Some would say the ex-judge lost his pants. Others would say he lost his mind.
In any case, former administrative judge Roy Pearson, Jr. famously failed in his $67 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner who allegedly lost the jurist's pants. Now an ethics board has suspended Pearson for 90 days from the practice of law because of his "manifestly absurd" claims.
In a world where the law is sometimes turned upside down, it has to make you wonder: what kind of pants were they?
In his lawsuit, Pearson said his Hickey-Freeman pants cost $1,150. But his claims soon became a "national symbol of frivolous litigation" with headlines and even a story line on "Law and Order."
As the case progressed, the District of Columbia Board of Professional Responsibility said it "morphed into the preposterous" with claims for statutory violations, emotional distress, attorney's fees, and punitive damages. Pearson hung his hat, or at least his pants, on the argument the cleaner promised "satisfaction guaranteed."
"Thus, if the cleaner rejected a customer's demand for anything -- even a trillion dollars -- as 'satisfaction,' the cleaner would be liable for damages," the board said in shaking out Pearson's claims.
Of course, Pearson would have been satisfied with a mere $67 million and change. After all, this was about principle more than pants, right?
Principle or Pants?
The disciplinary board -- announcing its decision more than 10 years after Pearson's lawsuit -- said he violated ethics rules against such frivolous cases.
The panel said lawyers may make claims that "at first appear to be unlikely, far-fetched, or questionable." But Pearson went way beyond the bounds, even in the disciplinary case.
"He made, and continues to make, arguments that no reasonable attorney would think had even a faint hope of success on the legal merits," the board said.