6/8/16 Washington Post: “Ex-D.C. judge who filed suit against dry cleaner over lost pants may face sanctions”
By Keith L. Alexander
A former D.C. administrative judge who in 2005 filed a $54 million lawsuit against a dry-cleaning business over a pair of missing pants, becoming a national symbol for frivolous litigation, could face disciplinary action by the D.C. Court of Appeals for alleged misconduct in the case.
On June 3, a three-person hearing committee for the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility found Pearson committed two ethics violations of interfering with the administration of justice and presenting arguments not supported by facts or law. Sanctions recommended by the committee will be reviewed by the board, and ultimately the Court of Appeals. A final decision could take months.
The committee recommended that Pearson be placed on probation from the practice of law for two years. The committee also recommended that Pearson, 65, inform any client of the case and for him to not participate in any frivolous litigations.
10/31/07 Express, a Publication of the Washington Post: “Judge Who Sued Dry Cleaners Loses Job,”
By Greg Barber
IT’S FINALLY HAPPENED.
Roy Pearson, the administrative law judge who sued a dry cleaners for $54 million over a lost pair of pants, lost his job Tuesday and was told to clear out his office, sources tell The Post.
However, sources say that the pants lawsuit, which spawned headlines around the world, didn’t have much to do with the decision not to reappoint Pearson, Keith L. Alexander reports:
Pearson, 57, who had served as a judge for two years, was up for a 10-year term at the Office of Administrative Hearings, but a judicial committee last week voted against reappointing him.
[T]he committee said it had reviewed Pearson’s judicial decisions and audiotapes of proceedings over which he had presided, and found he did not demonstrate “appropriate judgment and judicial temperament,” according a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
Pearson was informed of the decision in a seven-page letter that was hand-delivered to him at about 3:30 p.m., Alexander reports. The letter told Pearson to vacate his office by 5 p.m.
Pearson’s lawsuit against Custom Cleaners of Northwest D.C. eventually ended with a U.S. District Judge finding for the defendants. Pearson later indicated that he would appeal.
9/19/07 Associated Press: “Dry Cleaner in Pants Suit Closes,”
by Lubna Takruri
Washington (AP) — The owners of a dry cleaner who were sued for $54 million over a missing pair of pants have closed and sold the shop involved in the dispute, their attorney said Wednesday.
The South Korean immigrants are citing a loss of revenue and the emotional strain of defending the lawsuit. They will focus their energy on another dry-cleaning shop they still own, said their attorney, Chris Manning.
“This is a truly tragic example of how devastating frivolous litigation can be to the American people and to small businesses,” Manning said in a statement.
Soo Chung and her husband, Jin Nam Chung, faced more than two years of litigation after a former customer at Custom Cleaners alleged they had lost a pair of his pants, then sued for $67 million under the District of Columbia’s strict consumer protection act.
Plaintiff Roy L. Pearson, a local administrative law judge, later lowered his demand to $54 million. He said the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs that once hung in the shop were misleading and fraudulent.
The case went to trial in June and a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Chungs, awarding Pearson nothing. Pearson is pursuing an appeal.
The Chungs incurred more than $100,000 in legal expenses, which were eventually paid with help from fundraisers and donations.
Even after the trial ended favorably, Manning said, the Chungs lost customers and revenue. They have now closed two of their three businesses since the lawsuit began, he said.
Pearson did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.
6/25/07 CNN: “Court finds missing pants not worth $54M; Administrative law judge sought damages for fraudulent advertising after a dry cleaner allegedly gave him the wrong pair of pants,”
Washington (CNN) — A judge in the District of Columbia has dismissed a case against a dry cleaner that claimed $54 million in damages for a pair of missing pants.
The case was brought by Roy L. Pearson, himself a judge. He originally sought $67 million from the Chung family, owners of Custom Cleaners. He calculated the amount by estimating years of law violations, adding almost $2 million in common law claims for fraud.
The Chungs denied Pearson’s allegations and insisted that the pants they tried to give him were those he had brought in.
The saga began in May 2005, when Pearson took several pairs of pants to Custom Cleaners for alteration as he prepared to start his new job as an administrative law judge. He alleged that he’d brought in a pair of trousers from a blue and maroon suit, but when he came to collect them the Chungs tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants that he said were not his.
