Amber Heard has hired new lawyers as she appeals the $10million verdict awarded to Johnny Depp in their defamation battle – a decision experts say could benefit the ‘Aquaman’ actress.
Heard, 36, hired David Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of national law firm Ballard Spahr, who successfully represented The New York Times against former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit.
They will help Heard as she fights to overturn the largely unfavorable verdict against her by a jury following the ex-couple’s explosive trial in Fairfax, Virginia.
Virginia attorney Elaine Bredehoft – who replaced Heard at trial – will leave the team, according to a spokesperson for the actress.
“A different court warrants a different representation, especially since so much new evidence is now coming to light,” the rep said.
Texas civil attorney Katherine Lizardo – who has been following the lawsuit closely – said she expected the change to the legal team and noted it would benefit Heard.
“It’s a good move for her because it would give her a different legal perspective than the trial attorney,” Lizardo told the Post.
Appellate lawyers are a “different breed” of attorneys who are experts in the area of ”nuanced and specialized” law, Lizardo explained.
“If Amber Heard didn’t hire a lawyer who knew the appeals system, she would lose,” she said.
Lizardo also noted that it takes a certain demeanor to argue a case on appeal — which, in Virginia, only allows each side to speak for 15 minutes before a three-judge panel.
“Elaine Bredehoft’s style on trial and her time management issues wouldn’t work on appeal,” Lizardo said. “We’ve seen when Elaine drools or discusses unrelated matters and it would be very damaging if she pleads the same way before the appeal court judges.”
New York civil attorney William Newman told the Post that Axelrod and Brown’s maneuvering in the Palin v. Times case signals the type of strategy the legal team will use in Heard’s appeal.
Lawyers had focused on trying to prove that statements made about the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee in a Times article were not made with genuine malice – which is a higher legal standard. applied to cases involving public figures.
“Choosing a lawyer who made this argument in the Sarah Palin case – that tells me that [actual malice] is going to be something they’re probably going to focus on in this call,” Newman said.
Still, Newman said it was smart that Heard still clings to one of his Virginia lawyers from the trial, Benjamin Rottenborn.
“I think it’s a good choice,” Newman said of hiring Axelrod and Brown. “Ballard Spahr is a very reputable company. She is in good hands.
“It’s always great to have local Virginia attorneys working there as well,” Newman added.
Former California Court of Appeals judge and current criminal defense attorney Halim Dhanidina told The Post that hiring new attorneys for an appeal is routine and has many benefits, including acquiring the expertise of an appellate lawyer and a fresh look at the case.
A litigator “is almost too close to the stakes”. said Dhanidina. “Whereas an appeals specialist might be able to look at what happened in the lower court case and maybe have a different perspective or a different strategy on how they might be successful on appeal.”
“What a lawyer might want to do at the appeal level is maybe guess some of the strategies or actions taken by the trial attorney and the attorney who handled the trial obviously wouldn’t able to be critical or guess their own. actions,” noted the former judge.
The 59-year-old ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ actor won a $10.35million verdict in June with a jury backing his claims that Heard defamed him in a Washington op-ed 2018 post about being a victim of domestic violence.
While she didn’t specifically name Depp in the essay, her side argued at trial that he was clearly referring to her allegations that he abused her during their 2016 divorce.
The jury awarded Heard $2 million in her counterclaims that Depp defamed her when her attorney Adam Waldman called it a hoax.
Bredehoft did not return a request for comment on Monday.
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