April 19, 2011 7:02pm PT by Matthew Belloni
How Charlie Sheen's 'Two and a Half Men' Court Showdown Ended
Charlie Sheen spent part of Tuesday morning fighting for custody of his kids in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, but across town his lawyers sat in court in Santa Monica for most of the day debating whether Sheen's $100 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre should be heard in public or private.
Alas, court has adjourned for the day with no ruling from Judge Allan Goodman.
Here's our full primer on the status of the case, but in a nutshell: Sheen wants the lawsuit over his firing from TV's No. 1 sitcom to be heard by a judge in open court. Warners and Lorre want it in private arbitration, so they first filed a claim with the dispute-resolution company JAMS, which has exercised jurisdiction. Sheen is now fighting to stay that private proceeding, while Warners/Lorre is asking the court to grant its motion to compel the arbitration.
In a courtroom about half full this morning, Team Sheen, led by attorney Marty Singer, argued that the arbitration agreement in Sheen's contract with Warners should be thrown out because it is "unconscionable." Warners, Singer argued, requires talent to accept arbitration provisions that are onerous and non-negotiable.
"We had no ability to negotiate this arbitration provision," Singer argued. "At all."
Warners attorney John Spiegel, the most theatrical of the eight lawyers in court today, countered that Sheen—a star even before the success of Men made him the highest-paid sitcom actor on TV—is hardly the kind of person for whom an arbitration clause might be construed as onerous or unconscionable.
"Charlie Sheen makes $2 million for a 22 minute episode of television," Spiegel exclaimed to the judge. The idea of courts having to step in here to protect Sheen "is frankly absurd," he said.
Warners general counsel John Rogovin was in attendance at the hearing, but neither Sheen nor Lorre was there.
After a long break for lunch (we headed back to the office), Lorre attorney Howard Weitzman took the podium. We're told his presentation hit many of the same points as WB did, including the strong public policy in favor of arbitration.
Judge Goodman took the matter under submission and gave no timetable for a ruling. We're guessing he'll think long and hard about this one—given the press attention and the voluminous papers filed in support of all the parties—and issue a detailed ruling.
Earlier in the day, Goodman ruled that the media could film the proceedings.