Consumer Freedom

Mr. Fancy Pants May Lose His Job

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Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher reports that Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who unsuccessfully sued his dry cleaners for $54 million over a misplaced pair of pants, may lose his job as a result of his bizarre legal obsession, which attracted nationwide anger and derision. The commission that is deciding whether to reappoint Pearson for another 10-year term apparently has concluded that "Pearson's extraordinary zeal in pursuing the case against the Chungs was so frivolous and embarrassing to the judicial system that it should be taken as evidence of his lack of judicial temperment." Fisher says the panel will soon send Pearson a letter to that effect. "As satisfying as it would be to see Pearson lose his post over his obsessive pursuit of the Chungs," he writes, "the downside for the owners of the dry cleaners is that with Pearson out of a job, their chances of ever recovering the court fees that Pearson has already been assessed and the attorney's fees that he may yet be ordered to pay would be severely diminished."

[Thanks to Jim Gannon for the tip.]

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  1. Bring my Brown Pants!

  2. As ridiculous as his suit was, should he really lose his job over it?

  3. Kharma’s a bitch!

  4. sage,

    The whole Armada on the horizon?

    This guy should be able to land a more lucrative job with the McDonalds coffee lawsuit firm or with the guy in Alabama whot got 20 million+ for the paint job on his BMW. Hell maybe he could go into practice with Joihn Edwards!

  5. x,y

    yes and his house as well!

  6. Whay exactly is an administrative judge?

  7. x,y,

    yes, he should lose his job, and every case he decided should be examined. His legal “reasoning” demonstrated with his suit, shows that he is crazier than Teddy Roosevelt (who Mark Twain said was “clearly insane”).

    If I was ruled against in this guy’s administrative court, I would appeal on the grounds that this guy is obviously a lunatic.

    If the guy were anything other than a judge, then he shouldn’t lose his job, but since he job is to decide matters of law, he has got to go.

  8. Rent-seeking attorneys are leeches and he should be made an example of.

  9. Lose his job?

    That’s odd, I thought our legal system endorsed abusing suits like this. I thought they were the norm, and judges could be counted on to back such cases.

    I guess I’ve been misinformed.

  10. He probably would be a good fit for Edward’s law firm as long as he’s learned that once the screws of legal extortion have been tightend just tight enough, he needs to settle out of court and collect his ransom.

  11. As I understand from reading another article, it’s not that he’s losing his job so much as that his expiring contract isn’t being renewed. And a good thing, too. Anyone who would go this bugshit over a pair of pants doesn’t have sound enough judgment to be given legal authority over others.

  12. Yes. The commissioners are correct, the episode goes to temperament. Although impossible, we should be putting people on the bench that aren’t quite so prone to froth at the mouth, bully people, and use the system to screw people over.

    Now, next one to boot is the idiot judge that allowed this suit to proceed rather then dismissing it out of hand in the first place.

    And on to my mantra………there is no justice in the justice system.

  13. John Edwards supported a bill that would have banned attorneys who filed lawsuits like this from filing lawsuits.

    Some people are against frivilous lawsuits. Other people think the phrase “frivilous lawsuits” is a great way to ram wholly-unrelated wish-list items from the corporate legal community down the public’s throat.

  14. Yes, Joe, you have been misinformed. And it wasn’t Merlot, it was Bordeaux.

  15. Whoa! If he files a $54M suit when they lose his pants, what’s the lawsuit for losing his job gonna be? I bet he’ll take that commission to the cleaners!!

  16. de stijl,

    Administrative law judges decide on cases involving disputes between city agencies and between citizens and those agencies.

  17. I bet he’ll take that commission to the cleaners!!

    Nice…

  18. “Other people think the phrase “frivilous lawsuits” is a great way to ram wholly-unrelated wish-list items from the corporate legal community down the public’s throat.”

    Like being able to make a living without having some jackass pull the rug out from under you with this sort of nonsensical “injury.”

    Big Bizniss! Oogabooga!

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob In Joe’s Head

  19. I went through a whole thing in DC small-claims court some years ago. I had a pretty good experience with the staff there. Maybe they just plain don’t want to work with the guy.

