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Pants Update: When Shaming Doesn't Work

While I was away--and many thanks to Valerie Strauss for her energetic and entertaining posts while she filled in for me--there were some developments in the Pants Suit that gave us both reason for hope and a reminder of just how petty and small man can be.

Even after the trial and the verdict, after the first move to strip Roy Pearson of his position as an administrative law judge, there was something gnawingly unsettling about the pants case--and that was the fact that someone who knows just enough about the law can all too easily torment a total stranger and ruin a family's finances and lives. The impact on the Chung family of being sued for $67 million did not end with their victory in court.

But now the Chungs' lawyer, Christopher Manning, has decided to take the high road. He tried to shame Roy Pearson into dropping the case and halting his appeal. Manning's carrot was a juicy one: The Chungs, on whose behalf many of you made donations so that they would not be crushed by legal bills of $100,000 or more, dropped their request for the court to make Pearson pay the Chungs' attorney fees. The gesture was intended as a peace offering, an incentive for Pearson to drop his appeal and let this thing die.

Of course, Pearson, who cannot be shamed, did no such thing, informing the court instead that he plans to file an appeal soon.

The Chungs' lawyer responded like so:

The Chungs have done everything possible to put this nightmare behind them and return to their normal lives: they have won resoundingly at trial, raised donations from gracious private donors to pay for their litigation costs, let Mr. Pearson off the hook for personally paying their expenses and extended an olive branch to Mr. Pearson in hopes that he would end this matter and not appeal. Mr. Pearson had a choice today - to make peace and acknowledge the Chungs' amazing generosity in absolving him of paying their fees or to continue with this ridiculous case and meritlessly appeal. Mr. Pearson, unfortunately, chose desperate irrationality over common sense and decided to appeal--unnecessarily costing the parties' more wasted time and the DC taxpayers more wasted money.

The dropping of the request for fees stole some of D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff's thunder. The judge, who made it abundantly clear that she was saving her displeasure with Pearson for the opinion in which she would award attorney's fees to the Chungs, now wouldn't have that opportunity. So she issued an order last week that could only give us a taste of what she would have said about Pearson if she'd had the chance:

This is an unusual case, in which the plaintiff attempted to take what was at best a misunderstanding about one pair of pants and expand it to a claim of $67 million, based on legal theories that - once they clearly were articulated--were unsupported in fact or in law. In the circumstances, the motion for sanctions hardly can be considered frivolous.

So, did Manning miscalculate? Did the Chungs let Pearson off the hook prematurely? Should they have fought to get a ruling granting them attorney's fees, even if they suspected that Pearson would never pay up?

No, they did the right thing. They took the high road. They chose not to participate in this farce any more than the court system forces them to. And they were practical and pragmatic: The simple truth is that since Pearson is about to lose his job, and since he is a master of manipulating the court system, the Chungs would likely never have seen a dime from Pearson. Why have anything more to do with him than they must? Yes, the appeal phase will cost more money, and no, it's not at all certain that the public will respond as generously next time as they did to the Chungs' plight stemming from the trial itself. So the Chungs face more financial hardship. And Pearson has all the time in the world to play out his legal fantasies.

But Manning and the Chungs have made a clear statement that they will not participate in Pearson's pathetic abuse of the system, and that's an admirable position to take. The ball is now in the hands of the commission on tenure of administrative law judges, which must stick to its intention to usher Pearson off the bench, and of the D.C. courts, which need to look over the Pearson case and figure out what tools judges need to make it easier to toss such frivolous cases at an earlier phase.

By Marc Fisher |  August 20, 2007; 10:19 AM ET
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Someone needs to file a motion to disbar Mr. Pearson. His abuse of the system has gone on long enough. I think the DC Bar should look seriously at whether he still qualifies for membership.

