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Libel suit filed in response to blog
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/17/2007 12:36 AM

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A court reporting firm with offices in Aurora and Chicago is suing for libel and seeking $3.4 million in damages after a subcontracted court reporter started a blog after she wasn't paid.

The plaintiffs, Elizabeth Eastwood and Steven Artstein of BESCR Inc., argue the blog has interfered with their business, libeled them by accusing them of fraud, and acted as a conspiracy to damage their business.

According to the lawsuit, the blog was started after Trisha Goodman, a Tulsa, Okla.-based court reporter, was not paid $2,300.

BESCR attorneys argue the firm merely fell behind making payments because of new billing software and that claims that Eastwood and Artstein are "felons" is libelous.

The blog was started in late September asking people to respond if Eastwood and Artstein had bounced checks or failed to return messages.

"This blog was set up for informational purposes to determine the number of individuals and/or firms who have outstanding invoices with Eastwood-Stein that they continue to refuse to acknowledge and/or pay," text on the blog's main page reads.

As of Friday, it has had nearly 11,800 visitors.

That may not seem like much, but consider that the National Court Reporters Association has about 24,000 members, according to its Web site.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Kane County, seeks $850,000 in damages each from Goodman; Barry Simon, of San Diego, Calif.; Michael Henry, a videographer, of El Cajon, Calif.; and Joan Burke of Schaumburg.

They are all accused of telling others of the blog.

Contacted by phone, Burke said Friday she hadn't been served with the lawsuit, but called it "frivolous" and "without merit."

Burke, a court reporter, said a business associate forwarded her a link to the blog because she used to do business with Artstein.

"I never added to (the blog) or responded to it, just viewed it," she said. "As far as I know in Illinois, there's nothing illegal about forwarding a link."

The matter is due in court Jan. 31 before Judge Donald Fabian.