Trouser Trial Decision ends Un-Seamly Tale
You have likely heard the story about the judge in Washington D.C. who lost his pants. Actually, according to Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson, it was the nefarious folks at the local dry cleaners that lost his beloved pants. And these must have been some really terrific trousers because Judge Roy sued the mom-and-pop dry cleaners for $54 million in damages for the missing slacks.
I have had some pretty good pants in my life but I have never had a pair of slacks that I could trade for a brand new Boeing 737 jet. The good Judge Pearson caused my head to nearly explode when I read this account of the trial in The Washington Post.
A D.C. law judge broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself about his experience with a missing pair of pants.
I tried to imagine the testimony. “I thought about that empty hanger…and…sob…could I have a moment here?” Back to the Post story.
Administrative law judge Roy Pearson is representing himself in civil court and claimed that he is owed $54 million from a local dry cleaner who he says lost his pants, despite a sign in their store which ensures "Satisfaction Guaranteed."
The case gained national attention soon after the lawsuit was filed. The pants are expected to be introduced into evidence, although [Pearson] says the pants are not his, and the correct pants are still missing.
“Your Honor, I would like to introduce the first witness. Please call 'Not My Pants' to the stand.”
Perhaps they could have organized a trouser lineup for Judge Roy to try and identify his misplaced pants. Maybe a police artist composite sketch of his slacks could have located the traumatized trousers before it was too late.
“Is that about the right crease? Do you see a zipper that looks like the one on your pants? I know this is hard. Just work with me a little longer.”
To be honest, I underestimated the amount of trauma that Judge Pearson endured when his drawers went missing. I thought the people in Darfur were suffering until I heard this heartbreaking testimony.
Pearson testified that he had endured severe "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort." In his opening statement, Pearson came out swinging, telling the court "never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices."
That must come as a pleasant surprise to the Enron defendants. Pantsgate has, according to Pearson, superseded that little misunderstanding down in Houston.
Repeatedly referring to himself as '"we," Pearson sought to represent himself as the leader of a class of tens of thousands, if not a half million local residents he believes are at risk of falling for such insidious business practices as posting “Satisfaction Guaranteed' signs and "Same Day Service."
"Mr. Pearson, you are not a 'we'.'' You are an 'I'," Judge Judith Bartnoff told Pearson. But as he explained the details of the missing pants, Pearson struggled to get through his hour and a half of testimony, most of which concerned his credentials and his background. He became visibly emotional when he reached the point in the story where he confronted Soo Chung from the dry cleaning store.
"These are not my pants,'' he testified yesterday, telling her "I have in my adult life, with one exception, never worn pants with cuffs."
But Chung insisted, Pearson testified.
"These are your pants."
Pearson rushed from the courtroom, tears streaming down his face.
I am a soft touch. I teared up when I watched Flicka the other night with my bride. But I am almost positive the phrase “these are your pants” will never make me weep. Perhaps it is just me. Could it be something in my background has kept me from developing the kind of relationship with my pants that Mr.Pearson has developed? Maybe my own dysfunction is at the root of my cold and distant trouser interactions. Sorry for the off-the-cuff confessions but I just don’t have any sentiments for my slacks. What is wrong with me?
This week the court ruled on the saga of the switched slacks. So how much did Roy Pearson get for his anguish, inconvenience and discomfort?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Judge Judith Bartnoff heard the heartwrenching testimony and still somehow ruled against Pearson. The Washington Post quoted the judge’s ruling. "A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands or to accede to demands that the merchant has reasonable grounds to dispute," Bartnoff wrote in a 23-page ruling, adding that Pearson "is not entitled to any relief whatsoever."
Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay the Chungs' court costs -- likely to be a few thousand dollars -- to cover fees for filings, transcripts and similar expenses. But even bigger troubles loom. She said she will consider making Pearson also pay the couple's attorneys' fees arising from the two-year legal battle. With the legal costs likely to exceed $100,000, however, the Chungs aren't counting on Pearson being able to pay, Manning said.
And with good reason. Up for reappointment this year, Pearson could have a hard time keeping his $96,000-a-year job if Bartnoff finds him at fault for his pursuit of the case. While awaiting a decision on his reappointment, Pearson is not hearing cases. He did not respond to emails seeking comment yesterday.
How can cases like this even get to a trial? Shouldn’t there be some basis for tossing out ridiculous lawsuits like this? During the past two years, Pearson rejected offers to settle, first for $3,000, then for $4,600 and finally for $12,000. I can tell you that if my dry cleaner loses my most very favorite pair of pants I will settle for $3,000 and just go to grief counseling for a few weeks. I promise I will fight through it.
What is the lesson for the rest of us? After removing the duct tape from my head I actually felt sorry for Mr.Pearson. I cannot imagine generating enough anger and bitterness to pursue such a lawsuit. But, in the spirit of this blog, I try really hard not to feel superior to others. So when I start down that path I simply remember and identify with the words of Paul.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. (I Timothy NLT)
I pray that Mr. Pearson, and all of us, will meditate on more important things this day than misplaced pants.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com