FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – Lawyers for actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard squared off in a Virginia courtroom Friday, as Heard sought to have a state judge dismiss her ex-husband’s $50 million defamation case.
The court battle is rooted in Depp’s claim that Heard, his ex-wife and co-star of the blockbuster movie “Aquaman,” defamed him when she wrote an editorial in The Washington Post last December describing the backlash she experienced after speaking out about domestic abuse.
She wrote that she “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women” after making allegations of abuse. Her editorial never identified Depp by name, but his lawsuit filed in March alleges the article was clearly about the accusations she’d made against Depp as their marriage unraveled in 2016.
Depp maintains Heard’s claims are false, “refuted by two separate responding police officers, a litany of neutral third-party witnesses and 87 newly obtained surveillance camera videos,” according to the complaint,
The lawsuit was filed in Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., because the Post is printed there.
In court papers, Heard explains that she wrote the op-ed while in Los Angeles and “submitted it to the Washington Post through my contact at the ACLU, who was based in New York.”
During Friday’s hearing, Heard’s lawyers argued that the proceedings belong in Los Angeles, as the parties and relevant witnesses reside there, and the Virginia case should be dismissed.
“Under any test, California is the appropriate forum,” said Eric M. George of Browne George Ross, the California-based law firm representing Heard.
Depp’s attorneys, meanwhile, contend that Heard sent the op-ed to the American Civil Liberties Union with directions to have it published in the Post.
“The libel here occurred in Virginia,” said Benjamin Chew with the Washington, D.C office of Brown Rudnick. “This is the right forum. We are in the right place.”
Chief Circuit Court Judge Bruce White took the motion to dismiss under advisement and could make a decision within the coming weeks.
In a separate hearing Thursday, lawyers set Feb. 3, 2020, as a tentative trial date and estimated the case would stretch over 12 days.
Both Depp and Heard have accused one another of abuse fueled by drugs and alcohol. Their marriage ended in January 2017.
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