Amber Heard hired a new legal team this week, in preparation for her appeal of the verdict of the defamation suit against Johnny Depp that resulted in her being ordered to pay $10.4 million in damages. Heard and her team hope to have the decision thrown out.
Going forward, Heard’s legal team will be led by David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Ballard Spahr — the lawyers who famously defended The New York Times in a defamation lawsuit earlier brought by Sarah Palin earlier this year — with the assistance of Ben Rottenborn of Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black continuing as co-counsel. Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of Charleson Bredehoft Cohen Brown & Nadelhaft is stepping down.
“We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American,” Axelrod and Brown said in a statement to the media. “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.”
Early last month, Heard’s previous legal team officially began the process of appealing the decision, filing a 44-page memorandum in Fairfax County, Virginia. The documents requested an appeal on the grounds that there were “evidentiary issues” regarding whether or not Heard’s 2018 Washington Post op-ed qualifies as defamatory; that Depp is not entitled to damages relating to his related libel case against the “The Sun,” which he lost; and that the damages awarded to Depp were “excessive.”
Following the verdict, Heard’s team announced almost immediately that an appeal would be filed and claimed that she would “absolutely not” be able to pay the $10 million in compensatory damages. If deemed appropriate, the court could order a new trial.
In an interview with “Today” shortly after the verdict, Heard said she understood, logically, why the jury ruled in favor of her ex.
“They had sat in those seats and heard over three weeks of no stop relentless testimony from paid employees,” she said. “I don’t blame them, I actually understand. He’s a beloved character. People feel that they know him. He’s a fantastic actor.”