Amber Heard's New Legal Team For Johnny Depp Appeal Secured Win Against Sarah Palin In Defamation Lawsuit

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Amber Heard, Johnny Depp, Sarah Palin Christopher Halloran / Matteo Chinellato / Shutterstock

Amber Heard has decided to replace much of her legal team ahead of her appeal in the verdict of Johnny Depp’s multimillion-dollar defamation suit against her.

The new legal face-off means Heard and Depp’s case could be back in front of a judge and a new jury early next year as both parties are seeking to appeal the damages they were ordered to pay back in June.

Who are Amber Heard’s new lawyers?

Deadline reports that Heard has hired attornies David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of Philadelphia’s Ballard Spahr to represent her in the case’s appeal.


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The duo comes in to replace Heard’s previous counsel, Elaine Bredehoft. Ben Rottenborn of Virginia-based Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, who served as co-counsel during the trial, will remain in that role.

Who is David L. Axelrod?

Ballard Spahr’s website describes him as “a first-chair trial lawyer who specializes in defending corporations and individuals in government-facing litigation involving the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, and in defending parties sued for defamation.”


Axelrod’s defamation clients are typically media clients.

Most recently, Axelrod is known for successfully representing The New York Times in a defamation suit brought against them by former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

His work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and in private practice has given him intimate knowledge of First Amendment intricacies which can be valuable to Heard’s case.

Who is Jay Ward Brown? 

Brown is a partner at Ballard Spahr who, according to their website, “has been representing news and entertainment companies for three decades.

“He has litigated defamation, privacy, copyright, subpoena, and access matters in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts around the country.”


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Those entertainment companies include Netflix, CBS, Apple, and more. He also defended former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer against defamation claims twice, winning both times.

Like Axelrod, Brown defended The New York Times. In his case, he represented the newspaper in a suit brought by a prominent cancer researcher at a major university who claimed to be defamed by a news report about problems in papers he authored or co-authored. 

Amber Heard’s new legal team is appealing the verdict in Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit.

A Virginia jury awarded Depp $10.4 million on June 1st after a six-week trial where his legal team laid out their argument that Heard defamed Depp in her 2018 ‘Washington Post’ op-ed where she referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”


Heard never mentioned her ex-husband by name in the article, but that didn’t change Depp’s stance that her insinuation caused significant damage to his acting career.

Depp was initially awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages but the punitive damage amount was reduced to $350,000 in accordance with state laws capping such awards.

The jury also awarded Heard $2 million in her countersuit claiming former Depp attorney Adam Waldman had defamed her.

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She initially sought $100 million in damages for being defamed by Depp’s legal team.


Heard’s legal team officially gave the court notice of her intention to appeal on July 21.

The grounds for appeal is that Heard and her team “believe the court made errors that prevented a just and fair verdict consistent with the First Amendment.”

Heard is now expected to put up an $8.3 million bond as required by Virginia law to conduct the challenge.

She has until September 4 to file the appeal with the bond presented to the court.

Depp’s legal team announced their intention to appeal Heard’s more minor win on July 22.


Amber Heard’s new lawyers say they are ‘confident’ about their appeal.

As appeal efforts ramp up, Heard’s new counsel is eager to get to work.

“We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American,” the two attorneys said in a statement following the announcement of their new positions.

“We’re confident the appellate court will apply the law properly without deference to popularity, reverse the judgment against Ms. Heard, and reaffirm the fundamental principles of Freedom of Speech.”

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Angela Andaloro is a writer who passionately explores all things entertainment, parenting, and true crime. Follow her on Twitter here.