Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s ex, can argue before a jury that she should not be subject to a libel suit because her 2018 Op-Ed on Domestic Violence deals with a matter in the public interest. A judge ruled Thursday.
After her opinion piece was published by The Washington Post, Depp sued Heard in Virginia for libel. Depp’s lawyers claim that the article implies that she was physically and sexually abused during Depp’s marriage.
Thursday’s Fairfax County courthouse hearing was held by Depp’s attorneys. They sought to determine whether Heard could invoke a Virginia law as her defense against nuisance lawsuits when she speaks about matters of public concern.
Benjamin Chew, Depp’s lawyer, stated that the law, also known as an antiSLAPP provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), was not intended to interfere in private disputes such as Depp’s claim that his ex-wife has defamed her.
Elaine Bredehoft was Elaine Heard’s attorney. She argued that the article does not mention Depp and that it addresses a serious public concern: Preventing domestic violence.
Penney Azcarate, the judge, ruled against Depp. Heard had asked for immunity to be denied to her lawyers. The ruling did not grant Heard immunity from what she wrote. She can, however, present that argument to a jury in her defense.
Heard also filed a counterclaim against Depp for defamation based on statements Depp’s lawyer made regarding her.
This ruling comes weeks before Fairfax’s long-running trial. Depp and Heard are both scheduled to testify in court. Numerous other Hollywood stars are listed as possible witnesses, whether they appear in person or via video link.
Depp was permitted to sue in Virginia because the Post’s online editions were published through servers in Fairfax County. Heard’s lawyers wanted to move the case to California where the actors live.
During Thursday’s arguments Depp’s lawyer stated that one reason they brought the case to Virginia was because Virginia’s anti-SLAPP laws are not as expansive as those in California.
Depp also filed a similar English lawsuit against the newspaper. There, the judge found Depp had assaulted Heard more than a dozen times and placed her in danger for her safety on numerous occasions.
In Virginia, the lawsuit seeks damages of $50 million. Although Depp is not mentioned in the December 2018 Post article, Heard describes herself as a public figure who represents domestic abuse.
Depp claims that the accusations are false and make it difficult to obtain the roles he used to have.