Some have asked me why I pay so much attention to the Depp/Heard case. It would be easy to say because both actors have played pivotal and beloved characters in $billion+ genre film franchises and this site is devoted to such movies. I could also say that women near and dear to me have experienced what allegedly Heard has. I’ve seen them exhibit the same behavior, the constant cycle of abuse and forgiveness and the excuse-making, until they were lucky enough to escape with their life intact.
But what really made me sit up and notice this case was Johnny Depp filing a defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard for an editorial about domestic abuse. Honestly, their high-profile divorce was barely a blip on my radar back in 2016 but when I heard about Mr. Depp’s lawsuit, I (and others) immediately recognized the chilling effects a case such as Depp’s can have on the press.
Apparently, so has the Virginia Press Association. According to legal documents obtained by The Blast, The VPA has filed a request to be heard in the case via amici curiae.
According to the VPA, it has a “strong interest in the outcome of this case, which involves a claim of defamation by implication arising from an op-ed published by The Washington Post, a member of the VPA.”
“Even though Johnny and Amber have no significant ties to the Commonwealth of Virginia,” it continues, “The VPA and its media members, on the other hand, reside and work within the Commonwealth, and the outcome of this defamation by implication case could have a significant effect on those journalists and their work within the Commonwealth.”
The VPA contends filing an amicus curiae brief is necessary to “discuss the elevated chilling risks for allowing public figure plaintiffs like Mr. Depp to state a claim for defamation.”
In a statement, Johnny Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman, who formerly worked for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, calls the growing number of participants in this case, “powerful co-conspirators.” Deripaska is known to have been in close contact with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during the 2016 presidential election. Manafort is currently serving a federal prison sentence.
The VPA is asking the court to allow lawyers for the organization to be heard before a hearing on November 8, 2019.
Roberta Kaplan, Founding Partner, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, and counsel for Ms Heard, said: “Because Mr. Depp has brought an incoherent and legally baseless lawsuit against her in Virginia, Ms. Heard has had no choice but to defend herself. We welcome the action of the Virginia Press Association, an independent group of more than 200 newspapers, for seeking to weigh in about the important First Amendment principles at stake in this case. This is what happened—Ms. Heard wrote an op ed about the horrible backlash that many women face when they speak the truth about powerful men. By dragging her through this meritless lawsuit, Mr. Depp only continues to prove her point.”