night.

Erickson asked Revell whether he had authority to carry the firearm in Pennsylvania, but Revell did not respond.*fn4

Erickson arrested Revell for possession of a handgun without a permit in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-5(b) and for possession of hollow-point ammunition in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-3(f).*fn5 Revell was handcuffed, held overnight at the Port Authority jail, and then transferred to the Essex County, New Jersey, Jail, where he was incarcerated for three days until he was released on bond. Four months later, on August 2, 2005, the Essex County prosecutor administratively dismissed all of the charges against him. However, Revell's firearm, ammunition, holster, locks, and hard cases, which were seized at the time of his arrest, were not returned until July 24, 2008, more than two years after the ill-fated trip and approximately a year after he filed his amended complaint in this action.

B. Revell's Complaint

Understandably troubled about his and his property's treatment, Revell brought the present § 1983 case, alleging that the Port Authority and Erickson had violated his rights under § 926A of FOPA.*fn6 In essence, ยง 926A allows a person to transport a firearm and ammunition from one state through a second state to a third state, without regard to the second state's gun laws, provided that the traveler is licensed to carry a firearm in both the ...


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