Johnny Depp and Your Day in Court

Let’s talk about ‘your day in court.’ Every lawyer hears this phrase a few times a week from new clients. There’s a perception out here in the general population – no doubt fueled by a hundred TV shows – that one is vindicated when they win in court.

There’s a reason for that – reaching an amicable settlement and quietly moving on with your life is hardly the stuff of good drama. A TV show focused on 90% of our cases would put the audience to sleep within minutes.

That’s a good thing, because actually going to court is expensive, nerve-racking for all involved, and stressful in a hundred different ways. And, there are many – many – variables completely out of the control of the parties that can influence a decision.

Add to that this simple fact: court cases are public; they are tremendously effective only in airing ‘your business’ to the world.

Case in point – Johnny Depp. Depp was involved in a divorce in 2015 that started nastily with some publicity but quickly and quietly went the mediation route and was settled with little fanfare. Done the way we like to see divorces wrapped up.

Earlier this year, however, Depp sued several London tabloids for their initial coverage of his divorce. Depp’s ex, Amber Heard, had initiated the divorce when she accused Depp of assaulting her. The papers reported that Depp was a “wife beater.”

Understand that the world had moved on from the Depp-Heard divorce as just a few more important things popped up between 2016 and 2020. No one really remembered anything and Depp and Heard were both acting again.

But Depp wanted his ‘day in court.’ The defamation trial earned bigger headlines than the divorce – by a lot. The tabloids he was suing vastly increased their viewerships covering the trial. Every problem the former couple had from the time they met on the set of The Rum Diaries was discussed in open court and, of course, in the media. Worse – far worse – allegations of Depp’s behavior came out.

The verdict was announced last week. Depp lost. He was, in effect, found to be a “wife beater.” He was promptly fired from the movie he was working on.

There’s a lesson there for all of us.

Look, there are times when court cannot be avoided. A soon to be ex can grow so antagonistic, so unreasonable – passively and/or aggressively – that having the court decide matters is inevitable. We are more than equipped for that, we help our clients prepare to get through it.

But – we can’t stress this enough – that should always remain the last option.

Working things out not only feels good and sets a solid base for the future in so many ways, it’s also private.