FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – One year ago, with the blockbuster “Aquaman” hitting theaters nationwide, the movie’s co-star Amber Heard wrote an editorial describing the backlash she faced as a public figure who spoke out against domestic abuse.
Heard now faces a $50 million defamation lawsuit stemming from the article. Her attorneys argued Friday that she was simply stating her opinions in the op-ed, not directly referring to the ex-husband who brought the case against her: actor Johnny Depp.
Appearing in Fairfax County, Virginia Circuit Court, the attorneys argued that Depp’s lawsuit is an overreach and should be tossed out. While lawyers for the two estranged Hollywood stars routinely square off over various aspects of the case, Heard’s lawyers on Friday asked for an outright dismissal.
Depp, who filed the suit in March, was not specifically mentioned in Heard’s op-ed. But his lawyer, Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick, argued that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star was defamed by implication. The editorial “unmistakenly referred to Mr. Depp,” Chew said.
Depp, 56, and Heard, 33, had a highly publicized and contentious divorce. In 2016, Heard, with bruises on her face, asked a California court for a restraining order against Depp. Their marriage ended in 2017. Heard’s editorial was published Dec. 18, 2018, in The Washington Post.
In court Friday before Chief Circuit Court Judge Bruce White, attorneys for both actors debated the significance of one sentence in the editorial: “Then, two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic abuse and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Chew argued Heard was referring to “the precise time frame when Ms. Heard publicly and falsely accused Mr. Depp” of domestic violence.
But Heard’s assertion was simply a statement of fact, argued one of her attorneys, Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers. At most, he said, the op-ed may have reminded readers of the restraining order.
In legal filings, Rottenborn also wrote that taken to a logical end, Depp’s arguments in the case demand that “Ms. Heard be silent or else be punished in perpetuity for her decision to seek the protection of California courts in May 2016.”
Judge White has already denied a previous attempt by Heard’s lawyers to toss the case out.
On that occasion, her attorneys argued that the case didn’t belong in Fairfax County, where The Washington Post is printed, but instead should be in California, where the parties and potential witnesses reside.
On the bench Friday, White said he would consider the arguments and rule at an unspecified date.