Johnny Depp loses latest court ruling to Amber Heard ahead of the pair's $100 million libel suit

Johnny Depp in 2021.
Johnny Depp in 2021.Francois G. Durand/Getty Images
  • Johnny Depp is suing Amber Heard for defamation after her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence.

  • On Thursday, a judge ruled that Heard can use a public interest defense in the lawsuit.

  • Heard countersued Depp for $100 million. The trial is set for April 11 in Virginia.

Amber Heard can argue to a jury that she should be protected from Johnny Depp's $50 million libel lawsuit because her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence deals with a matter of public interest, a judge ruled Thursday.

Depp filed a defamation suit against his former wife in response to an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post that detailed her experience with domestic violence. The article was titled "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." Depp's name isn't mentioned, but the article was widely interpreted as being about him.

In January of 2021, Heard countersued Depp for $100 million after her motion to move the case to California was denied. The case is set to take place on April 11.

At a Virginia courthouse on Thursday, Depp's lawyers sought a ruling that would block Heard from arguing that she was speaking about matters of public interest in the article meaning she would be protected from any lawsuit. During the hearing, Depp's lawyer argued that the law that facilitates this defense — the strategic lawsuit against the public participation convention (otherwise known as anti-SLAPP) — is not designed to be used within private disputes, according to The Guardian.

The judge ruled against Depp, meaning Heard can use the public interest argument in her defense.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.Associated Press/Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for The Art of Elysium

Depp and Heard's defamation suit is set to take place at Fairfax County courthouse in Virginia. In the 2018 op-ed at the center of the case, Heard wrote that she "became a public figure representing domestic abuse" and "felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out."

In response, Depp's lawyer Adam Waldman said the article was an "abuse of the #MeToo movement" and claimed Heard "masquerades as a victim rather than the abuser."

Depp had strenuously denied all claims that he was violent toward Heard. In November 2020, Depp lost a libel case in the UK against the publisher of the British tabloid The Sun over a 2018 headline that called him a "wife-beater." Amber Heard had accused him of physical abuse in 2016, and the two settled outside of court that year.

Last week, Insider's Zahra Tayeb reported that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and actor James Franco are among the high-profile celebrities due to testify in Heard and Depp's defamation case. Musk and Franco were dragged into the legal dispute after Depp accused Heard of having "two extra-marital affairs" with them while she was still with him, Insider previously reported.

Deadline reported that both Musk and James Franco will deliver their testimonies virtually.

Read the original article on Insider