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