There has been a lot of beating up on judges and lawyers lately, on this blog and elsewhere, so what better time to revisit the weird case of foormer administrative law judge and current attorney Roy Pearson, Jr? He was the D.C. judge who carried on such a vendetta against a dry cleaner because they lost a pair of his pants that it became national news…which is to say, it was discussed on The View and the women made fools of themselves. Not as big fools as the judge made of himself, though.
Pearson claimed that in 2005, the dry cleaners gave him the wrong pair of pants and refused to pay him the $1,150 he demanded as compensation. His suit—his $67 million suit!— against the dry cleaners alleged that the business violated Washington, D.C.’s consumer protection law by failing to comply with its sign promising “satisfaction guaranteed,” which Pearson claimed was unconditional. You know, even if a customer was deranged.
In his testimony in this wacko lawsuit, Pearson argued that “satisfaction guaranteed” meant the dry cleaner was legally obligated to pay a customer who demanded $1,000 for a supposedly lost sweater even if the owners knew they had delivered the correct sweater to the customer.
By that logic, the owner would also have to let the customer have sex with his teenage daughter, if that’s what it took to “satisfy” him.
Pearson also argued in the lawsuit that a sign promising same-day service meant the cleaners had to provide such service even when it wasn’t requested by the customer. The lawsuit was thrown out and an appeals court affirmed the rejection in 2008. Still, Pearson’s lawsuit successfully ruined the business, which had to close. The episode also ended Pearson’s judicial career: he wasn’t re-appointed, and went back to practicing law.
Some people felt that the episode called into question Pearson’s fitness to be a lawyer at all, and the District of Columbia bar commenced an investigation with an eye to disciplinary proceedings, to which I say good. The main issues were abuse of process and frivolous litigation, but when a lawyer demonstrates a complete lack of proportion and common sense, plus a vindictive nature and a tendency to abuse the civil justice system, that should be enough to make him a 7-11 clerk all by itself.
Pearson has been practicing law and putting anyone he comes into contact at risk since 2008, as it has taken all this time for the disciplinary board to decide what to do with Pearson, perhaps because the whole story is ridiculous and the members kept hoping that they would wake up to find it was just a nightmare. Its verdict? The board has recommended a stayed 30 day suspension, pending Pearson successfully completing two years of probation without bringing any more outrageous and abusive law suits or breaching any other ethics rules. The report and recommendation is here.
I know the D.C. Bar—it’s my bar, after all— is in the business of keeping lawyers gainfully employed and hates to take away any member’s livelihood. The Golden Rule, you know. I also know disbarment is usually reserved for lawyers who break laws, steal money from clients, and repeatedly break the rules after multiple warnings. However, it is the also duty of the legal profession to protect society from untrustworthy lawyers, and protect the profession from public distrust engendered by lawyers who act like Pearson—well, not really act like Pearson, because nobody has sued for millions over a pair of pants before—let’s say bring public ridicule on the system as Pearson has.
How can it be appropriate to let this guy be a lawyer? The bar knows that his judgment is terrible, his legal reasoning is absurd, and his character is unstable. He destroyed a business because of a pair of pants. He’s dangerous to society, and more dangerous if he wields a law license.
The legal profession has to demand better character and better ethics from its members. Letting someone like Roy Pearson, Jr represent the legal profession is irresponsible.
Pointer and Source: ABA Journal
9 thoughts on “A Slap On The Wrist For The Lawyer Who Demanded 65 Million Dollars For A Lost Pair Of Pants”
I’m certainly no legal expert, but don’t the actions of Roy Pearson rise to the level of vindictive slander and/or libel; after all the dry cleaners was driven out of business, their livelihood was destroyed, and it appears that that is exactly what Roy Pearson, Jr’s goal was.
I would have found a way to sue the pants off of Roy Pearson, Jr.
Here’s the thing, Zoltar. From a practical stand point, suing someone pretty much requires a lawyer and hiring a lawyer requires one of two things: 1) having enough money to hire and pay the fee’s charged by the attorney, or; 2) finding a lawyer willing to take the case on a contingency basis. That is, the attorney doesn’t get paid unless he/she wins the case AND collects some money. Given the number of years it can take to get a case through to a successful (and profitable) conclusion, number 2, while possible, is unlikely. Thus, when Judge Pearson sued this hard-working Korean dry-cleaner and ran him out of business and money, he pretty much guaranteed that number 1 couldn’t happen, either. He is, therefore, off the hook.
Not sure about this. A lawsuit this transparently weak should be dismissed at a very early stage, with a significant but not exorbitant legal expense. Not excusing Pearson but I suspect that there is more to the story than this stupid case leading to the shut down of the business.
The lawsuit went on for years.
I stand corrected. I just read a little about the case and it boggles the mind that this was allowed to go to trial.
Lawyers have immunity for slander based on pleadings in lawsuits and courtroom statements, just like criminal defendants can’t sue prosecutors for slander. Sure, you can counter-sue for malicious prosecution or other things. That gets expensive though.
Jack Marshall said, “Lawyers have immunity for slander based on pleadings in lawsuits…”
Even if the slander is known to be false innuendo or blatant lies?
Doesn’t immunity tend to inspire unethical behavior from unethical people if it’s covered under their immunity?
I bet this is a topic you touch on in your ethics classes.
There can be a way for him to remain a lawyer yet never file a suit ever again.
He seems well suited to writing those byzantine software EULAs and online terms of service no one ever reads or at the very least helping companies revise the ones they have to cover all the bases. A chance to use is nutty streak for good rather than evil. He’d protect companies from people like himself. He’d be gainfully employed. He’d never go anywhere near a courthouse. Win-win-win.