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Susan Fontana wanted out. Her business partner, Karyne Messina, seemed inexplicably hard to deal with. But the two held equal ownership in the corporation Totally Italian.com Inc. So in 2002, Fontana hired Daniel Krakower of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker to write a letter outlining her complaints in hopes of finding a way to end their joint business venture. Messina didn’t cotton to the claims and filed suit in federal district court against Fontana and the Rockville-based firm on grounds of defamation. The firm fought back and last week won an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the case. In its March 7 opinion, written by Judge Merrick Garland, the three-judge panel ruled that the letter was covered by the judicial proceedings privilege, which protects lawyers from defamation in communications in preliminary proceedings on a judicial matter. But Messina won’t give up, says her lawyer Sol Rosen, a solo practitioner. “I intend to file a petition for rehearing.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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