Johnny Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard can argue before a jury that she should be protected from a defamation lawsuit because her 2018 op-ed about domestic violence addressed a matter of public interest, a judge has ruled.
epp sued Heard for defamation in Virginia after the Washington Post published her opinion piece. Depp’s lawyers say the article falsely implied she was physically and sexually abused by Depp when the actors were married.
At a Fairfax County courthouse Thursday, Depp’s attorneys filed for a ruling that Heard could not invoke in her defense a Virginia law designed to protect people from nuisance lawsuits when speaking about matters of public interest.
Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew said the law, known as the Anti-Slapp Provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), was not designed to disrupt private disputes, like Depp’s allegation that his ex-wife defamed him.
Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, argued that the article in question does not even mention Depp by name and that it addresses a very serious issue of public interest: the prevention of domestic violence.
Judge Penney Azcarate ruled against Depp, who had tried to prevent Heard’s attorneys from claiming immunity. Her decision does not mean that Heard has immunity for what she wrote, simply that she can make that argument as part of her defense before a jury.
Heard has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against Depp because Depp’s attorney made statements about her.
The verdict comes just weeks before a lengthy trial is scheduled to begin in Fairfax. Both Depp and Heard are scheduled to appear and testify in court, and numerous other Hollywood personalities are listed as potential witnesses, either in person or via video link.
Depp was allowed to sue in Virginia because the Post’s online editions are published through servers in Fairfax County. Heard’s attorneys had tried to move the case to California, where the actors reside.
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During Thursday’s arguments, Depp’s attorney said one of the reasons they brought the case in Virginia was because the state’s anti-slapping law isn’t as comprehensive as California’s.
Depp filed a similar lawsuit against Heard in England and lost. The judge there found that Depp had assaulted Heard a dozen times, leaving 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 describes himself as a “public figure who advocates domestic violence.”
Depp said the allegations were untrue and made it difficult for him to get the kind of roles he once had.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/potential-defence-opens-up-for-heard-in-depp-libel-suit-41484432.html A possible defense opens up for Heard in the Depp defamation lawsuit