Sunday, December 28, 2008

It was only a pair of pants and cellular telephone - losers indeed!

Tansi/Good Day Readers:

We're always scanning Truth To Power (http://www.accesstoinfo.blogspot.com) written anonymously by a Canadian lawyer. It has excellent links to judicially focused sites throughout North America. This comes from http://judicialmisconduct.blogspot.com "Blogmastered" by New England based Stephen G. Erickson.

At Winnipeg's Law Courts Building visitors are allowed to enter courtrooms with electronic recording devices but not use them. If caught a Sheriff will kindly show you the door. The one exception is accredited media which may use small recorders to ensure the accuracy of their stories.

This article attests to the lunacy of some American judiciary. We're still trying to fathom the case of the Chungs. Thank goodness our system is a lot "saner."

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
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Pearson v. Chung
http://en.wikipedia.org/wike/Pearson_v._Chung

Pearson v. Chung is a civil case filed in 2005 by Roy L. Pearson, Jr., a former administrative law judge in the District of Columbia in the United States, following a dispute with a dry cleaning company over a lost pair of trousers. Pearson filed suit against Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung, the owners of Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. initially demanding $67 million for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney's fees for representing himself, as a result of their failure, in Pearson's opinion, to live up to a "satisfaction guaranteed" sign that was displayed in the store. The case drew international attention when it went to trial in 2007 and has been held up as an example of frivolous litigation and the need for tort reform in the United States.

Lawsuit

Pearson sued a D.C. dry cleaning establishment, Custom Cleaners, for over $67 million for the loss of a pair of pants. The pants were from one of several suits that Pearson had brought to Custom Cleaners to be cleaned in May 2005. When Pearson requested the suit two days later, the pants were missing. Pearson then asked to be refunded for the full price of the suit, $1,000. The cleaners refused and later asserted that they had found the pants a week later. Pearson claimed the pants were not his, stating, "I haven't worn pants with cuffs since the 1970s," providing a photograph of all his (cuffless) pairs of pants as evidence.

Pearson rejected a later offer to settle the case for $12,000. D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz stated that, "the court has significant concerns that the plaintiff is acting in bad faith." The judge resolved some of the issues in the Chungs' favor in response to their motion for summary judgment, which was filed at the close of discovery, but could not dismiss the case because some facts were in dispute.

The owners of the business, South Korean immigrants Jin Nam Chung, Soo Chung and their son, Ki Chung, were reportedly considering moving back to South Korea. After an outpouring of support for the Chungs from members of the public, a website was set up to accept donations for the Chungs' legal defense.

On May 30, 2007, Pearson reduced his demands to $54 million in damages rather than $67 million. Among his requests were $500,000 in attorney's fees, $2 million for "discomfort, inconvenience, and mental distress," and $15,000, which he claimed would be the cost to rent a car every weekend to drive to another dry cleaning service. The remaining $51.5 million would be used to help similarly dissatisfied D.C. consumers sue businesses. Pearson also re-focused his lawsuit from the missing pants to the removal of window signs for "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service". Pearson claimed the signs represented fraud on the part of the Chungs.

The Chungs' lawyer, Christopher Manning, alleged that the signs could only be considered fraud if a reasonable person would be misled by them, and that a reasonable person would not see the signs as an unconditional promise. The Chungs' lawyer portrayed Pearson as a bitter, financially insolvent man; under questioning, Pearson admitted that, at the start of the court case, he had only $1,000-2,000 in the bank due to divorce proceedings, and was collecting unemployment.

Trial

On
June 12, 2007, the trial began. Pearson broke down in tears during an explanation about his frustration after losing his pants, and a short recess had to be declared.

Decision

On June 25, 2007, the trial ended with District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruling in favor of the dry cleaners, and awarding them court costs pursuant to a motion which the Chungs later withdrew. The court took judicial notice of Pearson's divorce proceedings, where he was sanctioned $12,000 by the trial court for "creating unnecessary litigation and threatening both [Rhonda] VanLowe and her lawyer with disbarment."

Post-Trial Motions And Appeal

On July 11, 2007, Pearson made a motion to reconsider in the trial court, stating that he felt the judge had "committed a fundamental legal error" and had failed to address his legal claims. Pearson stated that he believed the court had imposed its own conditional interpretation of 'satisfaction guaranteed' rather than what Pearson believes is an offer of unconditional and unambiguous satisfaction. The court denied the motion.

