Johnny Depp’s Defamation Suit Against Amber Heard Moves Forward

Amber Heard, left, and Johnny Depp arrive at the 2015 premiere of Depp’s film “Black Mass,” at the London film festival. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – Actor Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, will move forward after a judge refused to dismiss the case Friday.

The lawsuit revolves around an editorial Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018 in which she described herself as a survivor of domestic abuse. Heard’s editorial never mentioned the Pirates of the Caribbean star, but the actor contended she was writing about him.

Depp, represented by Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick, sued for defamation last year, asking for $50 million in damages.

During a hearing in December, Heard’s attorneys argued that she was stating her opinions in the op-ed, not directly referring to Depp.

But in a nine-page letter sent to attorneys today, Chief Circuit Court Judge Bruce White dissected the wording in the editorial and found that several assertions would “convey the alleged defamatory meaning that Mr. Depp abused Ms. Heard.”

White’s decision “leaves it to a jury to decide the meaning of Ms. Heard’s op-ed and the truth of what she said,” said attorney Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker and Fink and counsel for Heard. “As we have said all along, the courts have strong mechanisms in place for determining the truth.”

She added, “Here, we remain confident that Ms. Heard will prevail at trial when the jury is presented with evidence on the question that the court identified — namely, whether Ms. Heard was abused by Mr. Depp.”

Both Depp, 56, and Heard, 33, have accused one another of violent behavior. The couple’s divorce, finalized in 2017, was contentious and much publicized. And with the #MeToo movement making headlines, Heard’s editorial drew attention.

In his ruling, the judge noted that Heard described becoming a public figure representing domestic abuse two years ago, “and in light of the circumstances pleaded about the parties’ divorce — would reasonably cause readers to conclude she was referring to her experience with Mr. Depp despite her efforts to globalize the statement.”

The judge found one segment of the editorial was not actionable. Heard wrote that she had to change her phone number because of death threats and added that she felt she was on trial in the “court of public opinion.”

White concluded that this was “too opinion-laden and representative of [Heard’s] own perspective for it to be actionable.”

The trial is scheduled for August in Fairfax County in suburban Washington, D.C. where The Post is printed.

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