Amber Heard has hired new lawyers to appeal Johnny Depp’s defamation trial verdict.
According to a spokesperson for the actress, she has retained David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of the law firm Ballard Spahr to lead her counsel. Ben Rottenborn will continue as co-counsel, while Elaine Charlson Bredehoft will step down. Both Rottenborn and Bredehoft represented Heard during the six-week trial in Virginia.
Axelrod is a former federal prosecutor and first-chair trial lawyer who represents individuals and businesses in high-stakes civil litigation, whereas Brown has represented journalists, news organizations, and documentary filmmakers in First Amendment cases, among others. Earlier this year, the pair successfully defended The New York Times against Sarah Palin’s defamation suit.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal because it is a case with significant First Amendment implications for every American,” Axelrod and Brown said in a joint statement. “We are confident that the appellate court will apply the law correctly, without regard for popular opinion, reverse the judgment against Ms. Heard, and reaffirm the fundamental principles of free expression.”
In June, a seven-person jury found that Heard intentionally and maliciously defamed Depp in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed, in which she identified herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages (the punitive damages were later reduced to Virginia’s statutory cap of $350,000 by the judge). Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages in a small countersuit victory.