Professor Christian Schertz represents many German stars in legal matters. From a distance he watches the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

Closing arguments are scheduled for May 27 in the courtroom in Fairfax, Virginia. The stakes are high for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. He sued her for $50 million in damages and she sued him for $100 million. But their legal dispute, which millions of people have been following for weeks, is about more. Through the live broadcast on television and the Internet, viewers can form their own opinion – and judge.

stern spoke to the renowned German lawyer Professor Christian Schertz from Berlin about the power of public opinion and how to deal with the public.

Prof. Schertz, what is your impression of the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard so far?

On a human level, it’s pretty disastrous. There is a couple who once clearly loved each other, and they are now speaking in great detail about their private and intimate relationship before the world public. With that, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard give up all protection. Voyeurism is spreading all over the world – even in my circle of acquaintances and colleagues there are people who watch it regularly. With this television broadcast, the lowest needs of man are satisfied. sensationalism. I understand why viewers watch it, but it’s hard to fathom what it means to those affected. I don’t look at it consciously. I am strongly committed to protecting privacy. Everyone has the right to be left alone with their private problems. The Americans even call it “the right to be let alone”.

What role does the public play for a lawyer in this process?

In my opinion, the public has little business there. In addition to suing each other for defamation and seeking damages, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are also accusing each other of violence. These are points that are negotiated in a civil trial and not in front of the world public. In such a process, the public would be excluded in Germany. In addition, television recordings of ongoing court hearings are also prohibited in Germany. In the US, on the other hand, they have a jury and so it is important for the lawyers to win over the media and the public – because that ultimately influences the decision. In Germany, professional judges decide on behalf of the people according to the factual and legal situation, there the people decide through lay judges. This is accompanied by a certain arbitrariness. It is often simply about sympathy and not so much about the law.

Which victory is more important: the decision of the jury or the view of the world public?

For Johnny Depp, getting the public on his side is more important than winning the process when it comes to future films or commercial partnerships. It may turn out that he wins in public but loses the case because certain evidence cannot be presented.

What would be your course of action in such a situation?

We recommend our clients not to speak at all if they are exposed to a public accusation. Rather, we are examining whether this allegation can then be reported at all. Reputation protection is the main objective. In the case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, I honestly couldn’t think of much advice left.

In addition to their legal teams, Depp and Heard also have PR teams. Does that also exist in Germany and if so, how does the cooperation work?

We often have this issue when we represent a public figure or a company. Especially in such a crisis situation, I think most of doing it from a single source, because every statement made in public also has legal relevance. I then act as a lawyer, but I also discuss the media and legal consequences of public statements about an allegation by the person concerned. In Germany it is often better not to comment at first. The media must be made to understand that they are not always allowed to report immediately. According to German law, the unilateral allegation of an assault is not enough to allow reports to be made; instead, a “minimum amount of evidence” is required. If the allegations become known, you have to consider how to react on a case-by-case basis. But the same applies here: less is more. It’s important to remember that these “Now I’m Talking” stories have never helped a celebrity. It just makes the story bigger. As a result, conflicts can arise with communications teams who are keen to speak publicly.

The reason for not speaking about allegations in public is to prevent stigmatization of the accused?

The presumption of innocence applies – but once the mere accusation is made, in our experience something always sticks. If the allegation later turns out to be false, it is very, very difficult for the person concerned to pick up where he was before.

Do you see a scenario where you would recommend your client to take a public position?

If the allegation has been made public and you can no longer get the story, it sometimes makes sense to speak out. But it opens a door that can no longer be closed. This has to be carefully considered.

What do you say to a client when allegations are made against him? The natural impulse is – especially when the allegations are false – to stand up for yourself and tell your point of view.

That’s the natural reflex, yes. As lawyers, we have to do something to counter this impulse and dissuade the client from expressing himself publicly, because in case of doubt he can gain nothing by doing so, and often only lose. This is often not easy.