Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, June 14, 2007; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

Today's Column: Wearing Down the Judicial System With a Pair of Pants ( Post, June 14)

Fisher was online Thursday, June 14, at Noon ET to discuss the $54 million pants trial -- verdict expected next week -- the continuation of the Cho investigation in the Va. Tech shootings and new D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Check out Marc's blog, Raw Fisher.

In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

Archives: Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

____________________ Pants Extra: Inside the Courtroom ( Raw Fisher, June 14)

_______________________ Wearing Down the Judicial System With a Pair of Pants ( Post, June 14)


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who filed the $54 million suit against the dry cleaners that supposedly lost his pants, said in court yesterday that he is the proud owner of 60 pairs of pants. Sixty! I checked this morning and I have 14 pairs in my closet. Maybe I'm pants-lean, but 60 seems like a lot of pants to me. No? Anyway, lots of folks can't seem to get enough of the pants suit, so I've posted a slew of scenes from the trial on the big blog this morning, a bunch earlier today and a few more just now.

Lots of stuff in the news and on your minds today, including Mayor Fenty's appointment of a new schools chancellor, the latest on the Virginia Tech shooting investigation and the difficulties the panel is facing in finding out just what steps were taken once people knew how dangerous Seung-Hui Cho really was, and the case of the Virginia parents who served alcoholic beverages to teenagers and have now begun serving a 27-month prison term as punishment for that act of parental toxicity.

On to your many comments and questions, but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff, whose handling of the Roy Pearson pants case has been quite impressive. Superior Court is riddled with all too many judges who, because of the court's odd system of appointing judges, have precious little sense of responsibility to the public. But here's a judge with a delightful manner, disarming humor, dazzling smarts and a terrific mix of judicious caution and firm discipline. She gave Pearson--a difficult fellow who made life all the more problematic by representing himself--plenty of space to spell out his often odd theories of law, but she also reined him in when necessary and didn't shy away from telling him when he was completely off the rails. There's little in a courtroom with more downside risk than a plaintiff who is representing himself, knows the law in detail, and has no restrictions on his time, but Bartnoff managed to keep a trial that threatened to get completely out of hand to two days, just as she had promised.

Nay to the cowardly members of the Commission on Selections and Appointments of Administrative Law Judges, the group of officials who must decide whether to appoint Roy Pearson to a full, 10-year term as a judge handling disputes with city agencies. Pearson's initial two-year term expired a few weeks ago, but the panel delayed a decision on his reappointment after my first column appeared on the pants case. The panel put off any decision until after the trial, apparently hoping that the trial judge would give them cover to take action against Pearson on the grounds that his frivolous lawsuit was evidence of a temperment unsuited to a judge. But there's also some sentiment on the commission to pay no attention to the pants suit because it's a First Amendment-protected expression of Pearson's speech. Sounds pretty specious to me, but stranger things have happened in this town.

Your turn starts right now....


Vienna, Va.: If Roy Pearson loses his lawsuit against the Cho's, would he be responsible for paying for the Chos' legal fees? There has to be some type of deterrent for people not to bring frivolous lawsuits like the one Pearson has somehow managed to bring to court. I feel, if anyone needs to get punished here, it's Roy Pearson, for harassing the Chos and wasting the courts time. Wearing Down the Judicial System With a Pair of Pants ( Post, June 14)

Marc Fisher: Not necessarily. That's up to Judge Bartnoff. She could grant Pearson's request for $500,000 in attorney's fees (not bloody likely given her repeated comments from the bench about how people who represent themselves generally don't get to collect attorney's fees), or she could make no grant of attorney's fees to anyone (possible), or she could try to punish Pearson for filing a frivolous case by making him pay the Chungs' fees (if she completely throws out Pearson's case, this is also possible, maybe even likely.)


Olney, Md.: I have followed the case of the $54 million dollar pants and I cannot believe it is in court and yet there is one link that I need to understand further. You mentioned in your article that "Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of a Pearson lawsuit." Why is this guy so powerful? I worked several years in the Washington legal community and have never heard of him and was not surprised to hear that he had been unemployed for several years. I am not saying that his suit would have merit if he were a D.C. "somebody" but my question is why hasn't a judge throw this blatantly litigious case in the two years that he has tried to push this case through, why is this man so powerful in the D.C. courts that nobody wants to go against him?

