The 12 cases of Christmas: cases that made headlines in 2022
In celebration of Christmas this week, we decided to share our 12 headline cases of the year. From Depp v Heard which dominated social media for 2 months to the more recent updates on the Britney’s conservatorship – here are our 12 cases of Christmas 2022:
1. Depp v Heard case
Unless you were living under a rock, it was impossible to miss the Depp v Heard trial from 11th April to 1st June 2022. With people queuing to sit in on the trial and everyone taking to social media, in particular TikTok, to share their thoughts during the televised defamation trial for the Pirates of the Caribbean star, and his Aquaman ex-wife. Depp sought $50 million in damages, with Heard seeking $100 million in damages.
The $50 million defamation lawsuit made headlines all over the world, with both parties accusing the other of domestic violence. Depp sued his ex-wife, for defamation in 2018 over an article she wrote for The Washington Post in which she described herself as a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’. Though Depp was not named in the article, he claims if cost him lucrative acting roles. As a result, Heard counter-sued statements made by Depp’s attorney about her abuse claims.
The jury found that Heard had defamed Depp in three statements made in The Washington Post article, and that Depp had defamed Heard with one statement made by his attorney. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages, and no money for punitive damages.
Depp’s lawyer, Camille Vasquez, was also promoted to partner at her firm Brown Rudnick following the outcome.
2. The overturning of Roe v Wade
The case that sent shockwaves around the world. In 1973, Jane Roe and Sandra Bensing appealed to the US Supreme Court arguing that abortion laws in Texas and Georgia went against the US Constitution as they infringed upon a woman’s rights to privacy. The court justices ruled that governments lacked their power to prohibit abortions. A women’s right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution.
The overturning of Roe v Wade on 24th June 2022 signalled the termination of the constitutional right to an abortion for millions of US women. The original argument that abortion laws infringed upon a woman’s right to privacy was deemed “weak and wrong” by judges in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, and that overturning the decision would “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives”.
This has resulted in many states already having restrictions in place, such as requirements that young pregnant women involving their parents or a judge in their abortion decision. Some other states have waiting periods between the time a woman first visits an abortion clinic, and the actual abortion procedure. This has left many women, who have access to transport, to travel to cross state boarders to access abortions.
3. Kim K Cryptocurrency fine
On 3rd October 2022, the SEC charged Kim Kardashian for promoting EthereumMax on her Instagram stories without disclosing she was being paid to promote it. Kardashian was paid $250,000 to publish a post on Instagram about EMAX tokens, which contained a link to purchase EMAX tokens.
Without admitting or denying liability, Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, which includes $260,000 disgorgement (representative of her promotional payment), a $1,000,000 penalty and prejudgement interest. Kardashian also agreed not to advertise any cryptocurrency for the next three years.
"This case is a reminder that, when celebrities or influencers endorse investment opportunities, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean that those investment products are right for all investors," said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. "We encourage investors to consider an investment’s potential risks and opportunities in light of their own financial goals."
4. The Wagatha Christie case
Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney have been battling it out in the WAG trial of the century. The libel suit was bought by Rooney against Vardy, who leaked information from Rooney’s private Instagram to The Sun magazine.
Much of the case centred around missing evidence which included a series of missing WhatsApp messages on a phone which mysteriously went missing in the North Sea. Further evidence was lost on a laptop which was destroyed by Vardy. This missing evidence was deemed by the judge as ‘not accidental’ stating Vardy’s agent had ‘deliberately’ dropped the phone into the sea.
During the case, Vardy claimed that other people have access to her account, and they could have leaked the posts to the press.
The judge ruled that Vardy’s evidence was to be treated ‘with caution’, whereas Rooney was said to be ‘honest and reliable’. The case was based on eight Instagram posts, but the judge ruled that it is likely that Vardy leaked more information over the course of 2017-2019.
Vardy could pay up to £1.5 million and has been ordered to pay £800,000 as an initial ‘interim’ payment. This is on top of her own legal costs.
5. The Tinder Swindler
This case made headlines in February 2022 after the Netflix documentary captivated audiences all over the world, giving insight into the fraudster Simon Leviev (born Shimon Yehuda Hayut) and his victims, whom he met on Tinder.
Despite being convicted of several crimes in the past, mostly fraud in Finland and Israel, the Tinder Swindler is currently a free man – despite defrauding young women of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Leviev was never charged for the fraud he committed against these women, presumably due to the complex jurisdictional issue of all the women.
Leveiv lived an extravagant life full of expensive hotels, private jets, expensive clothing and a connected social circle, and used this to lure women before coercing them into giving him money – sometimes hundreds of thousands secured through loans, credit cards, and even on one occasion the proceeds from selling a car. Once his victim had maxed out all credit cards and loans, he moved onto the next.
As of March, the real-life Leviev and his family have filed a lawsuit against Hayut for impersonating their name and using it to build up his own image as the Tinder Swindler.
6. Anna Delvey case
Although Sorokin — better known by her alias, Anna Delvey — was convicted in 2019, her case made headlines again this year due to the Netflix miniseries ‘Inventing Anna’ which detailed her fraudulent activities posing as a German Heiress to a $67million trust find, to secure millions of dollars of funding for ‘The Anna Delvey Foundation’ (ADF) - a members only, Soho House style club for artists housing a juice bar, bakery, art space, studios and different restaurants.
In the pursuit of establishing ADF, Sorokin defrauded financial advisors, wealth managers, accountants and even forging documents to try and secure the funding. Sorokin was charged with theft of $300,000 and attempted theft of $22 million. She was charged on 10 counts of theft, larceny, attempted theft, and attempted larceny as a result of her conning various hotels and financial institutions.
