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Procedural Posture

Plaintiff city manager appealed from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), dismissing his third amended complaint against defendants, corporation, its employees, and city councilmen, which sought damages for defamation, interfering with a contractual relationship, and suffering and emotional distress.

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Defendants, corporation, its employees, and city councilmen, tried to terminate plaintiff city manager by statements made and letters distributed at city council meetings expressing their views of plaintiff’s fitness and qualifications for office. The court held that, under Cal. Civ. Code § 47(2), the statements and letters were privileged, and liability for them must failed because criticism directed to public officials was not actionable. The court held that disposition of the cause of action for defamation resolved the issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and that the statements did not expose plaintiff to hatred, contempt or ridicule. An individual had the right to severely criticize public officials, and the conduct charged was not outrageous as a matter of law. As to plaintiff’s cause of action for intentional interference with a contractual relationship, the issue on appeal was whether the complaint showed justification for inducing breach of contract. Plaintiff was a public official, and the efforts to terminate him were the expression of defendants’ views, for which he could not recover in tort.


The court affirmed the judgment in favor of defendants, corporation, its employees, and city councilmen, because Cal. Civ. Code § 47(2) provided immunity for publications made in a legislative proceeding. The court held that the statements made and copies of the letters distributed at the city council meeting were privileged, so plaintiff city manager’s predication of liability upon their utterance or distribution at that time must fail.