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Rabin v. Flynn

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 9, 2013

Scott Rabin, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Michael Flynn, Todd K nepper, John Quinlan, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

Argued April 2, 2013

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:09-cv-08049—Elaine Bucklo, Judge.

Before Rovner, Williams, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

Williams, Circuit Judge.

After the police noticed Plaintiff Scott Rabin carrying a holstered gun on his hip in public, he was handcuffed and detained for about one-and-a-half hours while the officers sought to confirm the validity of his carrying license. None of the three detaining officers were familiar with the unique license Rabin had on hand, one carried primarily by private detectives and security officers. When it was finally confirmed that Rabin's license was legitimate, he was released. Rabin then sued the individual officers for unlawful arrest and excessive force, arguing that the officers should have known what that license was and should have released him as soon as he presented it. The district court denied the officers' motion for summary judgment to the extent that it sought qualified immunity for both claims.

We find that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the unlawful arrest claim, because even if the officers had known what that type of license was, it still would have been reasonable under clearly established law for them to detain Rabin while they verified the legitimacy of a license to carry a deadly weapon. Though the length of Rabin's detention was unfortunate, it was largely caused by the government's failure to have an efficient system of license verification. As for Rabin's excessive force claims, which allege that the unnecessary tightness of the handcuffs exacerbated his preexisting medical conditions, the evidence shows that Rabin only told Deputy Sheriff Todd Knepper about his medical issues. So while Knepper is not entitled to qualified immunity on that claim, the other two officers are. Therefore we affirm the district court's denial of qualified immunity for Knepper on the excessive force claim, but reverse the district court's denial of qualified immunity for the rest of the claims.


Because the officers moved for summary judgment, we construe the facts in favor of the plaintiff. On Decem- ber 19, 2009, Plaintiff Scott Rabin, working as a licensed private investigator, was serving a court order on a registered corporate agent at an office complex in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Deputy Michael Flynn, who was also serving process in that area, saw that Rabin was wearing a holstered gun on his hip. Flynn stopped Rabin and asked if he had a gun. Rabin said yes, explained that he was a licensed private investigator, and presented a carrying license called a "tan card" (formally called a "firearm control card").[1] It is undisputed that Rabin's tan card legally authorized Rabin to carry a gun at the time he was stopped by Flynn. See 225 ILCS 447/35-35.

Flynn, however, did not know what a tan card was. So he confiscated Rabin's gun, which was fully loaded, and made a radio call to his dispatcher asking him to run the tan card through a system called LEADS ("Law Enforcement Agencies Data System"). The dispatcher said he could not verify the card through LEADS, that the tan card "might be a concealed carry card, " and that he would call the "Springfield desk." After a few minutes, Flynn called the dispatcher again to see if Springfield knew anything about the tan card, and was told that it did not.

Deputy Sheriff Todd Knepper, who had heard on the radio that Flynn was with a man with a gun, arrived on the scene, confirmed that Rabin was the person who was armed, then handcuffed and searched him. Rabin repeated to Flynn and Knepper that he was authorized to carry the gun, but Knepper also did not know what a tan card was and put Rabin into the back of Knepper's vehicle.

Deputy Sheriff John Quinlan then arrived in a "cage" car. Flynn updated him on the situation, but Quinlan also did not know what a tan card was. Knepper brought Rabin out of his vehicle and put him in Quinlan's cage car for transport to the police station. Rabin then told the three officers that his handcuffs were "tight." Quinlan removed the handcuffs and placed his own handcuffs on Rabin (the parties agree that switching handcuffs in this manner is normal when someone is being transported to the station). Rabin then asked Knepper if the handcuffs could be left off, told him that he had a "bad neck" and a "bad hand in the past, " and that the second pair was even tighter than the first pair. Knepper did not do anything about the handcuffs, and Rabin was left in the cage car for about 25 minutes. During this time, Rabin tried to get the officers' attention from within the closed car and yelled a couple times, "Can you please come here?", but no one responded. Quinlan then removed the handcuffs and put Rabin in a non-cage squad car. Rabin was taken to the Buffalo Grove Police Department, a 30-minute drive.

Eventually, the Lake County State's Attorney's Office confirmed that Rabin could lawfully carry the gun. (There is nothing in the record that explains how exactly Rabin's tan card was verified, or how the State's Attorney's Office came to be involved in the verification process.) Rabin was then released. (Rabin's brief asserts that the tan card was verified before his 30-minute trip to the police station, but none of the brief's citations supports such a fact or inference.) Construing the facts in the light most favorable to Rabin, he was detained for a total of about an hour-and-a-half, and it is undisputed that Rabin acted in a cooperative manner during the entire incident. Afterwards, Rabin allegedly suffered swelling and bruising to his wrists, muscle spasms in his neck, and needed to see a hand surgeon. He also had surgery on his neck to deal with the pains related to these injuries.

Rabin sued Flynn, Knepper, Quinlan, and other defendants including Cook County pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, for unlawful arrest and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court denied in relevant part, finding that Flynn, Knepper, and Quinlan were not entitled to qualified immunity. This appeal ...

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