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Mar 08 2011

Why Sheen Will Be “Winning” the CBS Lawsuit

Like everyone else in the country I can’t help but be fascinated and overloaded with Charlie Sheen. Its “All Charlie, All the time.” But there was nothing for me to blog about because it was not really law-related.  But CBS’ recent decision to fire him from his maddeningly popular show “Two and Half Men”  bring the Sheen circus right to my wheelhouse.  Having represented a number of artists in contract disputes with their labels and entertainment companies, some of which have arisen out of alleged breaches of “moral conduct clauses,” I feel comfortable in predicting that Charlie Sheen will win the case against CBS and he will not need to drink tiger blood to do so. I suspect CBS knows it will lose but is doing this because they need to show their board and stockholders that they are not just sitting by while one of their biggest stars is publicly embarrassing them.

From what I know about the situation, this sounds like a slam dunk in El Sheen’s favor. His contract has no “morals” clause, presumably something he negotiated with CBS.  Also, this is not Charlie’s first foray in to public exposure of his raucous and perhaps illegal lifestyle. Those prior stories, which included allegations of domestic violence and drug abuse, were met by CBS, not with termination but with a raise.  He negotiated his current contract right after a debacle with then wife Denise Richards. Yet,  CBS agreed to pay him in excess of $1.5 Million per episode.  They continued to pay him as he kept filling the headlines with his conduct. Yet, the show’s ratings increased, they filmed all the necessary episodes and CBS kept the checks going out.

Image courtesy of bittenandbound.com

Without a morals clause, CBS will have to prove that Sheen engaged in acts of “moral turpitude” which usually means conduct amounting to a felony. But drunkenness and riotous partying are not felonies. CBS is trying to assert that by sharing and passing out cocaine he committed a felony.  But how will they ever prove that he did so?  What if he was just bragging and asserting his free speech rights?  What if it was sugar and he just told everyone it was cocaine? Who will come forward to prove the felony? That is one weak argument.  Sheen has not been arrested, no evidence has been seized, there will be no real proof.

By all accounts, he was on set on time, and they were always able to film their season without much interruption. The show is highly successful and CBS likely never notified him that anything was lacking in his job performance.

Don’t cry for CBS by the way.  They stood by and cashed their ad revenue checks while Charlie’s bad boy antics fueled the ratings for the show , especially among the sought after 18-39 demographic. They knew what they were getting into when they agreed to remove the standard morals clause form their contract. Charlie was putting them on notice right there: “Hey I will be acting immorally! Just wanted to let you guys know.”

So they made their bed and now they will have to lie in it. I’m sure it sounded like a pretty good deal at the time.

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