What Your Attorney Says Can Come Back to Haunt You
Johnny Depp is appealing a verdict of defamation that attributes the words of his attorney to him with civil liability. Essentially, Johnny Depp is being held responsible for what his lawyer says. The jury found that he was civilly responsible for the accusations made in the press by his attorney and ordered him to pay Amber Heard $2 million dollars in damages.
This begs the question: where does the lawyer’s role in representation end and personal opinion begin? Is a lawyer always speaking for the client or is the client always on the hook for what an attorney says while in their employ?
The court in this case may dodge that question entirely by finding that there was no actual malice in the statement and so did not rise to the legal definition of defamation. But they may address head on the question of liability for statements in the press.
Given the larger number of publicized trials in both criminal and civil law, this is a valid concern for all defendants seeking legal representation. It is necessary to evaluate the ability of the attorney to act on your behalf and always consider what could make you vulnerable. A careless dropped statement or disclosure could have damaging effects on the future of your case. Especially in criminal law, where the defendant is strongly advised to not speak to any authorities in order to avoid any self incrimination, this sense of discretion is crucial. A wise attorney knows to take their own advice, and keep their mouth shut.