Actor Amber Heard, who a jury determined had defamed former husband Johnny Depp in an editorial she wrote about domestic abuse without mentioning his name, has retained additional attorneys to represent her appeal.
"When it comes to protecting the fundamental right of Freedom of Speech, we look at the jury's decision — to paraphrase a famous quote — not 'as the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning,' " Heard's spokesperson said Monday in a statement to Newsday. "A different court warrants different representation, particularly as so much new evidence is now coming to light."
"Aquaman" star Heard, 36, has hired David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Ballard Spahr, a national firm with 15 offices, to lead her appeal to overturn the verdict. Ben Rottenborn of Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black will continue to represent Heard as co-counsel, while Elaine Charlson Bredehoft is stepping down.
Axelrod and Ward Brown successfully defended The New York Times against a defamation lawsuit earlier this year by former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
"We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American," the two attorneys said in a joint statement. "We're confident the appellate court will apply the law properly without deference to popularity, reverse the judgment against Ms. Heard, and reaffirm the fundamental principles of Freedom of Speech.
A Fairfax County, Virginia, jury on June 1 awarded Depp more than $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The jury, also hearing Heard’s countersuit, separately found that Depp through his attorneys had defamed Heard, and awarded her $2 million.
Heard, who wrote in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” never mentioned Depp’s name in the piece. His lawyers, however, argued that it was obvious she had meant the movie star because the editorial referred to specific allegations she had made during their 2016 divorce proceedings.