Legal experts applaud Amber Heard’s choice of new lawyers for Johnny Depp verdict appeal

Legal experts applaud Amber Heard's choice of new lawyers for Johnny Depp verdict appeal

Amber Heard has hired new lawyers as she appeals the $10 million verdict awarded to Johnny Depp in their defamation battle — a move experts said could be advantageous for the “Aquaman” actress.

Heard, 36, has brought on David Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown, of national law firm Ballard Spahr, who successfully represented the New York Times against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit.

They’ll help Heard as she fights to overturn the largely unfavorable verdict against her handed down by a jury following the ex-couple’s bombshell trial in Fairfax, Virginia.

Virginia lawyer Elaine Bredehoft — who repped Heard at trial — will be leaving the team, according to a spokesperson for the actress.

Actress Amber Heard departs the Fairfax County Courthouse on June 1, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Amber Heard has hired new lawyers as she appeals the $10 million verdict awarded to Johnny Depp in their defamation battle.
Rod Lamkey/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

“A different court warrants different representation, particularly as so much new evidence is now coming to light,” the rep said.

Texas civil lawyer Katherine Lizardo — who followed the trial closely — said she expected the change in the legal team and noted it would benefit Heard.

“This is a good move for her because it would give her a different point of view legally from trial counsel,” Lizardo told The Post.

Appeal lawyers are a “different breed” of attorneys who are experts in the “nuanced and specialty” field of law, Lizardo explained.

Johnny Depp waves to his fans as he arrives outside court during the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard civil trial at Fairfax County Circuit Court.
The Virginia jury found that Heard defamed Depp in her essay alleging domestic abuse.
Cliff Owen/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

“If Amber Heard did not hire an attorney that was familiar with the appellate system then she would lose,” she said.

Lizardo also noted that it takes a certain demeanor to argue an appellate case — which in Virginia only allows for each side to speak for 15 minutes before a three-judge panel.

“Elaine Bredehoft’s style at trial and her time management issues wouldn’t work for appeal,” Lizardo said. “We saw when Elaine would ramble on or argue unrelated matters and that would be very detrimental if she argued similarly in front of the court of appeal judges.”

New York civil lawyer William Newman told The Post that Axelrod and Brown’s maneuvers in Palin’s case against the Times signal the type of strategy the legal team will use in Heard’s appeal.

The lawyers had focused on trying to prove that statements made about the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee in a Times piece weren’t made with actual malice — which is a higher legal standard applied to cases involving public figures.

“By selecting a lawyer that famously made that argument in the Sarah Palin case — that tells me that [actual malice] is going to be something that they are going to likely focus on in this appeal,” Newman said.

Still, Newman said it’s smart that Heard is still hanging onto one of her Virginia lawyers from trial, Benjamin Rottenborn.

“I think it’s a good choice,” Newman said of hiring Axelrod and Brown. “Ballard Spahr is a very well regarded firm. She is in good hands.”

“It’s still very good to have local Virginia lawyers working on it too,” Newman added.

US actress Amber Heard waits before the jury announced a split verdict in favor of both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard on their claim and counter-claim in the Depp v. Heard civil defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax.
Heard has brought on David Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown, of national law firm Ballard Spahr.

Former California appeals court judge and current criminal defense attorney Halim Dhanidina told The Post that hiring new lawyers for an appeal is routine and has many upsides, including gaining the expertise of an appellate lawyer and getting a fresh set of eyes on the case.

A trial lawyer “is almost too close to the issues.” Dhanidina said. “Whereas an appellate specialist might be able to look at what happened in the lower court record and have perhaps a different perspective or a different strategy of how they might be successful on appeal.”

“What an attorney might want to do at the appellate level is perhaps second guess some of the strategies or actions taken by the trial attorney and the attorney who handled the trial would obviously not be in a position to be critical or to second guess their own actions,” the former judge noted.

The 59-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor won a $10.35 million verdict in June with a jury siding with his claims that Heard defamed him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece on being a victim of domestic violence.

While she didn’t specifically name Depp in the essay, his side argued at trial that it clearly referred to her allegations that he abused her around their 2016 divorce.

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in her counterclaims that Depp defamed her when his lawyer Adam Waldman called her claims a hoax.

Bredehoft didn’t return a request for comment Monday.

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