Roy L. Pearson Jr. is a judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings in Washington D.C. He overseas legal proceedings involving several agencies, board and commissions in the District of Columbia. Before assuming the bench, Pearson was a longtime attorney who specialized in representing the poor and indigent. He is a member of several important associations in the D.C. area.
Pearson also is, to use the French tongue, an asshole.
I tried to find a photo of Roy Pearson to go along with this post, but I couldn't find any image of him anywhere online, even on his official D.C. government page. It's too bad, as I wanted to be easily identifiable to anyone who wanted to throw rotten fruit at his head. But I have a feeling that Judge Pearson is about to get more than his unfair attention. That's because the story about how the important judge is suing the Korean immigrants and their dry-cleaning business over the pair of suit pants he claims they lost. Not a big deal, you might say? Isn't that a case for small-claims court? It would be, except that Pearson is asking for a sum of money that is far beyond Judge Judy's wheel house.
Try $67 million.
Yeah, with an "m."
These Washington Post and ABC News stories explain the situation in detail, but in brief, Pearson gave the Chung family, with whom he had a checkered professional history, some of his suits to be altered in May 2005, around the time he was appointed to the bench. But one pair of pants went missing, the pants for what Pearson said was his favorite suit, the one he wanted to wear on his first day as a judge. And he was not happy. At first he just asked the Chungs for the price of the suit, about a thousand dollars. But when they said they had found the pants, Pearson apparently couldn't take yes for an answer. That's when he took matters to court.
The $67 million that he's seeking from this mom-and-pop operation is not an arbitrary number. No, he crunched the numbers and figured it out precisely. Part of the sum is the cost for him to rent a car and take his dry cleaning to another store every weekend - for the next 10 years. But that's only 15 grand. The rest comes from how he sees the consumer protection laws of the District, which includes a $1,500 fine per day for each violation. Multiply the violations by 12, the alleged violators by three (the Chungs and their adult son, a co-owner) and the days by 1,200, and you arrive at $64,800,000.
Pearson's case, most observers agree, hinges around the words "satisfaction guaranteed" and "same day service" - words that the Chungs used in advertising their business. Say, you think he wasn't satisfied about something? The Chungs have made settlement offers totaling in the low five figures, but, again, Pearson doesn't seem to be satisfied.
Oh, Pearson is representing himself in this matter. He's treating this like a class action suit and has 63 people on his witness list. But this is really just about him and his bruised ego, and quite possible about the likelihood that he has a small penis.
The story has pissed off so many people that a defense fund has been formed so those who want to donate money to the Chungs, who have defended themselves against Pearson for two years and may be on the verge of losing their livelihood, can do so. (The fund's Web site, www.customcleanersdefensefund.com, will be up and running shortly.) What's more, Pearson may be on the verge of losing his job as well, as a D.C. board is considering whether he should be reappointed to his judgeship in the wake of the horrible press this case is generating. But Pearson shows no sign of backing down as of yet, apparently oblivious as to how much of a petulant fool he looks like. (He's not talking to the press, which also shows him to be a man of bravery as well.)
It's cases like this that get those in favor of tort reform all riled up - and could screw things up down the road for the truly and justifiably aggrieved who have no course other than a lawsuit to get justice. But what's going on here isn't justice. It's sick and stupid and petty. Judge Pearson's time - indeed, all of our time - would be better served if he would put on his robes, lock himself in his office and repeatedly pound himself in the head with a brick. Might knock some common sense into himself in the process.