Dry Cleaning Disputes

Early in my career at Governing, I wrote this feature about methods that courts were using in order to speed along their dockets. The lead, ...
by | April 26, 2007

Dryclean Early in my career at Governing, I wrote this feature about methods that courts were using in order to speed along their dockets. The lead, as you can see if you're interested, was about "dry cleaning day" at the Hennepin County (Minneapolis) court, when disputes about fouled or missing garments were adjudicated by a retired dry cleaner.

That saved time and cleared the docket for the real judges. It was my editor, Alan Ehrenhalt, who came up with the line about the special master being a "pressing, folding and hanging judge."

Well, some people take their dry cleaning disputes a lot more seriously and aren't interested in common-sense resolutions. One is Roy Pearson. He is an administrative law judge here in the District. His problem isn't that Washington has adopted Hennepin County's approach to dry cleaning disputes, eating into his own caseload.

No, Pearson is suing his dry cleaners for allegedly losing a pair of his pants. They have offered him settlements up to $12,000. Sounds like a lot for a pair of pants, but Pearson wants more -- $65 million.

You have to read this Marc Fisher column in the Washington Post to get the full sense of how ridiculous this is. Pearson has spent hundreds of hours on his own case and has (in my opinion) harassed the dry cleaners with loads of paperwork, peppering them with questions such as:

"Please identify by name, full address and telephone number, all cleaners known to you on May 1, 2005 in the District of Columbia, the United States and the world that advertise 'SATISFACTION GUARANTEED.' "

Just how many dry cleaners in the world use that (legally-charged) slogan?

Pearson's case is on his second judge. He's been admonished for bad faith by fellow bench-sitters. He would have done a lot better to bring his complaint to another dry cleaner.

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