Posted by: DC Lawyer | August 20, 2007 11:13 AM

Who cares about "the high road?" Instead of actually giving up the right to ask for attorney's fees couldn't they have just sent him a letter saying "We will withdraw claim of attorney's fees if you do not appeal." I am not a lawyer so I have no idea. If this could have been done wouldn't it have been MUCH better so if he did not take the olive branch they could still go after him for everything? Not that they would get anything out of it but at least they would have had a moral victory.

Posted by: SS | August 20, 2007 11:16 AM

but will the Chungs have the option of requesting attorney fees and court costs following the appeal process? if so, I see no reason why they shouldn't pursue it, even if it would be fruitless in the long run, if only to keep that idiot judge from playing them for the fool again.

Posted by: eo mcmars | August 20, 2007 11:18 AM

Barry Bonds would be a hero today, making untold millions off advertising if he took the high road. Instead he became the all time home run hitter that everyone dislikes.

Taking the high road offers up new opportunities. I hope the Chungs transform their dry cleaning business into something more important via this road.

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 11:20 AM

My understanding was that the Chung's offer to not seek attorney's fees was contingent on this idiot not pursuing an apppeal. If he follows through with the appeal, they should give him no quarter and bleed him dry. What a fiasco and stain on DC.

Posted by: ChrisnDC | August 20, 2007 11:35 AM

I still want to know how Pearson became an ALJ in the first place. Who is responsible for THAT decision? And what kind of cases has Pearson been hearing over the years? Who has been negatively affected by his craziness?

Posted by: Joe | August 20, 2007 11:43 AM

The one good thing is that, as much damage as he's done to the Chungs, he's really screwed himself. If he loses the job as a judge, his employment prospects are zero. Who would hire a litigious idiot like this and put themselves in his legal crosshairs over some imagined slight? With luck Pearson will be living in a homeless shelter in a few years.

Posted by: fudd | August 20, 2007 11:53 AM


Posted by: END IT ALREADY | August 20, 2007 12:12 PM

Even tho the Chungs will not see a penny they should at least drive him into bankruptcy, thus destroying his credit for the next seven years.

To END IT ALREADY: That was a bit extreme, even for DC. Better yet, let him live in misery for many years, living in an alley in a cardboard box, thinking about the 6-figure salary he threw away.

Posted by: SoMD | August 20, 2007 12:34 PM

fudd asks, "Who would hire a litigious idiot like this?" Good question. I think he would be perfect for a high-level position in the Bush Justice Department.

Posted by: lydgate | August 20, 2007 1:06 PM

Don't worry - we will be hearing about Pearson for many years. When he loses his ALJ position, he will sue THEM and then appeal that, etc., etc. And if that does not work, he will find someone else to sue

Posted by: paul | August 20, 2007 1:57 PM

I meant to post this weeks ago. I believe that Judge Pearson may have looked over a series of parking tickets I contested a year ago. His picture reminds me of that judge. He reduced the three tickets for the same offense to one ticket. Is this what an Administrative Law Judge does? Reviews traffic ticket challenges? That makes you already the lamest judge, right?

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 2:49 PM

"That was a bit extreme, even for DC. Better yet, let him live in misery for many years, living in an alley in a cardboard box, thinking about the 6-figure salary he threw away."

Unfortnately, if he is living in a cardboard box, he will STILL be filing lawsuits.

I'm not advocating harm but the only thing that will stop this person is when he is in a wooden box 6 feet under.

Posted by: To SoMD | August 20, 2007 3:14 PM

I thought only the accused could appeal a case? Have I been wrong all these years?

Posted by: JP | August 20, 2007 3:23 PM

I think you are right re criminal trials, JP, but this was a civil case. I believe that, in civil trials, the loser can file an appeal, regardless of which side loses (i.e., plaintiff vs. defendant).

Any lawyers around who can tell us whether that's correct?

Posted by: THS | August 20, 2007 3:47 PM

Actually, either side (or any party) can file an appeal when it loses a case, or part of a case, either civil or criminal. If the appellate court finds no grounds for an appeal, it will be dismissed.