Sorokin was able to pay restitution and legal fees from selling Netflix the rights to her story for $320,000.
7. Donald Trump tax fraud
This month, a New York jury convicted the Trump Organization of criminal tax fraud. The scheme is said to work by executives being given off the books perks to make up for lower on the book salaries. This works by reducing the company’s tax liabilities.
Although Donald Trump himself was not personally on trial, the prosecution on the case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney insisted he was aware of the scheme; Trump’s lawyers insist he wasn’t, but CFO Allen Weisselberg was. Trump, who recently launched his 2024 campaign, branded the legal proceedings as a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’.
This verdict has not only drawn attention to the legitimacy of the Trump fortune, but also comes alongside a string of legal issues around Trump, including several investigations related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election victory of Joe Biden, and the removal of sensitive information from The White House to his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago.
8. The right to carry concealed and loaded handguns in New York
In June this year, The Supreme Court overruled the New York law that placed restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public for self-defence purposes, now making it legal for almost all law-abiding US citizens to carry concealed and loaded handguns. The 6-3 ruling reversed a lower court decision, upholding New York’s 108-year-old law limiting who can obtain a licence to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The court’s decision comes after a string of mass shootings from mid-May to June that have shocked the nation and acted as a catalyst for Congress to search for a consensus on a legislation enforced plan to put a stop to gun violence. The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defence is not a second class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights.
This ruling marks the first change in gun legislation since 2008, when the Supreme Court recognized the Second Amendment which protects the right to keep firearms at home for self-defence purposes. Gun rights supporters were hopeful that the Supreme Court 6-3 conservative majority would recognize the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a firearm in public.
9. Alec Baldwin fatal shooting case
In October this year, Alec Baldwin reached a civil settlement agreement with Halyna Hutchins’ family over her fatal shooting a year before. Whilst on set for new western film ‘Rust’, Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that was loaded – resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin had believed that the .45 colt that he was handed was unloaded. The tragic incident led to a flurry of liability and lawsuits.
The cinematographer’s death made headlines around the world, with concerns over film set safety being at the forefront. A lawyer for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the individual in charge of all the firearms for the film, alleged that the gun may have been sabotaged. Lawsuits from crew members followed, including Hutchins’ husband, prompting Baldwin to give an interview stating he did not pull the trigger, and instead the weapon had misfired when he cocked it, and that he did not know how live ammunition came to be on set in the first place.
This tragedy promoted an FBI report concluding that the gun could not have been fired without the trigger being physically pulled. The criminal enquiry on what happened on set continues, despite
10. Ed Sheeran copyrighting infringement case
The Galway Girl singer songwriter was awarded £900,000 in legal costs over his copyright case, where lesser-known artist Sami Chokri, claimed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape Of You’ was a copy of one of Chokri’s songs. Chokri alleged that the ‘oh I’ hook in Shape of You was “strikingly similar” to ‘oh why’ in their own track.
Sheeran and his team had originally commenced legal proceedings in May of 2018, requesting the high court to declare that no infringement had taken place. The judge concluded that Sheeran ‘neither deliberately not subconsciously’ copied any phrasing in the song and granted that the infringement of copyright was not merited.
11. Britney Conservatorship case update
Britney Spears was placed under a conservatorship in 2008 following a public mental health crisis. The conservatorship lasted 14 years and was finally revoked last year. However, in July of this year, Judge Brenda Penny ordered Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, to be deposed by 12th August, and ordered him to hand over more documents related to the conservatorship after he was accused of “running and hiding” by Britney’s lawyer.
The conservatorship gave the singer’s father control over his daughter’s personal affairs. Spears’ conservatorship was split into two parts. One for her estate, and financial affairs, and the other for her as a person. Spears also claimed she was forced to go on tour and made to take medication that she didn’t want to, as well as go to rehab. Some court records obtained by The New York Times showed that the conservatorship even went as far to the colour of her kitchen cabinets.
Shockingly, Spears’ father also took a $16,000 month salary, as well as office space and a percentage of any deal his daughter was given. Meanwhile, Britney was given a $2,000 allowance per week. Britney’s lawyer has accused her father of financial misconduct and “reaping millions of dollars from his daughter’s estate”.
12. …and a Twitter bird in a Musk tree
In October, after a lengthy legal battle, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk became the owner of Twitter. The $44 billion deal to buy the social media service only progressed due to a lawsuit which forced him to follow through with the purchase. Twitter sued Musk over his abandonment of the deal, and in a countersuit, Musk claimed that Twitter misled investors, and breached the agreement by failing to provide enough information on spam accounts. Twitter is alleged to have breached on another occasion when the company failed to consult with Musk on actions such as firing senior employees.
The self-confessed ‘free speech absolutist’ stated he wants to clean up spam accounts and preserve the platform as a venue for free speech and that he would reverse bans on suspended users including Donald Trump.
The acquisition has been met with concern by others, including David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine., who said ‘there could be real-world consequences to his leadership, to the extent that world leaders see they have this space and it’s unmoderated, they could push to see how far they can go’.
Since the takeover, Twitter has taken some radical action which has been met with an equal amount of backlash, including firing staff via a tweet, dissolving the board and Musk making himself the sole director, changing the verification process, and implementing content moderation and account reinstatement plans. Musk has also presented the idea of splitting Twitter into different strands of content.
There have been a lot of cases making headlines this year with a lot of laws being overturned in the US and thrilling celebrity cases, some of which sparking Netflix documentaries in an attempt to contribute towards legal fees. It will be interesting to follow any updates that arise on these cases and whether Netflix and social media automatically allow any new cases to make headlines in 2023; the implications of this remain to be seen.