The court overseeing the divorced couple’s legal battle has ruled that Amber Heard may argue to a jury that the infamous op-ed at the center of Johnny Depp’s libel suit against her was written out of concern for the public interest.

Source: Aquaman (2018), Warner Bros. Entertainment

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According to The Guardian, on March 24th, Depp’s lawyers approached the Fairfax County Circuit Court of Virginia seeking an order to prevent Heard from invoking the state’s Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) protections – ratified to safeguard individuals from being silenced on matters of public interest by the use of unnecessarily expensive lawsuits – in her defense.

Source: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), Warner Bros. Pictures

Headlined “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”, Heard’s 2018 op-ed asserted that “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” — an assertion which Depp has claimed paints an untrue picture of himself as the implied abuser.

Source: Drive Angry (2011), Millenium Media

As reported by the British news outlet, Depp’s legal team maintained that Anti-SLAPP laws have no bearing on private disagreements, to which Heard’s lawyers countered that since the Aquaman star’s op-ed for The Washington Post did not mention her ex-husband by name, its discussion of domestic violence warranted these protections.

Ultimately, Judge Penney Azcarate ruled in favor of Heard, granting her the right to argue before a jury that the op-ed was written about the general concept of domestic violence rather than Depp specifically.

Source: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), Warner Bros. Pictures

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Depp himself previously attempted to invoke the same Anti-SLAPP laws in an attempt to have various statements made by he and his lawyers regarding whether or not Heard’s claims were part of an elaborate “hoax” stricken from the court record.

However, Fairfax County Judge Bruce White, denied Depp’s request on the basis that the statements in question “imply that Ms. Heard lied and perjured herself when she appeared before a court in 2016 to obtain a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp.”

Source: Drive Angry (2011), Millenium Media

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“In light of the #MeToo Movement and today’s social climate,” he argued, “falsely claiming abuse would surely ‘injure [Ms. Heard’s] reputation in the common estimation of mankind. Therefore, this Court finds that the statements contain the requisite ‘sting’ for an actionable defamation claim.’”

“Although Mr. Depp’s statements (and those of his attorney) can be understood as their opinion of what occurred, these statements nevertheless imply that Mr. Depp did not abuse Ms. Heard,” Judge White continued. “These statements must survive demurrer because whether Mr. Depp abused Ms. Heard is a fact that is capable of being proven true or false.”

Source: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally filed in 2019 and seeking $50 Million in damages, Depp’s Virginia-based defamation lawsuit against Heard claims the actress “purported to write from the perspective of a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’ and claimed that she ‘felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak’ when she ‘spoke up against sexual violence.”

The lawsuit adds, “The op-ed depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her.”

Source: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), Entertainment

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Previously, the Fairfax County court ruled that, as part of the lawsuit’s discovery process, Heard must allow her ex-husband access to her phone records – records Depp claims will prove the photographs of the injuries she claimed to have sustained at his hand during their now-infamous penthouse altercation were completely “phony.”

Source: Aquaman (2018), Warner Bros. Entertainment

At current, Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard is set to head to trial on April 11th, 2022.

What do you make of this latest ruling in Depp and Heard’s ongoing legal battle? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!

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