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Charlie Sheen wages two-pronged legal battle

Attorneys for the fired star of 'Two and a Half Men' appear in one court to fight Warner Bros.' attempt to send their dispute to arbitration, while the actor shows up in another court in a failed bid to win full custody of his twin sons.

April 20, 2011|By Scott Collins, Los Angeles Times

Charlie Sheen had a busy day in court Tuesday, as lawyers for the sacked sitcom star tried to quash legal moves by his former studio bosses and struggled to wrest custody of his toddler twins from his estranged wife.

Sheen's tangled professional and personal lives were thus both on display in the legal system simultaneously.

The former star of TV's top comedy "Two and a Half Men," Sheen has sued Warner Bros. for $100 million, accusing the studio of wrongly firing him this year after months of erratic behavior and reported drug abuse. The show halted production and it is unclear whether it will return next season.

On Tuesday morning, the two sides met in a Santa Monica courthouse, where Sheen's attorney, Martin Singer, battered away at Warner's bid to send the case to arbitration. Sheen prefers a court trial, although many legal experts consider it unlikely Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman will honor that request. The judge made no ruling Tuesday, and the lawyers involved said they were not sure when to expect one.

Singer faulted the studio for failing to produce documents that might weaken its position. And he underscored the notion of the studio as a conglomerate that needed a check on its power.

"There are discussions they could replace my client," Singer said.

Warner Bros. attorney John W. Spiegel would have none of it.

"We bargained with Mr. Sheen for arbitration," Spiegel said. "That's where this claim belongs."

Spiegel scoffed at idea that Sheen, an actor paid $2 million per episode, would need a court to protect him from unfairness.

Meanwhile, in a Los Angeles courtroom, Sheen himself showed up to ask a judge for full custody of the toddler sons he had with his now-estranged wife, Brooke Mueller.

Sheen, who had been sharing custody with Mueller under an earlier agreement, acted after news reports last week suggested she had relapsed into drug abuse.

The court ejected members of the news media after allegations surfaced that the toddlers had been abused, according to the website TMZ.

Sheen ultimately failed in his bid to alter the custody agreement, with the judge ordering the pair to continue their joint arrangement.

By then, the actor had been whisked away, reportedly to make an evening concert gig in Washington, D.C.

His attorneys were left behind, grappling with their studio-hired rivals over a legal morass that seems to be growing deeper by the minute.

Once, when Singer referred to a specific document, Goodman struggled to find it among the sheaves of case-related materials on his bench.

"A little bit of paper," the judge remarked dryly, "is involved in this case."

scott.collins@latimes.com

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