Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff candidate sought review of the order from the Superior Court of San Diego County (California) that granted summary judgment in favor of defendant fellow candidate in plaintiff’s defamation and contract cause of action.

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Overview

Defendant local office candidate signed a pledge to abide by the Code of Fair Campaign Practices, which included an agreement not to use or permit the use of character defamation on any candidate. During the election campaign, defendant’s staff circulated a campaign brochure about plaintiff candidate’s legal difficulties. Plaintiff sued defendant for breach of contract and defamation. Defendant prevailed on the defamation and contract causes of action. On plaintiff’s appeal, the court affirmed and held that defendant’s failure to abide by his pledge to follow the Code of Fair Campaign Practices was not an actionable breach of contract. The court held that the pledge did not give rise to an obligation or legal duty that was enforceable in an action at law. Cal. Civ. Code § 1550 provided four essential elements of a contract: parties capable of contracting, their consent, a lawful object, and a sufficient cause or consideration. Defendant’s written pledge did not satisfy § 1550 because there were not at least two contracting parties, and defendant’s promise to forebear from defaming other candidates was not lawful consideration.

Outcome

The judgment in defendant candidate’s favor in plaintiff candidate’s defamation and contract cause of action was affirmed because the pledge by defendant to abide by the Code of Fair Campaign Practices did not give rise to an obligation or legal duty that was enforceable in an action at law.

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