Roy L. Pearson Jr., the administrative law judge who became infamous over his failed $54 million lawsuit against a Northeast Washington dry cleaner was finally kicked off the bench this week. After serving as a judge for two years, Pearson was up for a 10-year term at the Office of Administrative Hearings. A judicial committee,however, issued a seven-page letter that denied him the position and told him to leave his office by 5 p.m.
Pearson’s conduct in the case became an international disgrace for U.S. attorneys. The case left the impression that the U.S. tort system was running amok and that people were getting windfalls on sham cases. The case should have proved the opposite. From the very start, the case was denounced as abusive and it ultimately destroyed the litigant’s career. The courts, the bar and the public decried the lawsuit. What was missed abroad is that we give individuals open access to the court. We then punish those who abuse that right. Pearson was arguing a form of bailment law and negligence that was mutated beyond recognition. He could have forced payment for his pants, but there was doubt over his facts and no support for his claim of millions in damages. Yet, the committee stressed that the case had little to do with its decision — an important statement since it is unclear that a judicial officer can be terminated for a lawfully filed personal action.
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