Amber Heard Hires Lawyers from New York Times vs. Sarah Palin Case for Appeal Against Depp

Because who better to aid with the appeal of the trial from hell than the team who protected a newspaper against a conservative 'pitbull?'

Amber Heard Hires Lawyers from New York Times vs. Sarah Palin Case for Appeal Against Depp
Photo:Win McNamee/Getty Images (Getty Images)

In an entirely predictable development, Amber Heard has reportedly exchanged the legal team who represented her in the multimillion-dollar defamation trial against her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, in favor of new counsel with some rather impressive credentials. This week, a spokesperson for the actress announced that she’s enlisted David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Ballard Spahr to take the helm. Notably, Axelrod and Brown represented the New York Times in a libel lawsuit filed by none other than former Alaska Gov. (and current congressional candidate) Sarah Palin.

“We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American,” Heard’s new representation said via 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.”

In the NYT case, Palin sued the newspaper over an editorial entitled “America’s Lethal Politics,” which alleged a connection between a 2010 advertisement by Palin’s PAC, SarahPAC, and the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that killed six and severely injured former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D). Though Palin claimed she’d suffered damage to her reputation as a direct result of the piece, the judge was ultimately unconvinced.

Since the June 1 verdict in the six-week Depp v. Heard defamation trial came down, wherein Heard was ordered to pay Depp more than $10 million in damages, the actress and her team have fought to appeal the decision. She filed an unsuccessful motion for a mistrial after an issue with a juror, then argued that the Fairfax, Virginia, court made grave errors that “prevented a fair and just trial.” The following month, on July 21, Heard filed a notice of appeal. Depp swiftly answered with an appeal of his own the next day.

“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,” a Depp spokesperson told Deadline.

The defamation trial famously devolved into one that focused predominantly on proving the former couple’s respective abuse allegations, as opposed to whether or not Heard’s Washington Post op-ed at the center of it all—which simply referred to Heard as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”—caused Depp irreparable damage to his reputation. It’s worth repeating that he’s since raked in millions, landed a director gig, received considerable public laudation and generally been treated as an international hero.

Now, with new representation, it appears Heard’s team is primed to lean more heavily into the First Amendment justification, arguing that not only was Heard well within her right to write a piece that only indirectly mentioned abuse, but Depp doesn’t appear to be bearing half the reputational and financial brunt of the op-ed than Heard has since penning it.

“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,” a spokesperson for Heard said in a statement.

Perhaps new evidence refers to those 6,000 documents head-turning that were recently unsealed…at any rate, good for her!

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