    The case was a good example of a frivolous lawsuit. The staff there knew that it was, there just wasn’t a whole lot that they could do about it. Once they were given the opportunity to end it, they did.

  20. I bet he’ll take that commission to the cleaners!!

    Thread winner!

    Joe: there was sposed to be one of these: 🙂 on that last one of mine to you.

  21. Like being able to make a living without having some jackass pull the rug out from under you with this sort of nonsensical “injury.”

    You do know he lost the case and was ordered to pay the defendants’ costs, right?

    If the “anti-lawsuit abuse” activists displayed any willingness or ability to actually distinguish between abusive lawsuits vs. legitimate ones, they might have gotten farther in curbing actual abusive lawsuits. But that’s never been their goal.

  22. BTW, don’t you think it’s time to man up and stop whining because I called you out on an indefensible statement?

  23. joe,

    You do know he lost the case and was ordered to pay the defendants’ costs, right?

    its nice that the defendant MAY get his costs back, but how about the taxpayers?

  24. Jeepers, Joe; “man up?” that’s a good one. Too bad you’re not a better reader.

    If you weren’t such a pompous, sanctimonious twat, it might not amuse me so to taunt you.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s head

  25. robc,

    It would be best of all if there was some barrier that would weed out the frivilous cases, without causing people with legitimate claims to shrink from filing lawsuits because of fear of suffering some penalty.

    There’s a balancing act here, and I haven’t seen the anti-lawsuit side demonstrate any concern at all about the principle that people deserve their day in court, or the benefit of having a civil court system that will adequately incentivize companies from engaging in shoddy business practices.

  26. “man up?”

    That is a bit sexist isn’t it, Joe? I expected more from you.

  27. Oh, were you taunting me?

    See, I totally didn’t get that. I just thought you were going for a sort of sympathy-vote from the other regulars, so it wouldn’t be so apparent to them how badly you get beaten down when you argue with me.

    Taunting. Now I get it. Thanks for clearing that up.

  28. MayorOMalley,

    And what do you think the origin of saying someone “sucks” is, you big homophobe?

  29. The sanity-shattering void between the stars?

  30. “There’s a balancing act here,…”

    Joe @ 4:03

    You are right, but this is the last case in the world that you should be using as an example of the justice system defending the common man. This case makes a mockery of any reasonable defense of the status quo.

    The side of the courtroom was reversed, but the people being victimized here were the business. The judge used his ability as a lawyer to extort money and seek revenge at little cost to himself and the justice system did not protect these poor people from him for far too long and had it not come to national attention probably would still be torturing this people. The putative phase is suppose to wait until the judge drops his gavel and not begin the minute the lawyers clock starts ticking.

    I used to live in Scotland where the power is much more in the hands of a deep pocket defendant and am very sympathetic to your statements of 4:03. But this judge was way over the limit.

  31. You’re all a bunch of poopy heads. And you have cooties.

  32. He lost his case, has to pay the other side’s costs, and is about to lose his job (on the orders of another judge). I don’t think the status quo is looking so bad here.

    I agree, the judge who filed this lawsuit was way out of line, but isn’t he getting his at this point?

  33. Being a DC resident, I’ve been somewhat following this, but does anyone have any idea what agency he work(s/ed) for?

  34. The status quo is looking awful. The suit was frivolous on its face and should have been immediately dismissed or, as is often done in divorce property settlements in Ca, the judge should have said we’re done here, you guys go out in the hallway and figure it out and when you’ve done so, then come see me. Next case!

  35. You do know he lost the case and was ordered to pay the defendants’ costs, right?

    “Costs,” in contexts like these, usually means such relatively minor expenses as the filing fee, costs of transcripts, and the process server’s fee. It doesn’t include attorneys’ fees.

  36. My problem with this system of government is similar to my problem with nearly other function of government. Namely, I don’t want to have to trust judges or lawyers on an individual basis to do the right thing because they are wise or benevolent. That seems like a losing propostion to me. I know there are legitimate needs to be addressed, so at the end of the day I want those guys to wind up with a set of incentives that encourages them to do the right thing. The stronger the institutional incentive, the better.

    It is scary when plaintiff’s attorneys can have a business model of “sue until you get a windfall settlement” and be happy and successful. There is insufficient cost to losing. Just bring every case and see what sticks. The nature of punitive damages makes the wins easiliy big enough.

