Dry Cleaners Cut Plaintiff Some Slack

Jin Chung, left, and Soo Chung say they no longer need Judge Roy Pearson to pay their legal bills.
Jin Chung, left, and Soo Chung say they no longer need Judge Roy Pearson to pay their legal bills. (By Jacquelyn Martin -- Associated Press)
By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The dry cleaners aren't pressing their case against the Pants Judge.

In a surprise turn yesterday, the small-business owners sued by D.C. Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson withdrew their demand that he pay nearly $83,000 for their legal bills, saying that enough money had been raised from supporters to cover the expenses and that they want to end the fighting.

The cleaners want Pearson, who could soon be out of a job, to do the same.

In the motion filed in D.C. Superior Court, the owners of Custom Cleaners ask Pearson, who lost his famous $54 million lawsuit two months ago, to call a halt to the legal proceedings. If he intends to appeal a judge's rejection of his lawsuit over a supposedly missing pair of pants, he has until tomorrow to file notice.

"With their losses and expenses now almost completely recouped, all Defendants want to do is make this case go away," Christopher Manning, an attorney for Soo Chung and her family, wrote in the seven-page motion. "Defendants' lives have been devastated and they want nothing more than to quietly return to running their dry cleaning business."

A July 24 fundraiser, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pulled in about $70,000, Manning said in the motion. That event and other contributions went a long way toward covering the more than $100,000 in legal costs and business losses incurred by the Northeast Washington shop, Manning said.

It would make for an ironic conclusion to the case: Pearson effectively benefiting from the generosity of some of the very people who vilified his suit and came to the aid of the Chungs.

For Pearson, the case has always been about more than the suit pants he claims were not returned. In his eyes, suing the Chungs was about sticking up for the rights of the ordinary customer, and perhaps he will want to give the D.C. Court of Appeals a chance to vindicate his position.

In case he does appeal, the Chungs are reserving their right to seek attorneys' fees for any future proceedings.

Since the trial, Pearson has not responded to requests for comment on developments in the case. Early last night, he could not reached by telephone, and he did not respond to a message sent to his personal e-mail address.

In a brief filed last week, Pearson argued, among other points, that the Chungs' motion on him paying legal fees should be denied because the success of the fundraising efforts would make any award nothing more than a windfall. In their brief filed yesterday, the Chungs said they were confident that the court would have ruled in their favor had they not withdrawn the motion.

Either way, Pearson is no longer facing the prospect of a crippling penalty from the court. But he still might lose his job. After his initial two-year term expired this year, he applied for a full 10-year term. Last week, the city commission that oversees administrative law judges sent Pearson a letter warning him that it might not reappoint him when it votes on his application next month.

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