The Man Who Will Judge Charlie
Meet Richard Neal, the arbitrator assigned to the Sheen legal mess.
Charlie Sheen’s legal fate could be in the hands of an old-school former judge with few ties to Hollywood. THR has learned that Richard Neal has been assigned as the neutral arbitrator overseeing the fight among Sheen, Warner Bros. and Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre over Sheen’s firing from the hit CBS sitcom. A former California Court of Appeals judge, Neal has settled hundreds of cases for the dispute-resolution company JAMS since 2001. He’s no Hollywood insider, focusing instead on general business and contractual disputes, but those whose cases he has overseen tell THR the jurist is “smart,” “no-nonsense” and “conservative.” “He’s first-rate, does not suffer fools lightly and has a brilliant legal mind,” says Marshall Grossman of Los Angeles’ Bingham firm. “He’ll get to the right answer, that’s for sure.” Others say Neal’s straightlaced, by-the-book approach to jurisprudence will cause him to ignore the media circus surrounding Sheen and focus solely on interpreting his contract. “He’s a court of appeals guy, so he might give more credence to the written record,” notes Bryan Freedman of L.A.’s Freedman & Taitelman. Lawyers for Sheen, Lorre and Warners are still fighting over whether the case will be heard by an arbitrator or go to a public trial, as Sheen would prefer, but insiders say Neal, if he hears the case, will have little patience for bad behavior. “Charlie better not mouth off or tell Justice Neal he’s a rock star,” one attorney quips. “He’ll show Charlie who’s the real rock star in the eyes of the law.”