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The full case caption appears at the end of this opinion. OPINION MICHAEL, Circuit Judge: The issue in this case is whether a union can bring a contract actionfor damages against a member who sued the union without firstexhausting internal union remedies as provided in the union constitution. The district court held that the union cannot, and we affirm. I. Peter T. Prevas was a member of the International Organization ofMasters, Mates & Pilots (“MMP” or the “Union”), a labor union formaritime workers. Bad blood developed between Prevas and Unionleaders, especially Timothy A. Brown, the International President,and James T. Hopkins, the International Secretary-Treasurer, and thiscase is one of the results. Prevas was once allied with Brown andHopkins through The Coalition for New Directions, an informalgroup of MMP members. Brown became Union president in 1991,and sometime thereafter Prevas began to express sharp disagreementwith the leadership and policies of Brown and Hopkins. For example,it appears that Prevas accused MMP officials of (1) covering up theembezzlement of Union funds by a printing contractor and (2) submitting a fraudulent claim to the bonding company. Prevas claims thatthe MMP leadership retaliated against him by placing him under surveillance and by eventually forcing him to retire from his job as a seaman. [FOOTNOTE *] The conflict between Prevas and the MMP leadership has led tothree lawsuits that now concern us: two by Prevas against the MMP(and its officials) and one by the MMP against Prevas. Prevas filed the first suit in January 1995 in Maryland state courtagainst the MMP, Brown, Hopkins, other Union officials, and a company called Checkmate Investigative Services, Inc. Prevas allegedthat the MMP defendants conspired among themselves and with Checkmate to conduct surveillance on him because he disagreed withthe policies of the Union leaders. Prevas also alleged that the MMPdefendants, particularly Brown and Hopkins, violated the Union constitution by disclosing confidential information (Prevas’s income figures and social security number) to Checkmate. Because thecomplaint implicated federal labor law, the case was removed to district court. In November 1995 the district court dismissed all claimsagainst the MMP defendants on the ground that Prevas had failed toexhaust internal Union remedies. See Prevas v. Hopkins, 905 F. Supp.at 277. In July 1996 Prevas sued the MMP again, this time in district court,to compel disclosure of certain Union records. The records were confidential settlement agreements between the Union and certain of itsmembers or employees who had made tort or contract claims againstthe Union. Prevas contended that he was entitled to examine theserecords under � 201(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. � 431(c). The district court dismissed Prevas’s second suit in April 1997, again for the reason thathe had failed to exhaust internal Union remedies. See Peter T. Prevas v. International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Civ. No. K-96-2290 (D. Md. Apr. 30, 1997). After the two dismissals the MMP turned the tables on Prevas bysuing him in the case now before us on appeal. The MMP alleged thatby twice suing the Union without exhausting internal union remedies,”Prevas breached the [MMP] constitution and the applicable federallabor law.” MMP sought to recover its expenses, alleged to be$200,000, in defending Prevas’s lawsuits. Prevas filed a motion todismiss the MMP’s complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P.According to Prevas, the MMP failed to state a claim as a result of NLRB v. Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, 391 U.S. 418 (1968) (holding that union could not expelmember because he filed unfair labor practice charge against it without first exhausting internal remedies as provided in union constitution). The district court agreed and dismissed the MMP’s complaint. The MMP appeals, and we review the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal de novo, see Flood v. New Hanover County, 125 F.3d 249, 251 (4th Cir.1997). II. The question in this appeal is whether a union has a contract claimfor damages against a member who sued the union without exhaustinginternal union remedies as provided in the union constitution. Webelieve that � 101 of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C.� 411, precludes sucha claim. Section 101 of the LMRDA is part of the “Bill of Rights” for unionmembers. Section 101(a)(4) expressly protects the right of unionmembers to sue, but they “may be required” to exhaust internal unionremedies first. This provision reads: No labor organization shall limit the right of any member thereof to institute an action in any court, or in a proceeding before any administrative agency, irrespective of whether or not the labor organization or its officers are named as defendants or respondents in such action or proceeding . . .: Provided, That any such member may be required to exhaust reasonable hearing procedures (but not to exceed a four-month lapse of time) within such organization, before instituting legal or administrative proceedings against such organizations or any officer thereof. 29 U.S.C. � 411(a)(4) (second emphasis added). The MMP’s constitution has a provision that parallels � 101(a)(4).The Union constitution states: Every member shall have the right to institute an action in any court, or in a proceeding before any administrative agency, irrespective of whether or not the organization or its officers are named as defendants or respondents in such action or proceeding. . . . . However, every member shall be required to exhaust rea- sonable hearing procedures (but not to exceed a four-month lapse of time) within the organization before instituting legal or administrative proceedings against the organization or any officer thereof. One other provision of the LMRDA, � 101(b), is pertinent: “Anyprovision of the constitution and bylaws of any labor organizationwhich is inconsistent with the provisions of this section shall be of noforce or effect.” 29 U.S.C. � 411(b). The MMP argues that the exhaustion provision in the MMP constitution is entirely consistent with the exhaustion provision in theLMRDA. It is, of course, undisputed that Prevas did not exhaust internal Union remedies before he (twice) sued the MMP and its officers.The Union constitution is a contract between the Union and its members, see United Ass’n of Journeymen and Apprentices v. Local 334, United Ass’n of Journeymen and Apprentices, 452 U.S. 615, 620-22(1981), and the MMP asserts that it is entitled to recover damagesfrom Prevas for his breach of the exhaustion requirement of the Unionconstitution. Prevas responds that the Supreme Court has construed� 101(a)(4) so as to prevent a union from retaliating against a memberwho sues the union without first exhausting internal union remedies. See Marine and Shipbuilding Workers, 391 U.S. at 428. We agreewith Prevas. The situation in Marine and Shipbuilding Workers is similar to thiscase. There, the union constitution required an aggrieved member to”exhaust all remedies and appeals within the Union . . . before . . .resort[ing] to any court or other tribunal outside the Union.” 