11:27pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Charlie Sheen Judge Sets Date for Key Hearing in $100 Mil Lawsuit
Charlie Sheen's lawyers certainly win points for tenacity. The actor's legal team was back in court this morning in its ongoing effort to stop a planned arbitration with Warner Bros. and Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre over his firing from the hit CBS sitcom. And the judge overseeing the matter today set a date when we might finally get some definitive answers in the case.
As we've reported, Sheen wants his issues with Warners and especially Lorre to be aired at a public trial, not a private proceeding controlled by the dispute resolution company JAMS, so he filed a $100 million lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. But Warners first initiated an arbitration, and JAMS later decided that the question of whether it has jurisdiction over the dispute will be decided by its own arbitrator.
Furious, Sheen lead lawyer Marty Singer has been trying to stop the arbitration from proceeding until the issue of whether the arbitration clause in Sheen's WB contract is enforceable and covers the dispute with Lorre can be decided by the Superior Court. Singer first went to court last week seeking an emergency order against JAMS to prevent it from moving forward. A Santa Monica judge denied that effort, telling Singer to instead take up the issue with Judge Allan Goodman, who is presiding over Sheen's $100 million state court litigation.
So this morning, that's exactly what Singer did. In a packed courtroom on the second floor of the Santa Monica courthouse, Singer didn't argue the substance of the motion. Instead, he asked Judge Goodman for an order shortening the usual time for a motion to stay the arbitration--in essence, trying to speed up the decision-making on the issue. He asked for a hearing date to be set and for permission to depose Warner Bros.' legal exec Jody Zucker on the issue of whether Sheen's arbitration clause was a "non-negotiable" element of his contract (and thus possibly unconscionable, Singer believes).
Judge Goodman set an April 19 hearing date for Sheen's motion to stay the arbitration (the original date was May 25), as well as Lorre and WB's motion to compel arbitration, which will be filed shortly, sources said (Lorre attorney Howard Weitzman and WB's John Spiegel were also in court today). So that's the day we'll likely get an answer on whether Sheen's case will be public or private.
Some might wonder why Sheen would fight so hard to have his case heard in a public court rather than a private arbitration. But Sheen's ability to reveal potentially sensitive financial information about Warner Bros. and Lorre would give him leverage in settlement negotiations. Plus, if this case ever did reach a trial (which is highly unlikely), juries tend to favor celebrities--especially, we imagine, those with tiger blood and Adonis DNA.