Elaine Bredehoft is stepping down after the wild six-week trial as Heard picked David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown to lead the appeals team. The pair successfully defended the New York Times against Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit earlier this year. Ben Rottenborn will continue to represent Heard as co-counsel.
"When it comes to protecting the fundamental right of Freedom of Speech, we look at the jury’s decision — to paraphrase a famous quote — not 'as the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning,'" a spokesperson for Heard tells Yahoo Entertainment. "A different court warrants different representation, particularly as so much new evidence is now coming to light."
On June 1, a Virginia jury found Heard defamed Depp in her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed when she wrote about surviving domestic abuse and sexual violence, although she never named the actor.
"We welcome the opportunity to represent Ms. Heard in this appeal as it is a case with important First Amendment implications for every American," Axelrod and Brown note in a joint statement. "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."
It's not uncommon for a person to change counsel during the appeals process.
"This is the perfect time to pass the baton," adds Bredehoft. "I have pledged to Amber and her appellate team my complete cooperation and assistance as they move forward on a path towards success."
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Although the verdict is considered a big win for Depp, the jury sided with Heard on one of her three counterclaims of defamation. The actress was awarded $2 million in damages in comparison to Depp's $10.35 million. The Pirates of the Caribbean star launched his own appeal, but is sticking with his same legal team.
Depp's exoneration in the court of public opinion might help launch his Hollywood comeback.
Earlier on Monday, it was announced the actor is set to direct his first film in 25 years. The picture, titled Modigliani, is about Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, and will be co-produced alongside Al Pacino and Barry Navidi.
"The saga of Mr. Modigliani's life is one that I’m incredibly honored, and truly humbled, to bring to the screen," Depp told The Hollywood Reporter. It will be produced for IN.2, the European arm of his production company Infinitum Nihil. "It was a life of great hardship, but eventual triumph — a universally human story all viewers can identify with."
It's the second European project for Depp as he recently started shooting Jeanne du Barry. The movie is the actor's first feature film in three years. Depp is playing King Louis XV, which is being directed by French filmmaker Maïwenn.