During a two-day trial earlier this month, Pearson said that when he took the pants to Custom Cleaners, his financial situation was ruinous – he had just been ordered to pay $12,000 in attorney’s fees to his ex-wife and his credit cards were at their limit.
Pearson, representing himself during the trial, claimed millions of dollars in attorney fees and millions more in punitive damages for what he called fraudulent advertising under the law.
He also claimed that a sign in the store’s window that promised “Satisfaction Guaranteed” was an unconditional warranty that required the defendants to honor any claim by any customer without limitation.
The Chungs’ attorney argued that no reasonable person would interpret the signs to mean an unconditional promise of satisfaction. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff agreed.
In a 23-page conclusion, Bartnoff ruled that Custom Cleaners had not violated the city’s Consumer Protection Act. She wrote: “A reasonable consumer would not interpret ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands or accede to demands that the merchant has reasonable grounds to dispute.”
Pearson had “not met his burden of proving that the pants the defendants attempted to return to him were not the pants he brought in for alteration” she said.
Bartnoff awarded court costs to the defendants. The Chungs – who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on the case – are attempting to have their attorney’s fees paid by Pearson.
Their attorney, Chris Manning, said his clients “are relieved that we are past this stage. Judge Bartnoff has spoken loudly in suggesting that, while consumers should be protected, abusive lawsuits like this will not be tolerated. Judge Bartnoff has chosen common sense and reasonableness over irrationality and unbridled venom.”
He added: “Hopefully Mr. Pearson doesn’t take this any further on appeal, but we expect him to.”
During the two-day trial, Soo Chung said that “economically, emotionally and healthwise as well, it has been extremely hard for us.” She started the business with her husband after they moved to the United States from South Korea in 1992.
5/4/07 Associated Press (Washington Post): “Customer Sues for $65 Million Over Pants,”
By Lubna Takruri
Washington — A missing pair of pants has led to one big suit. A customer got so steamed when a dry cleaner lost his trousers that he sued for $65 million. Two years later, he is still pressing his suit.
The case has demoralized the South Korean immigrant owners of the mom-and-pop business and brought demands that the customer – an administrative law judge in Washington – be disbarred and removed from office for pursuing a frivolous and abusive claim.
Jin Nam Chung, Ki Chung and their son, Soo Chung, are considering moving back to Seoul , seven years after they opened their dry-cleaning business in the nation’s capital, said their lawyer, Chris Manning.
“They’re out a lot of money, but more importantly, incredibly disenchanted with the system,” Manning said. “This has destroyed their lives.”
The customer, Roy L. Pearson Jr., who has been representing himself, declined to comment.
According to court documents, the problem began in May 2005 when Pearson became a judge and brought several suits for alterations to Custom Cleaners in Washington . A pair of pants from one suit was missing when he requested it two days later.
Pearson asked the cleaners for the full price of the suit: more than $1,000.
But a week later, the Chungs said the pants had been found and refused to pay. Pearson said those were not his pants, and decided to take the Chungs to the cleaners and sue.
Manning said the cleaners have made three settlement offers to Pearson: $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000.
But Pearson was not satisfied and expanded his calculations beyond one pair of pants. Because Pearson no longer wanted to use his neighborhood dry cleaner, he asked in his lawsuit for $15,000 _ the cost of renting a car every weekend for 10 years to go to another business.
Manning said Pearson somehow thinks he has the right to a dry cleaner within four blocks of his apartment.
The bulk of the $65 million demand comes from Pearson’s strict interpretation of Washington consumer protection law, which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation, per day. Pearson counted 12 violations over 1,200 days, then multiplied that by three defendants.
Much of Pearson’s case rests on two signs Custom Cleaners once had on its walls: “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.” He claims the signs amount to fraud.
The case is set for trial June 11.
Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, an organization that fights what it considers abusive lawsuits against small businesses, has asked that Pearson be denied a renewal this week of his 10-year appointment. The association has also offered to buy Pearson the suit of his choice.
Chief Administrative Judge Tyrone Butler had no comment on Pearson’s reappointment prospects.
