Ex-Mayor cleared in defamation lawsuit

Philip Stoddard
The lawsuit stemmed from statements he made in a blog.

An appeals court Wednesday sided with a former South Miami Mayor in a defamation lawsuit filed by the city’s ex-police chief.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s decision that former Mayor Philip Stoddard was entitled to immunity from the lawsuit, which stemmed from statements he made in a blog and a letter about ex-Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro.

The statements, which came when both were in their city positions, were critical of Martinez de Castro, including accusing him of unethical conduct.

The circuit judge ruled that Stoddard was entitled to “absolute immunity” because he was acting as Mayor when he made the statements, according to Wednesday’s ruling. The panel of the Miami-based appeals court agreed.

“Mayor Stoddard’s blog post and letter regarding the actions and conduct of Chief Martinez de Castro fell within the scope of his duties as Mayor — to keep his constituents informed of current events and operations within the City of South Miami and its government, including the operations and performance of his police department and its police chief,” said the ruling, written by Chief Judge Kevin Emas and joined by Judges Eric Hendon and Fleur Lobree.

“While some may have viewed Stoddard’s statements as unworthy of an elected official, this does not alter the ultimate determination that they were absolutely privileged, and as such Stoddard was entitled to immunity from Martinez de Castro’s suit for defamation.”

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