ACLU sues Johnny Depp for legal expenses in Amber Heard case

AP Photo/Craig Hudson

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is demanding Johnny Depp paid the legal expenses it incurred during Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard. Radar Online reports that court documents it obtained show that the ACLU filed a motion seeking reimbursement as part of the 2021 lawsuit Depp filed against the ACLU. Depp sued the ACLU for records related to Heard.


The newly filed motion asks for $86,253.26 for production expenses from Depp.

They argue the star should reimburse them for the “considerable expense spent responding to onerous subpoenas served by Mr. Depp from an underlying action in which neither the ACLU nor any of its employees are parties.”

The organization said they had to review 7,500 documents and eventually turned over 2,000 documents to comply with a subpoena.

Further, “the ACLU produced three witnesses—including its Executive Director—for over sixteen hours of depositions. Along the way, Mr. Depp rejected numerous compromises to minimize the burden and expense on the ACLU and its employees.”

The ACLU said it has given Depp all the documents he sought. Their lawyer argued “while they cannot get back the significant time they spent responding to Mr. Depp’s subpoenas and the disruption to their work,” they are “entitled” to reimbursements.

The odd thing is that the ACLU blames Depp for dragging the organization into the trial. The ACLU at first refused to voluntarily turn over documents pertaining to the case. Depp asked a judge to force the ACLU to respond to his request for the documents that related to Heard’s pledge of $7M from her divorce settlement from Depp to two charities. Those were the ACLU and a children’s hospital. Amber never paid the pledge, though, and the ALCU officials ended up testifying in the trial. Now they want reimbursement for time taken to prepare and submit the documents.

Ironically, Depp was one who helped Heard out when she decided to not honor her pledges, at least not yet, due to the lawsuit Depp filed against her.


At the time, she said all the money would be donated by 2018. While on the stand in the ongoing trial in Virginia, a representative for the ACLU said that Heard only paid $1.3 million of the promised $3.5 million.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s general counsel, Terence Dougherty, testified that $100,000 of the $1.3 million slice came directly from her ex-husband Depp. The Guardian reports that, based on an email from Elon Musk, the court was told that $500,000 came from a donor-advised fund connected to Musk yet registered as a donation from Heard.

While on the stand, Amber Heard admitted she had yet to fully make the payments but said she had every intention of fulfilling her pledge. The actress claimed her plan had been delayed because Depp kept dragging her back to court and her legal bills were expensive.

The ACLU shouldn’t have been surprised to be called to testify in the trial, or to turn over documents about the donation. It was already involved from the beginning of the case since ACLU staff helped Amber Heard write the op-ed published in the Washington Post in 2018. That op-ed started this whole legal battle in the first place.


The ACLU admits it helped with the op-ed on its website. It also states that Amber Heard pledged the donation in 2016 and in 2018 the ACLU asked her to become an ambassador for the organization. She was asked to work with them on the op-ed to bring attention to sexual assault and domestic violence issues. She agreed to do so. Heard worked as an advocate for gender justice issues for the ACLU. The ACLU denies it offered the ambassadorship to Heard in exchange for her donation.

Remember when the ACLU was just an organization that fought in free speech battles and First Amendment rights for anyone and everyone? Now its reputation takes hits for its move to politicize issues. Why were they involved in the op-ed in the first place? There’s no indication that the piece was Heard’s idea. It was the ACLU’s idea to promote gender justice issues during the Trump administration in 2018. At least that is what I get from all this.

I didn’t follow the Depp trial until the last couple of weeks. At first it just seemed like a case of two people who deserved each other. The testimony was dark and violent. By all accounts the marriage was a nightmare. I started following it, though, when it became clear that Depp sued Heard for defamation in order to clear his name. Not so long ago, the #MeToo movement would have pronounced Depp guilty and his career would have been over. As it is, once the op-ed came out, he lost work. He’s a very wealthy man because of his career success but that’s not the point. The point is that he wanted his name back and he didn’t want his children to suffer.


As you know, Depp came out on top in this mess. The jury didn’t believe Heard because it was proven over and over again that she lied. She looks to be an angry woman who is bitter that her ex-husband is a bigger star than she’ll ever be. She complains about his power and influence yet those attributes likely drew her to him in the first place. They met on a movie set, after all.

Jonathan Turley has an interesting thread on Twitter that points out the the ACLU was a loser in this case, too.

Amber Heard wanted to exploit the #MeToo movement to her advantage and ended up imploding over that exploitation.

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