Posted by: scilicet | August 20, 2007 4:12 PM

SoMD, sounds like you have some sympathy for Pearson. Do you not realize the undue hardship this putrid individual has caused the Chungs and anyone else who may have crossed his path? Why don't you pry the crab shell out of your (whatever end of your set of organs that houses your brain) and realize the misery he has caused and the wasted tax dollars that has been spent on his petty pursuit.

Posted by: END IT ALREADY | August 20, 2007 9:16 PM

The DC tax payers don't seem to mind paying more for stupid cases like this. They keep thugs and crack smokers in office there and those same officials are content with Roy making 100K per year doing zip (administrative work?) at tax payer expense.

The following are ulitimately responsible for the high crime and this kind of abuse in DC:

1. The ignorant voters of DC who keep the thugs in office.

2. The unethical officials who keep guys like Marion Barry and Roy Pearson on the take, I mean payroll. You see these two guys take the heat away from the other guys so they can make decisions and laws (rob and steal).

3. Roy Pearson himself- general jackass who will ultimately get what he deserves in life and finally meet the devil.

Posted by: Jackie | August 20, 2007 10:24 PM

Now I'll have a reason to visit DC someday - to spit on Roy's grave.

Posted by: Ron | August 20, 2007 10:26 PM

Of course Pearson can't be shamed. He's black.

Posted by: Friday Knight | August 21, 2007 9:27 AM

If Pearson loses his job on the DC bench, PG County will hire him. Birds of a feather......

Posted by: Well, they flock | August 21, 2007 12:04 PM

They may have taken the high road, but this wasn't a case where that path was called for. They should have gotten the $100,000 judgment against this dirt bag, then done whatever it takes to collect. Take his car, take his house, garnish his wages, whatever. Let him live in a shelter, or better yet, in a box under a bridge, until the money is paid.

When working class people can't pay their bills, they end up choosing between one necessity and another. Why should this scumbag be treated with any more dignity than people who actually work for a living?

Nick Kasoff

Posted by: Nick Kasoff | August 21, 2007 4:09 PM

Pearson will come out of this smelling like a rose. The jerry curl generation always protects their own. He'll keep his job and his homeys will keep protecting him.

Posted by: Rickey | August 21, 2007 8:15 PM

"Actually, either side (or any party) can file an appeal when it loses a case, or part of a case, either civil or criminal. If the appellate court finds no grounds for an appeal, it will be dismissed."

Not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that an appeal by the State in a criminal case would constitute double jeopardy. The defendant can file an appeal up to and including the Supreme Court, but the State cannot, because to do so would be to try a defendant for the same crime twice.

Posted by: Mona | August 21, 2007 8:37 PM

They should have got the fees for the sake of preventing this moron from continuing. It does nobody any good to let a crook off the hook. That was just a weak pansy-ass move on their part. This time, they better kick him square in the balls, and keep kicking, until he pukes up every last penny. Then they can pull out his eyeballs and feed them to pigeons.

Posted by: Bad Move | August 21, 2007 9:05 PM

Legal Malpractice By Chung's Attorney

Their attorney shrewdly chose to pay himself from the donations rather than Pearson b/c he knows Pearson might never pay up. This way he gets his money now.

Added bonus: Pearson continues the suit, generating more fees for the attorney.

I think he misrepresented his clients here, padded his bill, and screwed all the donors. Isn't that legal malpractice?

Posted by: Legal Malpractice | August 21, 2007 9:16 PM

On some things the Soviets got right. In the middle of the night, drag Pearson out of his house and you make this nightmare end once and for all...

Posted by: Shame doesn't work for some | August 21, 2007 11:08 PM

One thing is for sure. He will have to leave the area to get his clothes dry cleaned because I am sure there isn't a dry cleaner around who will do any of his 500 suits. The man is an ass and too stupid to realize it.

Posted by: dancermommd1 | August 22, 2007 7:02 AM

While I'm pleased you are noticing that our current legal system "process" is now something that's easy to manipulate if you have a bit of money--and utterly screw someone who doesn't--why haven't you noticed this before?

