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Appeals Court Reverses Md. Judge On Suit Against Shopping Center Developer

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GAMBRILLS, Md. (AP) — A federal appeals court is allowing the developer of a Gambrills shopping center to pursue its $25 million lawsuit against a labor union for using alleged “sham litigation” to attempt to keep the supermarket chain Wegmans out of a shopping center.

The Daily Record reports the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the action on Monday. The court’s decision reverses a federal judge in Baltimore’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit by developer Waugh Chapel South LLC against the United Food and Commercial Workers Union locals 27 and 400.

The developer says the union violated a federal prohibition on unfair labor practices by filing two dozen separate lawsuits and petitions for review between August 2008 and July 2011. Wegmans is a nonunion operation, and it ultimately went in to the new shopping center.

The Baltimore federal judge who initially considered the case ruled the unions’ many legal filings were constitutionally protected and did not constitute an unfair practice under the federal Labor Management Relations Act.

But a unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Richmond, said the First Amendment does not protect what might prove to be unlawful activity. They sent the case back to the lower court for a trial, saying the judge could take note that only one of the union’s 14 challenges proved to be successful.

Michael T. Anderson, the union’s attorney, said he and his client are “still reviewing the decision” and have not determined whether to file a further appeal.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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