After losing a high-profile libel lawsuit, the controversial CalCoastNews website appears to be preparing to appeal the case, according to recently filed court documents.
In the months since the website and two of its founding reporters, Karen Velie and Dan Blackburn, were hit with $1.1 million in damages for penning a defamatory article about Arroyo Grande waste management businessman Charles Tenborg, the embattled website has changed its legal representation and filed paperwork indicating it plans to seek an appeal of the verdict.
CalCoastNews filed a notice of appeal with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court May 19, marking the initial step of the appeals process.
Paul J. Beard II, a Sacramento-based attorney with the Alston & Bird LLP, filed the notice of appeal. At a May 11 hearing, local attorney David Vogel announced that he would no longer be representing CalCoastNews or Velie in the judgment phase of the superior court case. As of May 30, his motion to withdraw as an attorney in the case was pending.
While a possible appeal moves forward, court proceedings to hammer out just how the $1.1 million in damages are to be paid remain ongoing in SLO County Court. At the May 11 debtor judgment examination hearing, Tenborg’s attorneys indicated that they had been unable to locate and serve Velie with court documents despite multiple attempts. They also stated that Velie had apparently transferred ownership of the CalCoastNews website domain name to Cayucos resident Dennis Pfister. A SLO County judge stayed debtor proceedings against Blackburn, who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the wake of the libel verdict.
Another debtor’s exam hearing is scheduled for June 1 in SLO County Superior Court.