    Quietly, I believe Bush ended the abilty to venure shop your class actions, which was all in all a pretty good step. You can’t find the yes man judge to decide the fates of millions of dollars and thousands of shareholders and employees. That would be an example of an incentive correction that I like.

  37. joe, what’s the objection to loser-pays? or at the very least, waaaaay lower the bar before loser can recover? right now, the standard for awarding of fees and costs to defendants is extremely high.

    it’s nice that, maybe, possibly, no promises, one could collect attorney’s fees at the very end for the 0.01% of the most egregious cases (or those that get publicity, like this one), but what do defendents do who can’t pony up the money to begin with? is a defense attorney going to take the case on a contingency basis given what has to be demonstrated for awarding of fees? not in this universe. so unless, like these people, you have the wherewithal to pay hundreds of thousands attorney’s fees in the hope of recovery some years down the road, your only choice is to settle and reward the abusers of the system.

  38. the second reference should be “defendant.” sorry, my lack of pinky fingers really screws with my typing karma.

  39. I’m with joe on this one, in fact I generally defend our tort system here on H&R. We have a great tort system, one which (to cue Hayek and Burke) has evolved from countless little incremental precedents over centuries to give us general justice, one that fosters commerce and promotes personal responsibility. Is it perfect? Of course not. But two points: of course corporate america would love to re-fashion tort law to make it much harder to sue entities like themselves for bign paydays, and of course they see libertarians as gullible folks with whom they can sneak this tort reform into their ideology by making sure a few think tink writers write inflamming articles about the subject (as joe has pointed out, we hear countelss articles about the filing of frivilous suits, and then when the legel system clobbers them we don’t hear peep). I’m a big believer that the more someone knows about the law and the entire history of any given case the less people will badmouth our tort system…

  40. Edna, I’m a two fingered typer myself. And I’m fast, too. [blows the smoke away from the barrel of an imaginary Colt 45 and holsters it]

  41. We have a great tort system, one which (to cue Hayek and Burke) has evolved from countless little incremental precedents over centuries to give us general justice, one that fosters commerce and promotes personal responsibility. Is it perfect? Of course not.

    One could make exactly the same statement about the federal government. Many of my friends often do. Just substitute “federal government” for “tort system” and we’re on the road.

  42. P Brooks,

    Don’t you have to file a notice in the paper or something?

  43. joe,
    “That’s odd, I thought our legal system endorsed abusing suits like this.”

    They didn’t abuse the suit, just the pants…

  44. “As ridiculous as his suit was, should he really lose his job over it”

    Is this meant to be rhetorical?

  45. “John Edwards supported a bill that would have banned attorneys who filed lawsuits like this from filing lawsuits.”

    Yeah, and he entitled the bill “Chutzpah”.

  46. Jeepers, Joe; “man up?” that’s a good one. Too bad you’re not a better reader.

    If you weren’t such a pompous, sanctimonious twat, it might not amuse me so to taunt you.

    Careful, Bigoted Disgusting Snob, joe might throw you in the outer darkness with me as one of those mean-spirited, despicable people who disagree with his statism, or object to what you described as his “pompous, sanctimonious twat” attitude.

    Boo effing hoo, yeah?

  47. It would be best of all if there was some barrier that would weed out the frivilous cases, without causing people with legitimate claims to shrink from filing lawsuits because of fear of suffering some penalty.

    That barrier is called tort reform, joe. The statist Democratic politicians you so fervently defend oppose tort reform because their biggest campaign contributors are litigators.

    Did it ever occur to you that the U.S. having by far the highest ratio of lawyers to population in the world might be a problem?

  48. Did it ever occur to you that the U.S. having by far the highest ratio of lawyers to population in the world might be a problem?

    Problem? I prefer to think of it as a “target-rich environment.”

  49. “Pearson’s extraordinary zeal in pursuing the case against the Chungs was so frivolous and embarrassing to the judicial system that it should be taken as evidence of his lack of judicial temperment.”

    Yes, his extraordinary zeal is what did him in. I initially defended his lawsuit, ’cause I suspect the Chungs are pieces of garbage who probably deserve to be brought to the, er, cleaners. When I heard he declined a $12,000 settlement offer, which is way high, I thought, this guy is a freaking judge? I mean, do we want our judges to be outright idiot jerkoffs?