391 U.S.at 421. A member nevertheless filed with the NLRB an unfair laborpractice charge against the union without exhausting internal unionremedies. The union expelled the member for violating the exhaustionprovision, and he then filed a second charge with the NLRB, claimingthat his expulsion for filing the first charge violated federal labor law.The Board issued a remedial order directing the (former) member’sreinstatement to union membership. The Third Circuit denied theBoard’s petition for enforcement, holding that � 101(a)(4)’s exhaustion proviso (“any such member may be required to exhaust”) permitted the union to discipline a member for violating the exhaustionrequirement in its constitution. Industrial Union of Marine and Ship- building Workers of America v. NLRB, 379 F.3d 702, 708-09 (3d Cir. 1967). The Supreme Court reversed. It enforced the NLRB’s orderand held that the exhaustion proviso of � 101(a)(4) authorizes only acourt or agency, and not a union, to require a member to exhaustinternal union remedies: We conclude that “may be required” [in� 101(a)(4)] is not a grant of authority to unions more firmly to police their members but a statement of policy that the public tribunals whose aid is invoked may in their discretion stay their hands for four months, while the aggrieved person seeks relief within the union. We read it, in other words, as installing in this labor field a regime comparable to that which prevails in other areas of law before the federal courts, which often stay their hands while a litigant seeks administrative relief before the appropriate agency. Marine and Shipbuilding Workers, 391 U.S. at 426.The Court recognized that once � 101(a)(4)’s exhaustion proviso isunderstood to relate solely to the discretionary power of a court (oragency) to require exhaustion of union remedies, the proviso cannotbe read to give a union the power to penalize a member who has hislawsuit dismissed for failure to exhaust. The Court said: The difficulty is that a member would have to guess what a court ultimately would hold [with respect to exhaustion]. If he guessed wrong and [sued] without exhausting internal union procedures, he would have no recourse against the discipline of the union. That risk alone is likely to chill the exercise of a member’s right to [sue] and induce him to forgo his grievance or pursue a futile union procedure. Id. at 425. We believe that the Court’s holding and reasoning in Marine and Shipbuilding Workers unmistakably implies that� 101(a)(4)’sexhaustion proviso cannot be read to authorize a union to assert a con-tractual claim for damages against a member who sues beforeexhausting internal union remedies. Because the proviso in � 101(a)(4) is not a grant of authority tounions, the first clause of that section remains unqualified: “No labororganization shall limit the right of any member thereof to institute anaction in any court, or in a proceeding before any administrativeagency.” 29 U.S.C. � 411(a)(4). Thus, unions may not engage in anyconduct that limits the right of their members to sue. They may notuse internal disciplinary measures, such as fines or expulsion, to retaliate against members who sue without first exhausting internal unionremedies. Nor can unions threaten such measures because the threator risk of internal discipline for failure to exhaust has been recognizedas “likely to chill the exercise of a member’s right to [sue].” Marine and Shipbuilding Workers, 391 U.S. at 425. See also Ross v. Int’l Bhd. of Electrical Workers, 544 F.2d 1022, 1024 (9th Cir. 1976)(holding that union may not fine member who sued the union withoutexhausting internal remedies); Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 v. Burroughs, 417 F.2d 370, 373 (9th Cir. 1969) (same); Ryan v. Int’l Bhd. of Electrical Workers, 361 F.2d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 1966)(holding that union may not expel members who sued the union without exhausting internal remedies). In this case Prevas risked a $200,000 claim for damages becausehe filed suit without exhausting procedures within the Union. We seeno material difference between the threat of fine or expulsion and thethreat of a judgment for damages. Accordingly, we hold that theMMP’s constitutional provision requiring exhaustion is inconsistentwith � 101(a)(4) of the LMRDA, and is of “no force or effect” under� 101(b), to the extent it was intended to give the Union a contractremedy for damages against a member who failed to exhaust. In short,the Union does not have a claim for damages against Prevas. We note that nothing in our holding prevents a court from exercising its discretion to dismiss the suit of a union member who has failedto exhaust internal union remedies. Indeed, “it is appropriate toemphasize that courts and agencies will frustrate an important purpose of the [LMRDA] if they do not, in fact, regularly compel unionmembers `to exhaust reasonable hearing procedures’ within the unionorganization. Responsible union self-government demands, amongother prerequisites, a fair opportunity to function.” Marine and Ship- building Workers, 391 U.S. at 429 (Harlan, J., concurring). Here, thedistrict court followed this lesson and dismissed both of Prevas’s suits against the MMP, remitting him to available remedies within theUnion. III. The district court’s order dismissing the MMP’s complaint againstPrevas for failure to state a claim is affirmed. AFFIRMED :::FOOTNOTES::: FN* Some of this background is gleaned from Prevas v. Hopkins, 905F. Supp. 271, 275 & n.5 (D. Md. 1995); and United States v. Seidman,156 F.3d 542, 544-45 (4th Cir. 1998).
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES, AND PILOTS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PETER T. PREVAS, Defendant-Appellee. No. 98-1503 United States Court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. William M. Nickerson, District Judge. (CA-97-2581-WMN) Argued: January 28, 1999 Decided: May 11, 1999 Before LUTTIG, WILLIAMS, and MICHAEL, Circuit Judges. Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Michael wrote the opinion, in which Judge Luttig and Judge Williams joined. COUNSEL ARGUED: Andrew Janquitto, MUDD, HARRISON & BURCH, Towson, Maryland, for Appellant. Lawrence Edward Dube, Jr., DUBE & GOODGAL, P.C., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
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