Woodward & Lothrop Inc. has fired another round in an escalating fight against Annapolis Mall's expansion, charging an Annapolis law firm with a breach of ethics for representing both parties.
The retailer, which has launched a massive campaign against the mall's plans to add a Nordstrom department store and 45 smaller stores, filed a motion yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to stop Linowes & Blocher from representing Annapolis Mall Limited Partnership, the mall's owner.
Woodies operates a store a mile away at Parole Plaza.
The law firm has acted as counsel for Annapolis Mall for four years while the mall has sought expansion approval from state and county agencies, said Kathryn J. Dahl, a Linowes & Blocher attorney.
The firm also has represented Woodies for more than 20 years in tax and zoning issues in Prince George's County and elsewhere in the state, said Neil T. Proto, Woodies' attorney in the mall dispute.
By representing the mall, "L&B is seeking to defeat the interests of its own client, Woodward & Lothrop," violating professional conduct rules, court papers say.
As Woodies' attorneys, Linowes & Blocher has access to confidential business information that could be used against the retailer in the mall dispute, the motion says.
"It is unseemly, embarrassing and contrary to Woodward & Lothrop's public image for its own lawyers to take a position directly contrary to that maintained by Woodward & Lothrop," the document says.
Ms. Dahl said Linowes & Blocher, after researching the charges and consulting with experts in legal ethics, found that "we do not have to withdraw from our representation of Annapolis Mall and indeed are ethically obligated to continue our four-year representation."
Woodies, which learned a year ago that Nordstrom would be included in the expansion, has since appealed county and state permits and threatened lawsuits on environmental and due-process grounds. The retailer also challenged a county growth plan for Parole, claiming the plan channels retail growth away from the Woodies store in Parole Plaza and toward the mall.
Mall officials contend that Woodies rejected their invitation to move to the mall. Rodney D. Haynes, vice president of development for the mall's manager, has maintained that Woodies would stop at nothing to block rival Nordstrom.
A Circuit Court hearing on yesterday's motion has been set for Tuesday, a day before the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals is to hear Woodies challenge of the mall's formal development plan.