  50. John Edwards supported a bill that would have banned attorneys who filed lawsuits like this from filing lawsuits.

    He did not. He supported a bill that would punish attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits. But frivolous is a legal term of art, and Edwards’ bill didn’t change the definition. Under the existing definition, even an absurd suit like Pearson’s isn’t frivolous.

    You do know he lost the case and was ordered to pay the defendants’ costs, right?

    You do know that “costs” doesn’t include attorneys’ fees, right? (There’s a pending motion by the Chungs to have the court order Pearson to pay their attorneys’ fees, also. That’s an extraordinary remedy rarely granted; it likely will be in this case, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever be able to collect from him. And even if they could, the order will be stayed pending appeals; that means that even if they do collect, it will be years after they’ve expended the money.)

  51. I’m with joe on this one, in fact I generally defend our tort system here on H&R. We have a great tort system, one which (to cue Hayek and Burke) has evolved from countless little incremental precedents over centuries to give us general justice, one that fosters commerce and promotes personal responsibility. Is it perfect? Of course not.

    The problem is, our modern tort system has gone far beyond the common law system which developed over the centuries. Changes were made over the last few decades, not as a result of Hayekian evolution, but as a result of interest group lobbying.

    For instance, fraud is a clear tort that libertarians want to deter/punish. And at common law, one could sue for fraud. Someone lies to you to trick you into giving him money, you’re harmed, and you sue. But Consumer Fraud laws are quite different from traditional common law fraud. They were written by legislatures, to allow people to sue without even having to demonstrate harm, let alone a causal relationship between the alleged lie and the harm.

    (as joe has pointed out, we hear countelss articles about the filing of frivilous suits, and then when the legel system clobbers them we don’t hear peep).

    Joe’s wrong. The defendants sometimes win, but what we “don’t hear” is that even when a defendant “wins” a suit, it loses, because it has to pay its lawyers. And of course, sometimes plaintiffs win huge windfalls.

  52. edna,

    joe, what’s the objection to loser-pays? If implemented too broadly, it would serve to discourage legitimate cases well as frivilous ones. Not meeting the standard to win in the eyes of a judge or jury is not coterminus with frivolity.

    or at the very least, waaaaay lower the bar before loser can recover? right now, the standard for awarding of fees and costs to defendants is extremely high.

    I could see some modulated response being appropriate. It’s a bit of fine-tuning, and it’s too bad the reformers – at least, the politicians who talk about reforms – only seem interested in sledge-hammer solutions.

  53. See, edna, look at jh’s comment. (It appears that he actually manned up enough to post with his own handle, thus eliminating the problem of leaving his email address in the field whilt trying to compliment himself via sock puppet.)

    “The” solution is “tort reform” – the “tort reform” being put forward by the Republican Party. All we need to know is that 1) it is called “tort reform” and 2) it is opposed by Democrats. So obviously, it must be right. Nevermind that these “tort reform” bills were crafted for the purpose of making it harder for people to file and win, regardless of the merits.

    Hey, lawyers! Democrats! Corporations lose money! Sledge hammer, sledge hammer, sledge hammer.

  54. fine tune? right now, the standard for the award of costs is unbelievably high. the standard for the award of attorney’s fees is so high that you might as well buy lottery tickets. and as soon as anyone with lawyers on retainer and/or moderately deep pockets and/or an attorney him or herself files even the most frivolous action against you, kiss all your assets bye-bye to even get to the point where costs can be discussed. assuming you have assets; if you don’t, hello chapter 7. it’s a nice way of intimidating the less well-to-do and shaking down small businesses.

    the system doesn’t need to be fine-tuned, it needs to be taken out to a lonely wooded area in southern new jersey, shot twice in the back of the head, then put into a trash bag and deposited in the trunk of a large, dark, late-model sedan.

  55. joe, what’s the objection to loser-pays? If implemented too broadly, it would serve to discourage legitimate cases well as frivilous ones. Not meeting the standard to win in the eyes of a judge or jury is not coterminus with frivolity.

