Amber Heard changes legal team for Johnny Depp appeal

Actor Amber Heard delivers a statement as she leaves the High Court in London, Britain, on July 28, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

Amber Heard has scrapped her long-time attorney Elaine Bredehoft and hired a new legal team to appeal the $10 million (S$13.7 million) verdict in her defamation case against Johnny Depp.

The actress announced on Monday (Aug 15) she has hired high-profile attorneys David L Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown from the firm Ballard Spahr to lead her appeal, in which she is aiming to overturn the multi-million-dollar ruling and avoid paying her ex-husband $10.35 million in damages.

Bredehoft, who represented Heard, 36, in the bombshell six-week trial, is stepping down, with Ben Rottenborn from Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black continuing to work as co-counsel.

A spokesperson for the Aquaman actress cited a "different court" and "new evidence" as the reasons behind the reshuffle in the legal team.

They added in a statement: "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.'

"A different court warrants different representation, particularly as so much new evidence is now coming to light."

Bredehoft of Bredehoft Cohen Brown and Nadelhaft described her exit as "the perfect time to pass the baton".

She added: "I have pledged to Amber and her appellate team my complete co-operation and assistance as they move forward on a path towards success."

Axelrod and Ward Brown specialise in First Amendment cases and recently represented The New York Times in its defamation lawsuit against Sarah Palin.

Palin, 58, had sued the paper over a 2017 editorial which erroneously linked her to a mass shooting and the newspaper won the case in February.

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The new legal pairing have said they will argue the First Amendment implications in Heard's case against 59-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean actor Depp.

They said in a joint statement: "We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American.

"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."

Heard and Depp are showing no signs of relenting in their legal battle against one another, with both filing motions to appeal against their multi-million-dollar compensations.

Depp had sued his ex-wife for defamation over a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post where she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse and spoke of feeling "the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out".

Following the televised six-week trial, a seven-strong jury decided in June Heard had defamed the actor on all three counts, awarding him $10 million in damages, and Heard $2 million in compensatory damages but zero in punitive damages, leaving her with a bill to Depp she insists she cannot afford to pay.

In July, Heard filed an appeal against the payment she owes, while 24 hours later Depp filed a notice to appeal the defamation award the jury ordered him to pay his ex-wife.