Jim Avila & Chris Francescani, ABC News, August 3, 2007
First he lost his pants. Then he sued in court and lost his shirt.
Now it appears the plaintiff in the infamous $54 million pants lawsuit may be about to lose his black robe.
The legendarily litigious Washington, D.C., Administrative Judge Roy Pearson sued a local dry cleaner in the spring, claiming it had lost a prized pair of pants he planned to wear on his first day on the bench in 2002. Pearson initially had asked for $67 million but later reduced the requested compensation to $54 million. The suit was thrown out in June, but Pearson is appealing.
Now Pearson’s long and tortured odyssey from the bench to the dry cleaners to the witness stand—where he requested a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself—may be coming to an end.
The legal panel that decides whether to retain judges is beginning a formal action that could end Pearson’s tenure on the bench. The Commission on Selection and Tenure of Administrative Law Judges is finalizing a document that explains the panel’s “doubts about granting Pearson a 10-year term on the bench,” according to a report in The Washington Post.
Pearson’s term expired in April. A negative letter from the commission could be the first step toward terminating his judgeship.
Lawyers Call Suit a ‘Nightmare’
The strange case exploded into the headlines in the spring and outraged several legal groups, prompting fundraisers and an online legal defense fund for the owners of Custom Cleaners, Korean immigrants Jin and Soo Chung and their son.
The American Tort Reform Association raised about $70,000 for the couple’s defense. In a statement, the group decried the suit as a “nightmare” that it felt compelled to speak out on “on behalf of all small business owners just like the Chungs who are regularly targeted by personal injury lawyers because, unlike large companies, they often don’t have the resources to defend themselves.”
A spokesman for the American Association of Justice, the largest trial lawyers organization in the nation, told ABC News the case was “outrageous and shameful.” The group filed a complaint with the District of Columbia bar.
Pearson Pens Letter to Chief Judge
The story behind the commission’s deliberation over Pearson’s term — like most aspects of this unusual case — is intriguing.
Sources told the newspaper that the marathon, closed-door deliberations “have been complicated by a series of conflicting recommendations by the chief administrative judge, Tyrone Butler,” said the Post’s metro columnist, Marc Fisher, who originally reported on the case in a column.
Butler initially appeared to support renewing Pearson’s letter and even brought a pro-Pearson letter to the deliberations, Fisher reports. But after Pearson wrote letters to the chief judge disparaging him as “evil” and mean-spirited, Butler switched course.
Pearson is expected to receive a letter outlining the commission’s reasoning. The letter is expected to address the Chung case. After that Pearson has a right to a hearing before the commission, before any formal action to end Pearson’s tenure.