Amber Heard Making A Major Change In Next Trial Against Johnny Depp

Amber Heard has begun to make formal steps to appeal her recent trial verdict, and she will be making changes this time around.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

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The legal battle between estranged spouses Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has dominated news cycles for months, and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While Amber Heard may have come out (mostly) on the losing end of the recent defamation case in Virginia, she was immediately very clear that she planned on appealing the verdict that found her guilty. In preparation for the next courtroom battle, Amber Heard has dismissed her primary attorney and will be hiring a predominately new team of lawyers to represent her. 

According to Deadline, Amber Heard has dismissed Elaine Bredehoft, who acted as her attorney in the John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard trial. She did retain Ben Rottenborn, who acted as co-counsel in the case, but she has hired David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Ballard Spahr to represent her in the upcoming appeal against the verdict against her. Axelrod and Brown notably recently represented the New York Times in a successful libel defense against former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. This has led observers to speculate the appeal will be based on First Amendment grounds. 

In Depp v. Heard, the jury eventually found the Aquaman actress liable on three counts of defamation and ordered her to pay Depp a combined $15 million in damages, which was immediately reduced to $10.35 million per Virginia state law. At the same time, the jury found Depp liable for one count of defamation and ordered him to pay $2 million in damages to Amber Heard. For the record, Amber Heard was originally suing Depp for $100 million and Depp suing Heard for $50 million. 

Since the verdict was read in the case, Amber Heard and her legal team have attempted various measures to have it vacated. At one point, her legal team claimed that one of the jurors in the case had misrepresented themselves as a family member of the same name and that the verdict should be tossed out for that reason. However, presiding judge ​​Penney S. Azcarate ruled that there was no evidence that the juror was prejudiced in the case and also that Amber Heard’s legal team had had the opportunity to reject them in pretrial. Azcarate had also ordered that Amber Heard be required to place an $8.35 million bond (equivalent to the balance she owes Johnny Depp) in order to formally appeal the case. 

Both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp have appealed the verdict, which is an interesting new aspect of an already unorthodox case. Heard has yet to place the required bond to formally launch an appeal, but did officially notify the court that she intended to (as opposed to her or her lawyers simply stating in the public eye that they eventually intend to). Depp’s legal team has done the same, which experts generally view as much of a strategic response to Amber Heard’s action as it is an attempt to have the one defamation count to which the Pirates of the Caribbean actor was found liable.