    The last sentence is true, but so what? It would shift the system from a fault-based standard (“frivolousness”) to a non-fault based one. “Loser pays” is not a penalty for doing something bad; it just says that if you impose costs on someone else, you pay.

    Note that although the trial lawyer crowd portrays this as anti-plaintiff, that’s not true. Loser pays benefits plaintiffs with good claims, by strongly disincentivizing a defendant with deep pockets from running up the plaintiff’s costs. (i.e., under the current system (the “American rule”), if I sue IBM, their attorneys can stall and drive up my costs until I can’t afford to pay my attorney anymore, even though I have a good case. But under loser pays, every stalling tactic costs them double and doesn’t cost me anything.)

    What loser pays does is discourage WEAK cases which might win. Which seems like a reasonable cost to pay. If you don’t have a good shot at winning (either a good legal theory or good evidence) then the social costs of bringing the suit outweigh the value of bringing it.

    Nevermind that these “tort reform” bills were crafted for the purpose of making it harder for people to file and win, regardless of the merits.

    Really? Which ‘tort reform’ bills are you discussing?

  56. edna,

    I understand the argument you’re making. Once again, as I wrote, you failed utterly to recognize, or even acknowledge, the problem of an overly-broad reform, much less discuss how the goals you seek can be implemented without running roughshod over those other concerns.

    What you’ve done here is the equivalent of the civil-liberties-snatching terror warriors on the right. They say, “terrorism is bad, we need more security measures.” Someone else says, “OK, but there’s another side to the story, the protection of civil liberties.” And you respond by repeating your original point, and never deigning to address the concern I raised.

    You know what I conclude about people who do that? They they don’t really give a crap about civil liberties.

    Dave N,

    The problem with your argument is that there are other reasons besides a weak theory or weak evidence that prevent a plaintiff from winning.

  57. You know what I conclude about people who do that?

    ahh, the old ad hom. that’s beneath you, joe.

    i’ve proposed a specific major reform (loser pays presumption). you have made one specific objection, it got knocked down, and i still haven’t seen either a valid objection or any sort of specific counter-proposal from you.

  58. Joe, he was ordered to pay court costs, not legal fees. Court costs are relatively trivial (filing fees, etc.). The huge expenses are in legal fees, which he has not yet been ordered to pay, and probably will not be ordered to pay. Plus, he may yet appeal the case, so that is another round of expenses. This case received a lot of publicity, so people are chipping in to help out the Chungs, but this is extremely rare.

    The legal fees are what wipes out small business owners, and a determined, probably mentally ill plaintiff with a lot of time on his hands can be extremely expensive to the defendants.

  59. the deranged plaintiff is a problem, but not nearly of the magnitude of the problem of shakedown specialists. in most chung-like cases, the defendants just end up paying the ransom (they offered $12k in this case, with a sane plaintiff, it probably would have ended up with the chungs forking out $20k plus their own attorney costs to even get to a settlement, probably another $10k) because getting your day in court will run ten times that with close-to-zero chance of recovery. and, if you don’t have the $100k+ on hand, you can’t defend yourself anyway, regardless of the frivolity of the suit suit.

  60. Joe, the three main reasons why a non-frivolous case isn’t a winner:

    1) Weak theory
    2) Weak evidence
    3) Costs too much (relative to the recovery) to bring the case.

    Loser pays actually helps solve the third one.

    Edna has it exactly right: the only reason the Pearson case has any chance of leading to justice for the Chungs is because Pearson was (is) insane. If he had merely been an unreasonable jerk, he’d have made out like a bandit; they offered him $12K (for a pair of pants!) to go away. Had he accepted, they couldn’t recover fees or costs from him; in addition to the $12K, they’d be out five figures to their own attorney.

    If the fact that such an objectively unreasonable case can lead someone to offer $12,000 doesn’t illustrate a problem to you, nothing will. Why were they willing to offer that much? Because the current legal system makes it possible for Pearson to impose $90,000 in legal costs on the Chungs; it was cheaper to pay him than to fight him. And there was always the chance that he wins, which would either mean that they’re wiped out or that they have to pay another $50K for an appeal. The chance that he would win is small, and if you’re litigating over a $1,000 suit, you can gamble. But when you’re betting your entire business, you can’t risk it.

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