Lawyer for Johnny Depp Kicked Off Case After Press Leaks

Johnny Depp, center, leaves the High Court in London after a Feb. 26, 2020, preliminary hearing in his libel case against the publishers of The Sun and its executive editor over a 2018 article alleging he had been abusive to his ex-wife Amber Heard. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — On more than one occasion, the judge presiding over the lawsuit between the divorced actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has made it clear that he doesn’t want their Virginia defamation case tried in the press.

Coming off the latest disappointment on that front, Judge Bruce White threw Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman off the case on Friday after finding that the lawyer had given the press confidential information covered under a protective order. 

Waldman was admitted pro hac vice — for this case only — to Fairfax County Circuit Court in September 2019. That same month, Judge White signed a protective order governing the treatment of Depp and Heard’s personal information — passport numbers, phone numbers and the like, as well as medical records, including psychological conditions, diagnoses or treatment. 

Heard had moved for sanctions against the Washington attorney last month, contending that the press leaks happened “on at least two occasions.”

She said Waldman was responsible for disseminating audio recordings, surveillance pictures and declarations from third-party witnesses to websites and Twitter users, “leading readers and potential jurors to believe that these declarations are somehow official case documents, which they are not.”     

In court on Friday, Heard’s lawyers, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of Charlson Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers, accused Waldman of spreading false rumors about their client.  

White, who is chief judge of the 19th Circuit, agreed Friday to revoke Waldman’s pro hac vice status. Despite finding that ethical standards were violated, the judge declined to issue a gag order against Waldman.  

Waldman did not return a request for comment.  

Brown Rudnick attorney Benjamin Chew has been a mainstay at most hearings for Depp in the Virginia proceedings and Friday’s hearing was no different.

Chew contended that the text messages in question were already public domain, and he also accused Heard’s lawyers of making their own breaches of the protective order. 

The suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court has been underway since March 2019, with Depp claiming that Heard defamed him in an op-ed for The Washington Post that described the backlash she faced after speaking out about domestic abuse.

Heard filed a counterclaim this past August, accusing Depp or his representatives — the 20-page filing names Waldman specifically — of using social media accounts and text messages to defame her and harm her career.  

Before the pandemic sidelined the case, Depp and Heard had each testified in London earlier this year about separate libel claims that Depp is pursuing against a U.K. tabloid that had reported on Heard’s claims that Depp abused her.

The pair met while filming the 2011 comedy “Rum Diary,” married in 2015 and divorced two years later. Depp, 57, is best known for anchoring the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series, while Heard, 34, starred in the blockbuster “Aquaman.”  

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