Marc Fisher: Good question. It's not that Pearson is powerful in the sense that he has political capital or community standing. Rather, he has a power that is uniquely in the hands of that small subset of folks who are lawyers representing themselves in their own lawsuits. For most people, one of the main checks on wildly out of control litigation is the extreme cost of fighting in the courts. Unless you're a huge corporation or the government, money will play a significant role in determining the boundaries of litigation. But in Pearson's case, he had nothing but time and he didn't have to pay for anything. He was unemployed for several years and then once he got work as a judge, he devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours of his off time to the pants suit. He even called a fellow judge to testify that Pearson never had time to hang out or do fun stuff on evenings or weekends because he was toiling away on the pants case. With that kind of virtually unlimited resource, a case like this rather quickly goes off the rails. That's the power I was talking about.


SW: So, when a verdict is reached in favor of the cleaners, this matter will die, right? There won't be an appeal, etc., I hope ...

Marc Fisher: Hahahahahahaha.

If he loses, I will eat my pants if there's no appeal.


Silver Spring, Md.: First off, thank you for your blogs yesterday -- it truly lightened up a long day. My question is ... how can a man be unemployed for two years (having left his job for what it appears to be subjective reasons), then all of a sudden become a judge? D.C. is very pro- employee when it comes to unemployment benefits -- EVEN IF they quit for personal reasons. Go figure.

Marc Fisher: Administrative law judges are hired like any other D.C. employee. You submit a resume and file an application and you're considered for the job. Pearson has an impressive resume--he worked for a quarter century for Neighborhood Legal Services, a well-regarded, federally-funded program that helped D.C. residents with housing and other problems. And he went to a top-shelf law school, Northwestern. (For your amusement, and as proof #696 that Wikipedia is a silly phenomenon, Pearson is now listed on Northwestern Law's page of the online encyclopedia as one of that institution's prominent alumni.)


Washington, D.C.: You saw the trial, Marc. The pants evidently do not match the suit. There is no evidence that Mr. Pearson owned more than one suit, let alone a similar suit. So as much as you may loathe the plaintiff, doesn`t this prove the Chungs a) lost his pants and b) tried to put one over on Mr. Pearson by trying to switch another pair of pants that did not match? Certainly you do not think Nordstrom's would sell someone an $1100 suit where the jacket did not match the pants.

Marc Fisher: I don't know whether the pants match the suit--I couldn't get close enough to the pants to see when they were unveiled on Day Two, and Pearson only brought in the jacket on Day One. But let's assume you're right and they don't match. What does that tell us? Perhaps the pants area not Pearson's and were inadvertently switched at the cleaners, or perhaps they are indeed Pearson's and he just happened to bring the wrong pants to the cleaners.

In fact, Pearson testified that he owns more than five suits, and that he owns upwards of 60--repeat 60--pairs of pants.


So Many Pants: Geez, even 14 pairs seems like a lot to me. I'm a woman and I only have 4. Alright, I've got some skirts. But 60! Wow. How could you remember them all.

Marc Fisher: Well, I should add that several of the 14 are inactive due to fluctuating waist line. This may be the case in Pearson's closet too.


Washington, D.C.: I think it's great that this pants lawsuit will serve as a wakeup call to all these mom and pop dry cleaners and alteration shops. Once, I had to get my slacks cuffed where I specified 1 1/4". One week later, they got it wrong at 1 1/2." Finally after three weeks, they got my slacks altered correctly and were mad at me when I thought I deserved a discount. Outrageous.

Marc Fisher: So, naturally, you sued them for $65 million.


Anonymous: If Roy Pearson deserves criticism for abusing the legal system with a lawsuit that is unreasonable, shouldn't the judges who have allowed the farce to continue be criticized also?

Is there anything under the law that prevents the dry cleaner for suing Pearson for damages based on alleged abuse of the legal system and bringing a frivolous lawsuit that has unjustly damaged the dry cleaner?

Marc Fisher: Sure, the Chungs could sue, anybody can sue. But given how deeply disenchanted the Chungs are with the system that has wiped out their savings, I don't think we'll see them anywhere near a lawyer ever again, and there's some evidence that they may just give up on their adopted home and head back to Korea.

I've been getting tons of questions about why the court allowed the case to get this far. Two points: 1) When someone like Pearson has all the time in the world to press his case, and when he knows how to use the law this well, the system is hard-pressed (ok, I'll stop) to dismiss him out of hand. His legal theories are plausible enough to merit a hearing, and the best the judges could do was to trim back his case, which they did, quite effectively. Pearson wanted to call 26 or so witnesses; the judges--Bartnoff and her predecessor on the case, Neal Kravitz--sliced off big chunks of Pearson's case before the trial started.


Washington, D.C.: During the last week, I have been trying to figure out why you are devoting so much time and newspaper space to this trial? You seem like the kind of guy who is fascinated with why people are so fascinated with Paris Hilton, yet this seems like that same kind of thing.

Marc Fisher: Excellent question. There is the raw fun of the case--the wild juxtaposition of mundane subject matter and insanely inflated money, but there's also the bigger question--the meaning of life piece--about how we've allowed lawyers to alter the very texture of our daily lives. We are all subject to the whims of people like Roy Pearson, and as a society, we've done a terrible job of shielding ourselves from the idea that we must act to protect ourselves from liability rather than to do the right and humane thing. This is true in virtually every aspect of contemporary life: schools, churches, businesses, real estate, government. Wherever you turn, whether it's the neighborhood playground or the workplace, decisions are made because of some lawyer's advice that you could be sued, rather than because of what's right and in the interests of the community.


SW D.C.: This saddens me tremendously, both that you think there will be an appeal, and that we won't get to see you eat your pants as a result.

Marc Fisher: There'll be other opportunities, I promise.


Washington, D.C.: My theory? Pearson found the pants in the bottom of his closet a couple weeks ago, but can't drop the lawsuit because he's too embarrassed.

Marc Fisher: Yeah, what was he going to do when the defense finally unwrapped the pants that the cleaners were holding all this time--slap himself in the forehead and say, oh, man, those ARE my pants!?


Customer is always right: I'm taking my car back to the dealership to demand a new one -- since this one has aged poorly, I'm not satisfied. They also guaranteed satisfaction, and said that this model would last for a very long time. So I guess they'll have to do whatever it takes to make me happy. I don't know if I just want a new car, or cash to alleviate my suffering.

Marc Fisher: Surely you will need more than one new car. One to replace the one that didn't last, one to hold for whenever this one falters, one to show the neighbors that you're really better off than that old clunker made you appear to be, and one to show that you know your way around a courthouse.


Dulles, Va.: Roy Pearson is no longer listed as a prominent NW law school alumnus on Wikipedia. Roy L. Pearson Jr. ( Wikipedia)

Marc Fisher: Things change.



Marc Fisher: Yeah, that was on the long list of puns and other fun stuff that I was trying to slip into the coverage. I got in a few, but the action in the courtroom was too, um, pressing for me to get in as many as I would have liked.


Seattle, Wash.: Any speculation, Marc, on how much Roy Pearson might have asked for in punitive damages if Custom Cleaners had returned a double-breasted jacket in place of his "Hickey Freeman" jacket? What if they had returned a "Seinfeld puffy shirt" in place of his usual dress shirt?

Marc Fisher: Pearson has nice taste in suits. Though the hemming on his jacket yesterday was a bit uneven. And he needs an upgrade in shoes. He was wearing those soft leather shoes that look more like running shoes than business wear. Hey, we should have brought in Robin Givhan for this one.


Re: Washington, D.C.: Plus, the pant suit is a local news story of interest to many people who live in D.C. Some of us have been to this dry cleaners, and some of us have had administrative cases decided by this judge. It's not like covering Paris Hilton at all.

Marc Fisher: If you've had a matter decided by Judge Pearson, I'd love to hear how that went.


Wiredog: Hmmmm. I'm pants heavy: 5 sets of cords, for winter work wear. 5 sets of Dockers type slacks for warmer weather work wear. 7 sets of shorts, and 7 of blue jeans, for casual.

Plus the pair that comes with the suit.

25 total.

Marc Fisher: Shorts don't count, so I'll put you down for 18, which seems reasonable enough to me. Sixty wouldn't even fit in my closet, not even close. At 60, you're talking about folks who roll in one of those racks you see at big corporate parties and turn the spare bedroom into a closet room.


Downtown, D.C.: There is a reason why this guy is acting as his own lawyer. No attorney in his right mind would ever have filed this case. It is, at best, a matter for small claims court. With all of the discussion about mental illness, it's surprising to me that no one has stated the obvious: it's clear from the manner in which this guy has pursued this case that he has mental issues. I'm not saying he's certifiable, but there is a disconnect somewhere. And God help anybody who has to stand before him as a judge.

Marc Fisher: Well, mental issues aside, it's certainly true that no lawyer would take on a case like this--it's the quintessential small claims case, but Pearson knew how to escalate it by making it a case about the terms of the D.C. consumer protection code.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. F: I don't know how to phrase this politely, so I will simply ask, after you have attended the "Pants Trial" -- is the plaintiff a nut case?

Marc Fisher: Fair question.

To be positively Clintonian about it, it depends on what the meaning of nut case is. Certainly, Pearson is obsessive about this case. He testified that he spent 1,400 hours preparing for it. He said it has utterly dominated his life for years.

On the other hand, he is a very bright guy who has made an extraordinarily detailed study of his subject. Judge Bartnoff semi-seriously called Pearson "the world's leading expert" on the D.C. consumer protection law at one point in the proceedings.

For me, the interesting question is to what extent Pearson really believes in his own case. Is he just a lawyer who's really into Legal Extreme Sports and wants to push a strange but slightly plausible legal theory to the ultra-max? Or is he an obsessed individual who long ago lost any human perspective on this whole thing? Hard to say.


Glenmont, Md.:: What's to stop the Bar Association from deciding that this guy ought to be disbarred for abusing the system so badly? That'll keep him out of court.

Seriously -- I haven't followed your coverage closely enough to know. Have you raised this question?

Marc Fisher: I know the bar has received a number of inquiries about that, but I don't know of any ongoing investigation on that.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Marc

Enough with the pants suit!

We 've heard all the stories and jokes and opinions on everything connected to this nonsense. Why is the judge waiting another week to rule? The guy is going to appeal anyway whether he can or not. The only real issue now is how soon will he be not renominated for the ALJ post.

Marc Fisher: If you were the judge in this, you too would decide it's just too risky to rule from the bench. Against a guy like this, you want to put everything in writing.


Hyattsville, Md.: What is an administrative law judge and what does he do?

Marc Fisher: He's a city employee who rules on disputes between citizens and D.C. agencies, or between D.C. agencies.


Other News, Va.: The amount of ink and air time this dry-clean/pants story is getting is astonishing. How many more columns on it do you plan, Marc?

I won't give you too much grief, since you've got a decent record in covering real stories. But I wish you wouldn't pile on, even as I sit here, amazed, at post after post and question after question about this story.

Did you hear there were Virginia Senate primaries this week?

Marc Fisher: Indeed, and when I blogged on the primary results this week, there was virtually no response from readers. But that hasn't stopped me in the past, so I will certainly keep at that and other such topics.

Despite the very small turnout, these turned out to be revealing and important primaries that could well portend a shift in Virginia's political landscape. As the Post's Tim Craig points out in a superb analysis today, the Republican turn to a harder conservatism in these primaries will create a chance for Democrats to position themselves as the moderates in this fall's legislative elections. And it will present the Republicans with a moment of choice as they decide whether to tack to the center to counter the moderating forces seen in the elections of two straight Democratic governors, or to buff up the tried and true strategy of focusing on divisive social issues to bring out the strong conservative vote.


Washington, D.C.: Pants = BORING!

Can we PLEASE move on??

How about this new superintendent? Kind of exciting, no?

Marc Fisher: Fascinating, actually--Adrian Fenty's appointment of Michelle Rhee as DC schools chancellor is a prototypical Fenty move--at once daring, different, and potentially dangerous, in both good and bad ways. There's a good argument that she's almost being set up to fail--in so many ways, she comes in without the political capital needed to succeed. Yet Fenty said from the start that he wanted to shake things up. But in all kinds of ways--age, ethnicity, experience--she is in a most vulnerable spot.


NE D.C.: Is Rhee friendly to charter schools? What is your take on how she will interact with them ideologically? I have a daughter in a D.C. charter school.

Marc Fisher: I don't know, but I will look into that. It's a good question. Knowing Fenty's attitude on charters, I'd bet she's a supporter of the idea and of getting them the facilities they need to make a go of it.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Being that Judge Judy is taking a week to deliver a verdict on this ridiculous case, do you think that this is already a moral victory for Mr. Pearson and others like him (McDonald's coffee lawsuit coming to mind)?

Marc Fisher: Nah, it's just the judge making sure everything's right in her decision because she just knows he will appeal.

Speaking of Judge Judy, there was a woman in the courtroom--a Korean woman who told me that she read about this in the paper and just had to come see for herself--who pulled me aside after Day One and said, "This judge is terrible."

Really, I said, I thought she'd managed the day quite well.

"No, terrible--ridiculous," she said. "She's not like Judge Judy."

"Well, no, that's a TV show--just for entertainment," I said. "It has nothing to do with a real court."

"No, Judge Judy is a real judge," she said. "This woman is terrible. Not like Judge Judy."

I kid you not.


Washington, D.C.: I am not even going to comment on the pants suit, that speaks to the general insanity of many entitled D.C. residents. However, I would like to point out that sometimes the sane do prevail. On Monday night, the Zoning Commission stood up to the NIMBYs in friendship Heights and approved the Akridge condo project after a year of fighting among community members! So I am confident also that the pants suit will also be thrown out.

Marc Fisher: I'm not sure I see the connection, but that's good to hear about the Akridge project, an office-retail building planned for upper Wisconsin Avenue that's been the subject of heated debate in that neighborhood as NIMBY residents try to fight against the reality of living in an urban area near a Metro station.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Boy was I wrong about Fenty. I thought he would be disastrous for the city (bring back the Marion Barry times) given his vote against the crime bill last year. Instead he has a really tough on crime police chief and is really working hard on this school reform issue.

I also like that he has a cabinet and appointments that "look like America." Funny how presidents are supposed to do that but not D.C. mayors.

Marc Fisher: Interesting point--it's pretty remarkable that Fenty felt he has the political capital and standing to break with nearly half a century of precedent and appoint a non-black to run the D.C. schools. For too many years, the D.C. system placed an untoward limitation on its own searches for leaders by insisting that only blacks could run a system in which nine in ten students are black. But the selection of a Korean-American may not make for the smoothest of race relations, especially given the history of hostility in the District between blacks and Asians. Check out the current dispute over the principal at Deal Junior High School for evidence that those tensions are not a thing of the past.


Fairfax County, Va.: Just a comment from the voter perspective. The intensity of the Democratic primary in my Virginia Senate district (the one represented by Jay O'Brien) was absolutely bizarre. Thank God it's now over.

Over the months, I received about ten slick, professional mail pieces from each candidate and easily a dozen phone calls, both recorded and live, including polling questions. (All this for a local primary.) I also had both candidates and volunteers come to my door to talk to me. And yet this was a race that didn't even merit WaPo coverage -- and the turnout was light, as usual.

What does it all mean? My theory is computers have made it possible even for local campaigns to target specific (unlucky) voters to the nth degree. I guess the other theory is that Democrats are smelling a possible victory in this district, so even an absurd effort in the primary made sense for both contenders. P.S. George Barker won, defeating Greg Galligan.

Marc Fisher: I saw coverage in the Post of that race, but you're right--with just a four-seat hold on the Republican majority in the Virginia Senate, the Dems smell their first real chance to get a piece of the legislature back in their hands in quite a long time, so yes, there's an intensity to this year's legislative races that we haven't seen for a while.


West Alexandria, I guess: Enough about the crazy judge and the privacy rights of dead, evil people, let's talk about Marion Shepilov Barry. Mayor for life once again stood up to MAN and proved his innocence before a court of law. His latest triumph shows that you can't keep Mayor for Life down!

Marc Fisher: Well, there's that, plus the fact that he blew a .02 on the breathalyzer, which is well under the legal definition of crocked. But he's got another date in traffic court soon for another drinking and driving stop, so stand by.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think of Allan Lew moving over from the stadium to the schools -- what will be the impact to the stadium?

Marc Fisher: Should be good for the schools, maybe not so good for the stadium, but that project is so far along that it should be ok. My worry would be more about the ancillary issues--the parking mess, the woeful planning done for road work to clear people's way to the ballpark, and the development of the area around the stadium. Without Lew there, I'm even more leery of how all that will work out.


Baseball City: Just to change the subject a little, and to follow up on something you mentioned last week, when you hear country music at RFK, that means it's Austin Kearns' turn to bat. The players pick the music that gets played when they come up.

Marc Fisher: I'm fine with that--it's the use of country songs as between-innings entertainment that I find to be a bizarre misreading of the musical tastes in this market.


D.C. Vote in house: Marc,

I know that I'm supposed to be for it, but I don't want it because Congress will give a vote to the delegate and then tell us to shut up already. I don't like the hybrid status. I would rather have no vote but no federal taxes like Puerto Rico or to have full statehood. Not something in between.

Marc Fisher: Purists don't fare well in legislative proceedings, no?


Shaw, Washington, D.C. : Marc, how about those Nats. Good to see them playing hard and getting the win in extra innings at OPACY last night. With the traffic and weather it took two hours to get from downtown D.C. to the game. It was worth it though. A sweep tonight would be great.

Marc Fisher: Two hours and bad weather to boot--man, you're a real fan. And boy, did that ballpark look empty on TV last night. Way to go, Angelos.


Washington, D.C.: Marc,

So the ex-Mayor-for-Life's defense in the DWI trial was that he wasn't drunk or high because he often just appears that way?

Marc Fisher: Something like that. What was the term his lawyer used, "thick tongued?" Yikes.


Free Marion Barry!: Let the man party in peace. How many years does he have left anyway?

Marc Fisher: Another quarter heard from.


Support the Chungs: Do they at least know how many people are pulling for them and really feel for them in this whole thing?

I hope so. I hope at least that all the good wishes for them can help alleviate a little the frustrations and pain this guy has caused them. Even if it can't restore their savings.

Marc Fisher: Good wishes are nice--and no, I don't think they have any sense of how much support they have, except from the Korean Dry Cleaners Association, which packed the courtroom with supporters--but money is what this is all about, and Pearson has bled the Chungs dry. There is a defense fund for the Chungs:


Korean speaker: I'm a little peeved by the inaccurate reporting of the Chung's name. I've seen the wife's name given as Ki or Soo. I'm guessing it's actually Ki-soo. Koreans generally don't take their husband's name. Is "Mrs. Chung" actually Chung Ki-soo, or is this just shorthand adopted by reporters?

Marc Fisher: No, Ki is the son. Soo is the mother. And the father is Jin Nam Chung.


Basye, Va.: Marc: great job. This is sure entertaining.

Has the subject of checking Mr. Pearson's computer at work come up at the trial to determine if he has used any of the D.C. government's time and equipment to pursue his case?

Marc Fisher: Haven't heard anything about that. He said he does his research at home.


Williamsburg, Va.: Contrary to your assertion that the judge wants to be careful and put everything in writing, it would be safer for the court to issue an oral decision: "Judgment for the Defendant, case dismissed." The record would undoubtedly support that decision. Anything written with more detail will give Pearson an opportunity to parse that language to support his appeal.

Marc Fisher: Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. The judge has to rule on a bunch of issues and Pearson brought up some apparent sloppy writing in the D.C. consumer protection law.


One week decision: As a lawyer who once clerked in an appellate court, I promise you: Judge Bartnoff taking one week to carefully craft her order has the potential to shorten the appeal by months or even years.

Marc Fisher: Agreed.


Folklife festival: Are you psyched about the upcoming Folklife Festival?

Marc Fisher: Better than last year: Mekong River, Virginia, Northern Ireland. From a food perspective, that's two out of three, which isn't bad.


Racism in D.C.:"in all kinds of ways -- age, ethnicity, experience -- she is in a most vulnerable spot."

I wonder how many other modern cities could openly debate the race of a city administrator as a possible disqualifying trait without hearing from the usual suspects.

Marc Fisher: That's a sad thing about Washington. But I cannot begin to tell you how much of my mail on her appointment focused first and foremost on the fact that she is Korean. Sad but true.


Another Suit?: If he does not get reappointed -- regardless of the outcome -- do you think he'll sue the entire D.C. government, calling it retaliation?

Marc Fisher: Bet on it.


Satisfaction Guaranteed: Marc,

Are your columns guaranteed to please?

Marc Fisher: No, but they are guaranteed to satisfy. I'm just not saying whom.


Fairfax, Va.: Hi Marc, Thanks. When I look at this case as a recent immigrant, I am wondering where is the sense of American righteousness? The moral value that American people have been shown to the world community.

I think the owners of dry cleaner shop need to pay for the damage with a reasonable amount. I believe they did it already.

The plaintiff, as a public servant, has acted like a monster without any sign humanity. How far we have to accept his outrageous behaviors who has a legal expertise?

Are we at the last stage of American civilization with people like the plaintiff? It seems that we are losing the sense of living together.

Marc Fisher: But will your frustration be relieved if the judge slams Pearson down? Or is the mere existence of the lawsuit sufficient evidence that we're all going to hell in a hand basket (why is going to hell in a hand basket any worse than going by jet, or tunnel, or however one reaches hell most properly?)


The hemming on his jacket : yesterday was a bit uneven. Because he had to do it himself. Since he's no longer able to get to a dry cleaners he trusts. See, he is suffering.

Marc Fisher: This is the ultimate question: If he loses, or heck, if he wins, Where will Roy Pearson get his suits dry cleaned henceforth? What sane dry cleaner would let the man over his threshold? We may have to take up a collection to get Pearson the cleaning fluids he will need to do home dry cleaning.


Washington, D.C.: What I hate most about these cases (like the pants) is that it allows a certain group of people (let's say corporate CEOs) to say that ALL lawsuits against businesses are this frivolous and that we sooo need tort reform. But in reality, there are some very good reasons to sue corporations and they often put people in danger and the only way to hold them accountable is by using the legal system.

I know that the system can and is abused but often corporations can and do abuse both their workers and the consumers as well.

Marc Fisher: That may be, but I'm not sure the civil courts are the right way to fight those abuses. In most cases, if such abuses are truly crimes against society, shouldn't we devote the common resources to have our hired hands, federal and state prosecutors, take on those complicated and expensive cases, rather than leaving it to the vagaries of the civil system?


Reston, Va.: While I don't agree with the judge suing the cleaners for a bunch of millions over a pair of pants, I hope this will be a wakeup call to all those dry cleaners out there who mess up cleaning jobs or alteration jobs and act all outraged when we expect them to fix the mistakes. I've been there and I know a lot of people have one or more complaint against their dry cleaners.

Marc Fisher: It's hard to find anyone who hasn't had a bad dry cleaning experience. It's a flawed process, and it's made even more problematic because of staffing issues, but that said, what's the proper compensation when things go bad at the cleaners? Shouldn't it be the value of the garment?


Arlington, Va.: Federal agencies also have administrative law judges, they make legal judgments based on the particular agency's regulations and guidelines. They are basically super-ombudsmen.

ALJs are not "real" judges because they have NO enforcement power!

Marc Fisher: They are nonetheless interpreters of the law who make decisions that have a real impact on people's money, policies and actions.


Cleaning Fluids: Could use the judge's crocodile tears. Pretty caustic.

Marc Fisher: Ouch.


In defense of Judge Bartnoff: The Court of Public Opinion can dismiss Pearson's suit by observing its craziness. But a Court of Law has to articulate reasons grounded in the law for dismissing a suit.

People keep saying that meritless suits should be thrown out. But that's the whole purpose of a trial -- to determine whether the suit has merit.

If the Chungs get attorneys' fees from Pearson, then the system will have achieved justice.

Marc Fisher: Yes, to some extent. But the Chungs will still have been severely damaged for no good reason.


SW: I am glad I am moving out of D.C. Having served on a jury with my "peers" was bad enough, knowing that a man with Pearson's definition of "reasonable" could potentially be judging my case is the last straw. How can anyone have any confidence in the judicial system knowing this man was a judge? I guess the real test will be whether he continues to be one. Either way, having lived in the city has disillusioned me immensely. On to NYC, where everything and everyone makes sense ...

Marc Fisher: I don't see any connection between the bizarre nature of this case and it's being sited in the District. Surely you're not arguing that a Roy Pearson couldn't exist elsewhere. Though perhaps you're arguing that he wouldn't be a judge elsewhere. Which is a point.


Washington, D.C.:"If he loses, I will eat my pants if there's no appeal."

Easy for you to say. You only have 14 pairs.

Marc Fisher: I didn't say I'd eat all of them!


McLean, Va.: I think that Roy Pearson is enough of a public figure that he needs to be enshrined in your Nickname Hall of Fame, alongside Bobby Haircut and Mayor Blackberry. I nominate the nickname Fancy Pants, as in Roy "Fancy Pants" Pearson. Has a certain je ne sais quois, oui?

Marc Fisher: If he were a ballplayer, he'd be known as just Pants Pearson. Or Plain Old Pants Pearson.


Marc Fisher: We're over our limit here, so it's time to go change my pants. More about the pants suit now on Raw Fisher, and the column returns on Sunday, as does The Listener over in the Sunday Arts section ("It's Alive!")

Back with you here next week--thanks for coming along.


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