Judge: Fired Portsmouth city attorney’s $2M defamation suit will be dismissed if it’s not amended

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Fired Portsmouth city attorney files a $2M defamation suit against mayor

Posted: Apr 9, 2021 / 10:40 PM EDT
Updated: April 9, 2021 / 10:59 p.m. EDT

PORTSMOUTH, VA. (WAVY) – A judge has ordered that former Portsmouth District Attorney Solomon Ashby’s case against former Mayor John Rowe be dismissed if the case is not amended by April 16.

In his March 26 statement, Norfolk Judge Everett Martin said so He sees the lawsuit alleging Rowe’s testimony to WVEC-TV that he defamed Ashby – “The high point is the opinion that the city administrator cannot be fired, that the city administrator is bulletproof and simply does not hold up,” said the judge – as a “false characterization of legal advice”.

Ashby handed them in $ 2 million defamation lawsuit in October. It is alleged that Mayor John Rowe defamed Ashby’s character when speaking to local news reporters after Ashby was fired in September.

Rowe spoke to the media company and said Ashby’s advice was that the city council called then-city manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton should not be fired is “not very balanced and good advice”.

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“I’ve never seen an opinion like that before. It just didn’t make sense and it doesn’t make sense now, ”Rowe said at the time. “The high point is the opinion that you can’t fire the city manager, that the city manager is bulletproof and it just won’t hold up.”

Ashby’s attorney said the statement was false and Rowe “knew that such a statement was false when he made it”.

Patton resigned in September before her planned retirement. City council planned to meet to discuss that day whether both Patton and Ashby should be fired because both of the majority of the councilors had lost the trust.

Ashby was fired and Patton resigned amid controversy over the Confederate City memorial and the aftermath of a destructive protest against the statue. Patton came under scrutiny after Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene was taken on administrative leave from the Police Department indicted Senator L. Louise Lucas and other prominent parishioners in connection with a demonstration leaving the Portsmouth Confederate Memorial painted and damaged.

Greene was fired in Novemberafter Patton resigned.

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The judge said in his order: “It is correct that the plaintiff never wrote that the city council could not fire the city administrator. However, he wrote that the city council should not do this. “

“This slight misrepresentation of the advice does not damage the plaintiff’s reputation in the general assessment of mankind, incites him to shame or shame, or tends to despise or ridicule him, or to make him notorious or ridiculous,” the judge wrote.

On the first line of the statement, the judge played out Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.” He wrote: “After all, there is a third certainty in life:: Sharpness among officials in Portsmouth will find its way into the press. Lately it has also found its way into this courtyard across the Elizabeth River. “

If the action is not amended by April 16, it will be dismissed without prejudice.

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