Melvin Welles, former chief administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board, wrote to The Washington Post to say that if he were the judge in the case, he would throw out the lawsuit and order Pearson to pay the Chungs for their legal expenses and their mental suffering. He also called for Pearson’s ouster and disbarment.
“The manifest absurdity of it is too obvious to require explanation,” Welles wrote.
To the Chungs and their attorney, one of the most frustrating aspects of the case is their claim that Pearson’s gray pants were found almost right away, and have been hanging in Manning’s office for more than a year. Pearson claims in court documents that his pants had blue and red pinstripes.
But Manning said: “They match his inseam measurements.
The ticket on the pants matches his receipt.”
Press Release: Commission Urged To Reconsider Tenure of Law Judge Who’s Suing Dry Cleaner for $65 Million Reappointment to New 10-Year Term, at Taxpayers’ Expense, Could Start Tomorrow
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Darren McKinney, email@example.com, 202-682-0084
Washington, DC, May 01, 2007 — The American Tort Reform Association yesterday delivered a letter to four District of Columbia officials, urging them to consider carefully the “judicial temperament” of an administrative law judge who is seeking reappointment while suing a local dry cleaner -– over a lost pair of pants -– for more than $65 million.
“His pants were found long ago and are readily available to him,” explained ATRA president Sherman Joyce. “What may no longer be available to him, unless he withdraws his lawsuit, is a reputation as a jurist with appropriate judicial temperament.”
As recently reported by The Washington Post, FOX News Channel and other local and national media outlets, D.C. administrative law judge Roy Pearson Jr. has sued Custom Cleaners in Northeast D.C. under the District’s Consumer Protection and Procedures Act, alleging among other things that window signs advertising “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” fraudulently deceived customers.
“The District’s consumer protection act and many others in states across the country are well-intentioned but loosely worded,” Joyce continued. “They were crafted largely in the late-1960s and into the 1970s, before personal injury litigation was industrialized by the trial bar in the 1980s, and Judge Pearson’s lawsuit appears to be a somewhat typical, if wholly outrageous example of the exploitation such laws are increasingly subject to these days.
“ATRA pledges to raise sufficient funds to buy Judge Pearson a high-quality suit of his choosing if he’ll do the right thing and let this hardworking family business get back to serving its community and paying taxes to the District government,” added Joyce. “But since that may not do the trick, we’ve reached out to the commission considering his reappointment to the well-paid, taxpayer-supported position he’s held since May 2, 2005.”
He noted that D.C. administrative law judges first serve a two-year term upon initial appointment and can then apply for reappointment to a 10-year term. Judge Pearson’s initial term expires today, and a source at the Commission of Selections and Appointments of Administrative Law Judges of the Office of Administrative Hearings confirmed to ATRA that he has applied for reappointment. The OAH telephone number is (202) 478-1421.
Joyce’s letter to Chief Administrative Law Judge Tyrone Butler and Commissioners Robert Rigsby, Henry Levine and Peter Wilner also was copied to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, all members of the D.C. Council and D.C. Superior Court Judge Rufus King, all of whom have a role in deciding who will serve on the commission in the future. Judge Pearson also was copied. Full text of the ATRA letter follows below:
825 N. Capitol Street, NE
Washington , D.C. , 20002
Commissioner Robert Rigsby
Commissioner Henry Levine
Commissioner Peter Wilner
Commission on Selection and Tenure of Administrative Law Judges
441 Fourth Street NW
Suite 540 S
Washington , D.C. 20001
RE: Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson’s Pending Reappointment to a 10-Year Term
Dear Judge Butler and Commissioners Rigsby, Levine and Wilner:
On behalf of the American Tort Reform Association, which works to combat lawsuit abuse, I urge you to carefully reconsider the reappointment of Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson Jr. to a 10-year term scheduled to commence in three days on May 2.
As you are almost surely aware by now, thanks to extensive local and national media coverage, Judge Pearson has chosen to exploit the District’s well-intentioned but loosely-worded Consumer Protection and Procedures Act in suing a family-owned D.C. dry cleaner for more than $65 million – over a lost pair of suit pants.
Though the pants have long since been found and made available to him, Judge Pearson has stubbornly continued to waste precious Superior Court resources in a clearly misguided effort to extort a hardworking family that provides a service to its community and tax revenue to the District government.
