ACLU seeking $86,000 from Johnny Depp for legal fees following court subpoenas

A verdict from Johnny Depp’s libel trial against Amber Heard may have been read, but the aftermath is far from over. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nonprofit civil rights organization which made headlines for its role in the trial, is seeking $86,000 in legal fees from Depp after preparing and providing documents that his legal team had subpoenaed for use in the case. 

Court documents state that the majority of the requested funds would go to pay legal fees after three ACLU witnesses testified following deposition subpoenas from Depp’s legal team. 

A summary of expenses explains that Senior Associate Michael Schwartz worked 38.7 hours at a rate of $799.50 an hour for a total of $30,940.65.

A junior associate worked 78.6 hours at a rate of $500.20 an hour for a total of $39,315.72, a litigation support manager worked 17.1 hours at a rate of $336.20 an hour for a total of $5,749.02 , and a litigation support analyst worked 31 hours at a rate of $295.20 an hour for a total of $9,151.20, court documents show. 

"The ACLU is entitled, under New York law, to seek reimbursement for the reasonable cost associated with complying with Mr. Depp's subpoenas. We are seeking repayment for significantly less than it cost the ACLU to produce the thousands of pages of documents which Mr. Depp’s attorneys requested," the ACLU wrote in an email to FOX TV Stations. 

Last week, a jury sided with Depp in his lawsuit against ex-wife Heard, awarding the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor more than $10 million and vindicating his allegations that Heard lied about Depp abusing her before and during their brief marriage.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

Most of the article discusses public policy as it relates to domestic violence, and Heard's lawyers say she has a First Amendment right to weigh in.

It was the ACLU that drafted the article under Heard’s name, reflecting her role as an ACLU ambassador on gender violence issues.

Terence Dougherty, general counsel for the ACLU, testified that numerous ACLU lawyers reviewed the article at various stages, and asked Heard’s lawyers to review the piece as well to ensure it did not run afoul of a non-disclosure agreement she had with Depp in connection with the couple’s 2016 divorce.

During those discussions, Heard sent back an edited version approved by her lawyers that "specifically neutered much of the copy regarding her marriage," according to an email from Jessica Weitz, an ACLU employee who coordinated with Heard.

In the first passage, Heard writes that "two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath." Depp’s lawyers call it a clear reference to Depp, given that Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016 — two years before she wrote the article.

In a second passage, she states, "I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse."

The jury found in Depp’s favor on all three of his claims relating to specific statements in the 2018 piece.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.