Judge 'Pants Suit' Gets Dry Cleaned

Talk about a painful lesson in the price of irresponsibility.

Roy Pearson, the D.C. judge who sued his dry cleaners for $67 million for misplacing a pair of pants, will get nothing – and he's even been ordered to pay his victims' court costs. 

D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff dismissed Pearson's suit, ruling that Pearson failed to prove that the Chung family, owners of Custom Cleaners, had defrauded him or violated his rights under the city's Consumer Protection Act.  In a case that garnered attention around the world, Bartnoff ruled that “Judgment therefore will be awarded to the defendants, as well as their costs.” 

The court costs total only about a thousand dollars, according to AP.  Judge Bartnoff will determine later whether Pearson will have to reimburse the Chungs for tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.  Pearson may also face a civil suit.

Pearson sued the Chungs after they misplaced the pants from a suit, and allegedly tried to replace them with another pair of pants.  He rebuffed their efforts to settle the case – they offered as much as 12 thousand dollars – and forced the family to exhaust their life savings while defending themselves against his charges.  Over the course of two years, Pearson filed thousands of pages of documents in court.  The judge claimed that under the Consumer Protection Act, the Chungs had to honor the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign in their store by paying any claim he cared to make, no matter how outlandish. 

According to Deutsche Press-Agentur, Pearson demanded “half a million dollars for his time spent as his own lawyer, money to compensate for the laughing stock he's become among professionals, and tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the rented car he needs to reach another dry cleaner.”  Sounds like the apocryphal youth convicted of murdering his parents who asks for leniency on the grounds that he's an orphan.

“This case was giving American justice a black eye around the world, and it was all the more upsetting because it was a judge and lawyer who was bringing the suit,” Georgetown University law professor Paul Rothstein told AP.

Pearson may make the Chungs financially whole again by reimbursing them for their legal expenses, but he cannot compensate them for the emotional distress he inflicted upon them over two years.   He will also be hard pressed to compensate the United States for making a mockery of our legal system.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.