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
Previous: Skeeter Hawkins, Fred Fiske and Empathy on the Radio | Next: Contested Waters: How Rich and Poor Swim in D.C.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: DC Lawyer | August 20, 2007 11:13 AM
Posted by: SS | August 20, 2007 11:16 AM
Posted by: eo mcmars | August 20, 2007 11:18 AM
Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 11:20 AM
Posted by: ChrisnDC | August 20, 2007 11:35 AM
Posted by: Joe | August 20, 2007 11:43 AM
Posted by: fudd | August 20, 2007 11:53 AM
Posted by: END IT ALREADY | August 20, 2007 12:12 PM
Posted by: SoMD | August 20, 2007 12:34 PM
Posted by: lydgate | August 20, 2007 1:06 PM
Posted by: paul | August 20, 2007 1:57 PM
Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 2:49 PM
Posted by: To SoMD | August 20, 2007 3:14 PM
Posted by: JP | August 20, 2007 3:23 PM
Posted by: THS | August 20, 2007 3:47 PM
Posted by: scilicet | August 20, 2007 4:12 PM
Posted by: END IT ALREADY | August 20, 2007 9:16 PM
Posted by: Jackie | August 20, 2007 10:24 PM
Posted by: Ron | August 20, 2007 10:26 PM
Posted by: Friday Knight | August 21, 2007 9:27 AM
Posted by: Well, they flock | August 21, 2007 12:04 PM
Posted by: Nick Kasoff | August 21, 2007 4:09 PM
Posted by: Rickey | August 21, 2007 8:15 PM
Posted by: Mona | August 21, 2007 8:37 PM
Posted by: Bad Move | August 21, 2007 9:05 PM
Posted by: Legal Malpractice | August 21, 2007 9:16 PM
Posted by: Shame doesn't work for some | August 21, 2007 11:08 PM
Posted by: dancermommd1 | August 22, 2007 7:02 AM
Posted by: Gus Smith | August 22, 2007 8:05 AM
Posted by: onceler | August 22, 2007 9:29 AM
Posted by: scilicet | August 22, 2007 2:30 PM
Posted by: Dr. Sue | August 22, 2007 8:20 PM
Posted by: dave lara | August 22, 2007 10:41 PM
Posted by: Mona | August 23, 2007 2:38 AM
Posted by: scilicet | August 23, 2007 3:46 PM
Posted by: consumer | September 1, 2007 8:27 AM
Posted by: postscript | September 13, 2007 2:46 AM
Posted by: free music for ipod | October 7, 2007 7:23 AM
Posted by: ghaaqkmeqf | November 23, 2007 5:56 AM
Posted by: dlahysgnuw | November 24, 2007 8:17 PM
Posted by: dnnohbkhnu | November 24, 2007 8:24 PM
Posted by: ruycqpllpz | November 25, 2007 11:34 AM
Posted by: Brin | December 2, 2007 12:20 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.