Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Justice (?) In The Pants Suit

As widely reported in the media, a DC court has ruled against the DC administrative judge who sued a local dry cleaners for more than $50 million over a pair of lost slacks.

The silly lawsuit has generated worldwide coverage and extensive commentary, including, among others, editorials in today's Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Many commentators are calling the ruling proof that the US judicial system works. We couldn't disagree more. The lawsuit cost the couple who owns the cleaners more than $100,000 in legal fees, so far, and has brought on all kinds of emotional distress for them. It also cost taxpayers an inordinate amount for a dispute over a pair of pants.

We do have a good legal system, but sometimes it fails, and this is one such instance. A good judge in a case such as this would have quickly put limits on the plaintiff, including throwing out his ridiculous multi-million dollar claim and narrowing the issues down to their core, i.e., did the cleaners lose his pants, and if so, what were they worth. Instead, the judges who handled this one (the judge who tried the case and issued the opinion yesterday was not the same judge who dealt with most of the pretrial issues) let it dither on for a couple of years and get so out of hand as to create a media spectacle out of a routine small claim.

Also conspicuously absent, at least so far, has been the DC Bar, which can and should disclipline its members when they abuse the powers granted to them with a law license.

It looks like the man who brought the suit--not the first time he's been overly litigious--Roy Pearson, will lose his job as an administrative law judge for the District of Columbia, which at least is some small measure of justice.

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