Who were Johnny Depp’s lawyers in his defamation trial against Amber Heard?

The extraordinary legal battle between former husband and wife Johnny Depp and Amber Heard inadvertently became the social media event of 2022. With it came an unexpected spotlight on a group likely unused to the spotlight: Mr Depp’s ferocious legal team.

More than a year on, the trial is being put back on display through Netflix’s new series Depp v Heard. The series promises to show “both testimonies side-by-side for the first time” - despite the ordeal having already received more coverage than perhaps any trial in modern history.

For those who need a refresher, Mr Depp, 58 at the time, had sued his ex-wife Ms Heard, then 35, for $50m over an op-ed she had written for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she discussed domestic abuse and experiencing “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.

Although she had not named Mr Depp – to whom she was married between 2015 and 2017 – his lawyers argued that readers of the newspaper were likely to assume he was the person responsible for the ordeal she alluded to and claimed that the article had caused their client to lose out on lucrative movie roles as a result.

Ms Heard countersued her estranged former husband – whom she met when they starred together as lovers in The Rum Diary in 2011 – for $100m, arguing that it was she who has been defamed by one of his attorneys, who had argued that her claims to victimhood were a “hoax”.

The case duly went to trial and for seven weeks, commencing 11 April 2022, proceedings unfolded at the Fairfax County courthouse in Virginia with the entire world watching on via livestream.

Viewers were soon picking over every barbed interaction or seemingly-significant glance between the two Hollywood stars and their respective legal teams on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, obsessing over the minutiae of the case in intricate detail, hunting out hot takes and fiercely advocating for their chosen side.

On 1 June 2022, the jury returned a verdict largely in favour of Mr Depp and ordered that Ms Heard must pay him $10m in compensatory damages and $5m in punitive damages, also siding with Ms Heard on one point from her counterclaim, requiring Mr Depp to pay her $2m.

Both sides appealed against their respective verdicts before finally agreeing a settlement in December.

As Depp v Heard invites us to return to those feverish days, here is a look back at the members of Mr Depp’s legal team who became unlikely social media stars as a result of their parts in a real-life courtroom drama.

Camille Vasquez

Unquestionably the star of the show, Mr Depp’s counsel was the 37-year-old attorney Camille Vasquez of Brown Rudnick, a prestigious firm based in Irvine, California.

A graduate of the University of Southern California and Southwestern Law School, Ms Vasquez began in commercial litigation before specialising in plaintiff-side defamation suits and contract suits, with her firm citing her experience in “reputation management and crisis communications issues”.

Those observing the case online and rooting for Mr Depp enjoyed Ms Vasquez’s rapid-fire objections to one particular summary made by Ms Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft that were so fast they left the latter spluttering in exasperation: “I’m trying… I’m trying.”

Camille Vasquez with Johnny Depp (Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty)
Camille Vasquez with Johnny Depp (Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty)

This was one of many moments that went viral, inspiring several fan accounts devoted to her as well as endless memes likening Ms Vasquez to the Marvel heroes Thor and She-Hulk and even rumours that she was dating her client, a suggestion she politely laughed off when asked about it directly on the courthouse steps by a TMZ reporter.

An affectionate embrace between Mr Depp and Ms Vasquez on 17 May only added fuel to that particular fire, but Judi James, a rather more cynical body language expert, told The Daily Mail the gesture had more to do with strategy: “For Depp’s loyal fans these dramatic rituals will seem like validation… ‘If this smart, beautiful woman thinks he is OK then maybe he is’ will be the implied message.”

Interviewed after the furore had died down, Ms Vasquez was quick to praise the youthful team around her for their success but also told CBS host Gayle King: “When I look at myself in the mirror, I see an advocate. I was born to do this. I really feel that way.”

She has since been hired by NBC News as a legal analyst.

Benjamin Chew

The other most prominent face on Mr Depp’s side was DC-based Ben Chew, a graduate of Princeton and the University of Virginia School of Law who was noted for is passion for candy, snacking on gummy bears and M&Ms throughout proceedings to keep his energy levels up.

Like Ms Vasquez, Mr Chew soon found his statements going viral and fan accounts springing up on TikTok devoted to him, with viewers enjoying the “bromance” they imagined him to be having with his famous client, as well as his gamely posing for pictures with two alpacas, Teddy and Truffle, outside the courthouse alongside his colleague.

Speaking to Insider, Kristen Johnson, an attorney who worked with Mr Chew for nine years at his previous firm, Squire Patton Boggs, said that beneath his easy-going demeanour lies a far steelier reality.

“The thing that throws people off about him is that he looks happy, but he’s actually a cutthroat lawyer,” she said.

Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez speak outside court (Craig Hudson/AP)
Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez speak outside court (Craig Hudson/AP)

“He’s not intimidated by anyone, so it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. It would probably give him a boost to have a formidable opponent.”

Prior to his most recent brush with fame, Mr Chew has previously represented Cher and two Olympic gold medallists as well as the governments of Guatemala, Ecuador and Honduras and argued cases before both the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

He is said to love suits, cars and show tunes and was seen in the earlier Discovery+ documentary, Johnny vs Amber: The US Trial, which aired last September, conceding graciously that Ms Heard “came across as credible” in her deposition.

“Halfway through the case we were worried about Amber, because during the deposition there were times, there were moments, when she came across as credible,” he said.

“We felt that somebody needed to explain to the jury why someone as presentable as Amber Heard would make up these horrific stories of abuse.”

Other key members making up Mr Depp’s legal team were Rebecca MacDowell Lecaroz, Stephanie Calnan, Andrew Crawford, Yarelyn Mena, Jessica Meyers and Sam Moniz.