When I mediate a commercial case (or even a divorce case), a common misconception I run into is that litigants think that all judges and jurors act rationally and therefore, since they are right, will always believe and side with them over their adversaries. The reality is that most judges are fair, as are most jurors, but everyone has biases and bad days. As I point out to parties, that’s why Appellate Division and the Supreme Court were invented.
I always like to tell the story about the $54 million lawsuit in
Washington, DC over a lost pair of pants at a dry cleaner (I actually read this news article on my phone while waiting for an attorney to arrive at a mediation and used it in that mediation!). Seems incredulous? