A former D.C. administrative judge who in 2005 filed a $54 million lawsuit against a dry-cleaning business over a pair of missing pants, becoming a national symbol for frivolous litigation, could face disciplinary action by the D.C. Court of Appeals for alleged misconduct in the case.
Roy L. Pearson Jr., who for two years worked as an administrative judge with the District’s Office of Administrative Hearings, sued the owners of a Northeast Washington dry cleaner after he claimed the shop lost his trousers when he took them in for alterations. Pearson alleged fraud, claiming the cleaners did not honor the “satisfaction guarantee” sign that was displayed in their window.
Following a trial, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled against Pearson. The case made national headlines and was used as a story line on the NBC show “Law and Order.”
On June 3, a three-person hearing committee for the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility found Pearson committed two ethics violations of interfering with the administration of justice and presenting arguments not supported by facts or law. Sanctions recommended by the committee will be reviewed by the board, and ultimately the Court of Appeals. A final decision could take months.
The committee recommended that Pearson be placed on probation from the practice of law for two years. The committee also recommended that Pearson, 65, inform any client of the case and for him to not participate in any frivolous litigations.
The sanctions were proposed after D.C. Bar disciplinary prosecutors who oversee alleged lawyer misconduct in Washington sought action against Pearson. Pearson has been a member of the D.C. Bar since 1978, three years after graduating from Northwestern University Law School.
Calls left on Pearson’s voice mail as well as emails to Pearson were not returned.
In a filing, Pearson denied violating attorney conduct rules and accused the counsel of participating in a “transparently frivolous effort to interfere with the administration of justice.” He alleged that the counsel sought to “harass or maliciously injure” him by submitting “144 paragraphs of inflammatory, prejudicial and legally unfounded alleged facts.”
The ruling was first reported by the legal news website Law.com.
The board will make its recommendation to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which will then issue a final ruling after a series of hearings later this year, said Wallace E. Shipp Jr. the bar’s disciplinary counsel. He said Pearson will have the opportunity to respond during the proceedings.
In an interview, Shipp declined to say why the Bar waited so many years to seek sanctions against Pearson. But in a December filing, the counsel admitted it had “no excuse” in not bringing such disciplinary action against Pearson earlier.
“The public, the courts and the Bar deserve better,” Shipp wrote.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.