The long-running legal dispute between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard took a significant step on Thursday, suggesting which party will eventually triumph.
Johnny Depp is suing Heard for $50 million over a Washington Post op-ed in which she described her experience as a victim of domestic abuse. In response, Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim, claiming defamation and blaming Depp for an attempted social media smear campaign to have her removed from Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
The case is now on appeal, with Depp’s legal team seeking summary judgment and a ruling that Heard may not use a new Virginia anti-SLAPP law designed to protect individuals against nuisance lawsuits when discussing First Amendment issues. The request was denied by Judge Penney Azcarate, who ruled that Heard’s article on domestic violence (which doesn’t mention Depp by name) meets the criteria of an “issue of public concern”.
This means that Depp’s attorneys may have a hard time defending themselves against the claim of anti-SLAPP immunity if Heard’s lawyers are successful in arguing it.
Deadline also notes an irony here. Depp sued Heard in Virginia because of its light anti-SLAPP legislation, despite the fact that his high-profile action highlighted the law’s shortcomings. The anti-SLAPP law in Virginia has been enhanced since then, and now Heard has directly benefited from it.
None of this looks good for Depp, who has previously lost his libel case against The Sun in London and failed in his appeals efforts.
The long-awaited trial will begin on April 11, so expect more updates then.
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