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A nonprofit death penalty defense organization in New Orleans may proceed with its lawsuit seeking to prevent a former intern from publishing a book about a client, a federal judge ruled on Nov. 23. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied a motion filed by defendant Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich under Louisiana’s law against SLAPPs — “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” The law is intended to protect defendants from lawsuits meant to stifle free speech. Barbier ruled that the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center was likely to succeed on its breach-of-contract claims. He did not rule on a subsequent breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim. The center sued Marzano-Lesnevich in Louisiana state trial court in June after its director learned that she had published several essays involving her experience as an unpaid intern there in 2003, while a student at Harvard Law School. The suit was transferred to federal court in August. According to the latest ruling, Marzano-Lesnevich is now pursuing a writing career. She is working on a book about the prosecution of Ricky Langley, a sex offender convicted of killing a 6-year-old boy in 1992. The center represents Langley. The lawsuit claims that the former intern breached her contractual and fiduciary duty to the organization by “divulging confidential and privileged information and other information from her representation of [the center's] clients which is prejudicial and harmful to [the center's] clients for her own personal profit and gain.” Attorney Lori Mince, who represents Marzano-Lesnevich, said she and her client were still contemplating their next step. They could appeal the ruling or move for partial summary judgment in hopes of dismissing the center’s injunctive claims, she said. “SLAPP can’t be used to strike out part of a lawsuit,” Mince said. “That ruling is legally wrong.” Karen Sloan can be contacted at [email protected].

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