The nonsense that judge pearson is pulling in court happens daily in America--and not over something relatively important such as a suit.

Everyday in America, thousands of children are deprived of one of their parents by the "custody" system--for reasons identical to what is happening in the Pearson case.

If you are unable to afford "process", you cannot get justice. Hence if you are a "non custodial parent' (paying 1/3 of your income in child support) you will never be able to afford justice, unless you make over 50,000/year.

The genius of this system is that if you make one procedural error, the judge can throw your case out/rule against you w/o possiblity of appeal. For this reason, of course, legal counsel is essential.

--but of course the custody system makes the non custodial parent never able to afford counsel!

In this way non custodial parents are routinely deprived "legally" of their children--with no one to blame but themselves! (for their legal errors!)

Let's pay attention to his holocaust, after we get rid of the likes of Judge PEarson.

Posted by: Gus Smith | August 22, 2007 8:05 AM

The outrage and disgust with a degenerate such as Pearson comes easily. What we really need from the media is a detailed account of his career path through the DC judicial ranks- what review was he subject to, who made the decisions promoting him and why, and what sort of service did he deliver as a "judge"? Finally, there needs to be follow-up to ensure that he is never again allowed to profit from nor pervert the very system and principles he is supposedly employed to uphold.

Posted by: onceler | August 22, 2007 9:29 AM

To Mona:

Double jeopardy prevents a defendant from being tried again for the same offense once there is a final decision. An appeal is a review of the trial level proceedings, not a new trial, and there is no final decision until the appellate process is complete or until no one has filed an appeal within the time limit.

Appeals can be taken for any alleged errors of law in the trial, and could result in the appeals court ordering the trial decision or verdict to be vacated. For example, the state ccould appeal a sentence as being inappropriate under the sentencing guidelines. Or, if the prosecution appeals a verdict, and the appeals court agrees, it can order the trial decision or verdict to be vacated. Then there is no final decision, and a new trial can be held.

In practice, the prosecution rarely appeals a verdict, particularly not in cases that involve a trial by jury.

Posted by: scilicet | August 22, 2007 2:30 PM

I guess Pearson will now sue for reparations for his wronged pants. I think he should sue the company that manufactures dry cleaning tags AND the safety pin manufacturers. Hell, while he's at it, he could go after the pharmaceutical company that hasn't quite perfected his mental stability medicine!

Posted by: Dr. Sue | August 22, 2007 8:20 PM

how long can a man be allowed to destroy or try to destroy a hardworking family for?
what kind of animal is this bastard?doesnt he have enough money already? Pants? A man with that kind of thinking shouldnt be allowed in society much less should be a judge.throw him in prison may be then he would learn what it is like to be treated in a cruel manner.or better yet,give me amnesty to spend 4 hours alone with him...

Posted by: dave lara | August 22, 2007 10:41 PM

Thanks for the clarification, scilicet! Good thing I am not a lawyer...yet. ;-)

Posted by: Mona | August 23, 2007 2:38 AM

Mona: Let Pearson be a lesson on what a lawyer shouldn't be! He is a disgrace to the profession. But, there are zillions of lawyers who are good and who do good. I hope you'll be one of them.

Posted by: scilicet | August 23, 2007 3:46 PM

As if the pants suit weren't bad enough, now there is a pants suit in reverse. A merchant--Steve Sieber of SCS Contracting Group, a home improvement contractor--is suing a whole bunch of his former customers and others, including the Washington Post, for millions, just for talking about what a bad contractor he is. This is a guy that was the subject of a news story 20 years ago about how he ripped people off back then, and these days, he's still scamming people. Why do the courts let sociopaths like them into the courthouse?

Posted by: consumer | September 1, 2007 8:27 AM

Perhaps the Chungs should explore a racism complaint against Pearson. based on his behavior it should not be too difficult to attribute his actions to a violent hatred towards Asians....or something.

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