Last month, Heard took the necessary step to officially appeal the verdict in Depp’s defamation case against her. According to the legal documents, obtained by ET, the Aquaman actress’ lawyers at the time filed the paperwork on July 21 in Fairfax County, Virginia, alerting the court they would be filing an appeal in the case where jurors awarded the Pirates of the Caribbean star $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The punitive damages were later reduced to $350,000 in accordance with the state’s statutory cap.
Heard was awarded $2 million by the jury in compensatory damages for her counterclaim but nothing in punitive damages. The jury found Depp liable after his attorney referred to Heard’s claims as a “hoax.” Depp has also since filed an appeal of that verdict.
Now, Heard will be represented by David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Ballard Spahr as her lead appellate counsel. The lawyers notably defended The New York Times against Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit earlier this year.
“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 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.”
Ben Rottenborn of Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black will continue to represent Heard as co-counsel, while Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of Bredehoft Cohen Brown & Nadelhaft is stepping down.
“This is the perfect time to pass the baton,” Bredehoft said in a statement. “I have pledged to Amber and her appellate team my complete cooperation and assistance as they move forward on a path towards success.”
After Heard’s appeal on July 21, one of her spokespeople told ET, “We believe the court made errors that prevented a just and fair verdict consistent with the First Amendment,” adding, “We are therefore appealing the verdict. While we realize today’s filing will ignite the Twitter bonfires, there are steps we need to take to ensure both fairness and justice.”
A spokesperson for Depp, meanwhile, told ET, “The jury listened to the extensive evidence presented during the six-week trial and came to a clear and unanimous verdict that the defendant herself defamed Mr. Depp, in multiple instances. We remain confident in our case and that this verdict will stand.”
Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in March 2019 after the Washington Post published an op-ed she wrote about being the victim of domestic violence. Depp’s name was not mentioned in the article, however, the story came out as their contentious 2016 divorce continued to make news headlines. After a six-week trial, Depp won the case after the jury unanimously sided with him.