The Chungs' moved to recover $83,000 in attorneys' fees and impose sanctions, but withdrew the motion after recovering their costs through fund-raising; the Chungs stated that they did so in the hopes of persuading Pearson to stop litigating. But on August 14, 2007, Pearson filed a notice of appeal.

On August 2, 2007 it was revealed that a panel recommended not to give Pearson a ten year term as an Administrative Law Judge, after his initial two year term expired mid-2007, in part because his suit against Mr Chung demonstrated a lack of "judicial temperament." Pearson was appointed in 2005 and will lose his $100,512 salary if a hearing upholds that decision.

On October 22, a D.C. commission voted against reappointing Pearson, a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law, to the bench of the Office of Administrative Hearings. On November 14, it was confirmed that Pearson had lost his job by not being affirmed for an extension.

On September 10, 2008, an appellate court agreed to hear Pearson's appeal, scheduled for October 22, 2008. Manning is representing the Chungs on the appeal pro bono.

On December 18, 2008, the three-judge D.C. Court of Appeals panel that heard Pearson's appeal announced that they were rejecting it. According to the Washington Post, "Pearson has two remaining avenues of appeal left: He could ask the entire nine-judge appellate court to review the case, or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in."

Cultural impact

The unusual circumstances of this case led the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and dozens of bloggers to refer to it as "The Great American Pants Suit," and to Pearson as "Judge Fancy Pants." The case has garnered considerable international attention. BBC News quoted Chris Manning, attorney for the Chung family, as saying that the experience for the Chungs has become the "American nightmare"--an ironic reference to the American Dream. Fortune magazine listed the case at #37 in its "101 Dumbest Moments in Business" of 2007.

On July 24, 2007, the American Tort Reform Association and the Institute for Legal Reform of the United States Chamber of Commerce hosted a fundraiser for the Chungs to help pay their attorneys fees that reported having raised up to $64,000. The Chungs say they have received close to $100,000 from supporters to cover their attorneys' fees and lost business.

Citing a loss of revenue and emotional strain from the lawsuit, the Chungs announced, on September 19, 2007, that they have closed and sold the dry cleaning shop involved in the dispute. The Chungs still own one additional dry cleaning shop and have stated they will be focusing their attention and resources on their remaining shop.

The plot of the Law and Order episode "Bottomless", first broadcast on 16 January 2008, was partially inspired by the Pearson case.

On May 2, 2008 Roy Pearson filed suit against Washington DC, claiming that he had been wrongfully dismissed for exposing corruption within the Office of Administrative Hearings. Pearson sought $1 million in compensation for lost wages and punitive damages as well as his job back.
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Former Judge (Thank Goodness!) Robert Restaino






November 28, 2007
Cell Phone 'Lunacy' Prompts N.Y. Judge's removal
Posted by
Anne Broache

It was a normal enough morning in a Niagara Falls courtroom, with Judge Robert Restaino plodding through his routine batch of domestic violence arraignments. That is, until a ringing cell phone pierced the air.

What followed was "two hours of inexplicable madness," including the jailing of 46 people, according to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In a scathing report Tuesday, that panel recommended the city court judge be removed.
"Now, whoever owns the instrument that is ringing, bring it to me now or everybody could take a week in jail and please don't tell me I'm the only one that heard that," Restaino said on that fateful morning of March 11, 2005, according to the commission's report.
"Everyone is going to jail; every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now," he went on. "If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going."
When no one fessed up, the judge, who was set to deal with 70 cases that morning, called back the 11 defendants he had already released on their own recognizance and set extra bail.
All told, he ordered that 46 defendants be held in custody, according to the commission report. They were ultimately placed in crowded "holding" cells at the county jail, and some weren't released for a couple of hours.
Although Restaino "chastised" at length the defendants who claimed ignorance about the ringing phone's owner and accused the culprit of being "self-absorbed" for not coming forward, he never questioned "any of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, program representatives or others who were present in the courtroom," the report found.
The commission concluded Restaino, who conceded he had no legal right to take the defendents into custody, had committed "an egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power." One panel member, however, said he was more inclined to pursue a penalty somewhere in between censure and complete removal, suggesting the episode was a fluke ("two hours of viral lunacy out of a person's entire professional life").
Restaino, for his part, attributed his behavior to "certain stresses in his personal life," according to the report.
Restaino plans to appeal the ruling and seek reinstatement to the post, which paid $113,900 per year, according to the Associated Press.

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