The Travesty of the Trousers Case

Monday, April 30, 2007

The saga of the Custom Cleaners folks -- as reported in Marc Fisher's April 26 Metro column, "Lawyer's Price for Missing Pants: $65 Million" -- hit a painful chord.

We are fortunate to live in this democracy, where the rights of the individual are paramount and enshrined in our Constitution. However, over the years, our political system has allowed, maybe even caused, these constitutional guarantees to be jeopardized in the context of our legal system. By many measures, we are the world's most litigious society.

Congress and state legislatures, aided and abetted by the courts, have opened the doors to such monstrous abuse of the legal system as illustrated by the Custom Cleaners case.

Today in America, anyone with time and malicious intent can harass, persecute and even destroy innocent victims using our courts as the weapon of choice. There is something fundamentally flawed in a judicial system that permits travesties such as has befallen the Ki, Jin and Soo Chung family, which owns Custom Cleaners on Bladensburg Road NE in the District.

To allow such a case to go on year after year, in the process interfering with the livelihoods and lives of law-abiding people, often with severe consequences, is profoundly wrong.




As a lawyer and former administrative law judge, I am particularly aggrieved by District administrative law judge Roy Pearson's $65 million lawsuit against Custom Cleaners after the neighborhood dry cleaner misplaced one pair of his pants. The manifest absurdity of it is too obvious to require explanation.

If I were adjudicating the case, I would not only grant a motion to dismiss it but would also order Mr. Pearson to reimburse the owners of Custom Cleaners for all their expenses in defending it and to pay them several million dollars for their "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort."

I would also direct any bar to which Mr. Pearson belongs to immediately disbar him and the District to remove him from his position as an administrative law judge. Perhaps a class action by the D.C. Bar Association for the damage he has done to the legal profession might also be appropriate.



The writer was chief administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board from 1981 to 1993.

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