Little more than four months before Johnny Depp is scheduled to go to trial against his former business managers in a more than $25 million fraud battle, the Pirates of the Caribbean star has lost his major law firm.
Managing partner Mona Hanna of Irvine, CA-based Michelman & Robinson has taken over for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP as Depp’s lead lawyer on paper, with the sweeping personnel change coming as an August 15 trial start date looms for a pair of revealing suits involving The Management Group.
Depp is scheduled to give a sworn deposition in early May; the lawyer change could be partly a roll-of-the-dice move to see that date pushed back.
The news that Matthew Kanny, litigator John Gatti, Benjamin Chew and a team of attorneys at the high-powered Manatt were out in came in documents (read here) filed in Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this week. The lead Manatt attorney on the case, Chew, is in the process of leaving the firm too, I hear.
Additionally, Washington DC-based lawyer Adam Waldman also seems to be off Team Johnny, at least on paper. The most vigorous public defender of Depp’s against claims of outlandish financial excess and bad decisions since the legal dustup with TMG hit the courts in January 2017, Waldman and the Endeavor Law Firm are currently listed on the proof of service of the April 4 filing as “former attorneys for plaintiff and cross-defendant.” However, I hear there was an error on the paperwork and Waldman will continue on in his role, with a correction coming soon.
The substitution filing also comes just more than two weeks after Waldman and the Manatt team hit back against TMG’s “action for judicial foreclosure” filing of last November on five Los Angeles properties Depp owns, an attempt to recoup a $5 million loan the company made to the actor years ago. Now connected to the initial case and also set for trial this summer, the March 20 paperwork (read it here) denied “generally and specifically, each and every allegation contained in the Complaint and each and every cause of action alleged against Mr. Depp.”
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP did not respond to request for comment on its exit as Depp’s reps in the TMG matter.
Waldman, meanwhile, remains on Depp’s team in the actor’s $30 million lawsuit against his old attorney Jacob Bloom and his Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman Schenkman & Goodman LLP, accusing the firm of helping TMG lead Deppdown the financial garden path. The Hollywood legal heavyweights swung back against The Murder On The Orient Express star’s big-bucks October 2017 action with a trial-seeking counter-claim in December.
The suit against Bloom and the ongoing brawl with TMG has left few stones unturned regarding how Depp rolls financially and how he ended up near skint on paper.
When this all started early last year, TMG deftly filed a cross-complaint that sought more than $560,000 in allegedly owed commissions, asking to halt the actor’s $25 million fraud suit and put Depp’s bottom line under public scrutiny. Calling the actor’s suit “absurd and false,” that filing was the first of many now to unveil detail after detail of Oscar nominee Depp’s extravagant expenses of homes, cars, guitars, family on the payroll, shooting the ashes of pal Hunter S. Thompson out of a cannon in 2005, and at least $2 million a month for day-to-day costs, among other revelations. Things has only become even more fractured between the parties in the nearly year and a half since with amended complaints, the foreclosure move, and even so-called whistleblower testimony from an ex-employee of TMG.
Last summer, L.A. Superior Court Judge Teresa Beaudet ruled Depp’s personal spending habits were not pertinent to the core of TMG’s case. However, the judge said she would let the declaratory relief claim be restated by the company’s lawyers – which they did in a July 20, 2017 filing. In filings of his own, Depp has denied such a state of sad financial affairs is his doing and in a spring 2017 interview said that TMG “clearly let me down.”
Amidst all this, The Management Group continues to be repped by Michael Kump and Suaan Macisaac of Santa Monica’s Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.