It’s Not Protected Speech if it’s False Says Celebrity Lawyer
[Source: ABC News]
Celebrity lawyer Christopher C. Melcher, who is ranked as a best family law attorney in CA, explains ‘it is not protected speech if it is false’ on ABC News.
The jury deliberations in the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial continues. It was a long six weeks for the seven jurors who listened to accusations of domestic abuse by each of the Hollywood actors. Joining us now, as he has in the past, is top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher. So what would you say are the bottom line things that the jury has to make a decision on?
“Well, the jury’s been asked a series of questions on this thing called a verdict form. So every statement that Johnny claims was made false about Amber, they have to go through and answer whether this was false and defamatory and malice and whether it caused damages,” explains Chris Melcher, international family law attorney. “Amber has made a cross complaint against him, saying that statements that his attorney made about her were also false. So there’s a series of questions there. It’s a big form to fill out, very complex. So they’re working their way through this right now.”
And the jurors did submit a question to the judge today about this headline in the Washington Post of Heard’s op-ed, wondering if they should focus on just the headline or the entire article. What do you make of the question that they asked?
“Well, it’s a good question,” explains Chris Melcher. “It shows that they’re being careful, because the way that these forms are constructed may have been unclear whether they were being asked that just that title was false or whether they actually had to look at the entire content of the statement. So Johnny’s just focusing on elements of that op-ed piece, including the title that he says is defamatory about him. And the judge responded to the jury that it’s just these particular elements that they need to focus on and not other parts of her op-ed piece.”
Regardless of the verdict, how do you think that this trial could potentially impact people who take to media platforms to write op-eds?
“Well, we have a right in the United States to give our commentary, especially about public figures. But we also have to be careful about what we say. And when we’re making allegations like this, which are horrific, it’s not protected speech when it’s false. And that’s what Johnny’s coming out and saying, is that she can have all the opinions that she wants about him, but these were false statements, accusations of some very serious conduct that he believes is defamatory. So he has the right to do that,” explains celebrity divorce lawyer Chris Melcher of top family law firm Walzer Melcher LLP.
“And I think it’s fair warning to anyone that if you’re going to make allegations, you need to have evidence to back it up,” says Melcher.
Do you think that they each still have futures in Hollywood after this?
“Well, Johnny Depp is the most talked about celebrity on the planet right now, and it’s all positive sentiment,” says Chris Melcher. So he’s fine no matter how this comes out. Amber Heard, though, there’s so much negative sentiment about her, that she’s going to have to find a way to go forward and recover from this, so this trial doesn’t define her. And it’s not clear how she does that, but she’ll definitely need to work on that so she can get her career back, too.