In a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post, former National Labors Relations Board chief administrative law judge Melvin Welles urged “any bar to which Mr. Pearson belongs to immediately disbar him and the District to remove him from his position as an administrative law judge.”
To those of us who carefully study the litigation industry’s growing abuse of consumer protection laws around the country (see ATRA general counsel Victor Schwartz’s recent article from Executive Counsel magazine, “Consumer Protection Acts Are a Springboard for Lawsuit Abuse,” enclosed) and to everyday D.C. taxpayers who collectively provide Judge Pearson with a considerable salary, his persistence in this lawsuit raises serious doubts about his capacity to serve the city as a “fair, impartial, effective, and efficient” judge, as required by the Office of Administrative Hearings Establishment Act.
If Judge Pearson goes ahead with his lawsuit, any party who comes before him in future administrative hearings could understandably lack confidence in his judgment and judicial temperament. Furthermore, this case will become fodder for late night comics, various members of Congress and other assorted critics of D.C. government if this case, scheduled for trial June 11, remains in the headlines.
Judicial temperament is a critical characteristic of an outstanding jurist. Any individual who chooses to pursue a case such as Judge Pearson’s, at a minimum, calls into question his or hers. As you consider his reappointment, we strongly urge you to examine closely his judicial temperament and decide whether it is sufficient to serve the people of the District of Columbia properly as an administrative law judge.
American Tort Reform Association
Enclosure: “Consumer Protection Acts Are a Springboard for Lawsuit Abuse,” Executive Counsel, March/April 2007, Vol. 4 No. 2
Cc: Mayor Adrian Fenty, Council Chair Vincent Gray, Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King, all D.C. Council Members and Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform through public education and the enactment of legislation. ATRA’s membership includes non profits, small and large companies, as well as state and national trade, business, and professional associations.
5/16/07 Legal Times: “Ethics Complaint Filed Against Judge Over His $65M Suit Against Dry Cleaners,”
by Brendan Smith
Washington , D.C. , administrative law judge Roy Pearson Jr. isn’t making many new friends with his $65 million lawsuit against a local dry cleaner for losing a pair of his pants.
May 8, 2007
Mr. James Sandman
District of Columbia Bar Association
1250 H St. NW , Sixth Floor
Washington DC 20005
Dear Mr. Sandman:
As a member of the District of Columbia Bar, I believe that the widely reported actions of Mr. Roy Pearson, Jr. in pursuing a $65 million dollar lawsuit against a local dry cleaning business appear to constitute a serious abuse of the civil justice system and warrant a disciplinary inquiry from the Bar.
Media reports indicate that Mr. Pearson, an administrative law judge and member of the District of Columbia Bar has relentlessly pursued his lawsuit against Custom Cleaners, a family-owned dry cleaner, for temporarily misplacing a pair of his suit pants. Despite an apparently generous settlement offer that includes the return of the once-missing suit pants, news reports indicate that Mr. Pearson has maintained his action over a two-year period, filed thousands of pages in documents and made damage claims that appear to be farfetched and unjustified. Moreover, it appears that Mr. Pearson’s actions in this matter are consistent with his behavior in prior legal disputes, where he has followed courses of action both that appear both vexatious and disproportionate to any legitimate claim.
The American civil justice system ought to be a point of pride, both to the public and the profession. It enables those who, in good faith, believe that they have been wronged to pursue justice and have an impartial tribunal resolve responsibility. Only in such a courtroom can everyone – regardless of wealth, connections or political clout – stand on a level playing field of justice.
Our court system has no place for those who abuse the instruments of justice for personal gain or the intimidation of others, rather than just compensation. That Mr. Pearson occupies a position of public trust as an administrative law judge, in addition to his membership in the Bar, further intensifies the dishonor that his apparent actions have cast on both the system and the profession. As attorneys, we have a special obligation to preserve the integrity of our civil justice system.
Our commitment must be to strengthening the civil justice system so that deserving individuals can get justice, wrongdoers are held accountable, and efforts to weaken basic legal protections are repelled.
For actions inconsistent with the oath and office of our learned profession, I urge that the District of Columbia Bar investigate this matter and take appropriate disciplinary action.
Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Justice