AP

Potential defense opens up for Heard in Depp libel suit

Mar 24, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: 1:48 pm

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Johnny Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard, can argue to a jury that she should be protected from a libel lawsuit because her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence deals with a matter of public interest, a judge ruled Thursday.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Virginia after The Washington Post published her opinion piece. Depp’s lawyers say the article falsely implies she was physically and sexually abused by Depp when the actors were married.

At a Fairfax County courthouse Thursday, Depp’s lawyers sought a ruling that Heard could not invoke a Virginia law in her defense designed to protect people from nuisance lawsuits when they speak about matters of public concern.

Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, said the law, known as an anti-SLAPP provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), is not designed to interfere with private disputes, like Depp’s contention that his ex-wife defamed him.

Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, argued the article in question does not even mention Depp by name, and that it addresses a very serious issue of public concern: preventing domestic violence.

The judge, Penney Azcarate, ruled against Depp, who had sought to bar Heard’s lawyers from claiming immunity. Her ruling does not mean Heard has immunity for what she wrote, but simply that she can make that argument to a jury as part of her defense.

Heard has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against Depp because of statements Depp’s lawyer made about her.

The ruling comes just weeks before a lengthy trial is scheduled to begin in Fairfax. Both Depp and Heard are scheduled to appear in court and testify, and numerous other Hollywood figures are listed as potential witnesses, either to appear in person or by video link.

Depp was allowed to sue in Virginia because the Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County. Heard’s lawyers had sought to have the case moved to California, where the actors reside.

During Thursday’s arguments, Depp’s lawyer said that one of the reasons they brought the case in Virginia is because the state’s anti-SLAPP law is not as broad as the one in California.

Depp filed a similar lawsuit in England against a newspaper there and lost. The judge there found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in fear for her life on multiple occasions.

The Virginia lawsuit seeks $50 million in damages. While the December 2018 Post article never mentions Depp, Heard refers to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Depp has said the accusations are untrue and have made it difficult for him to get the sorts of roles he once did.

___

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Heard was the defendant in Depp’s lawsuit in England.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

23 hours ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

24 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

2 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

3 days ago

Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023...

Associated Press

Manhattan court searching for jurors to hear first-ever criminal case against a former president

Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case — the first trial of the presumptive nominee.

3 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Potential defense opens up for Heard in Depp libel suit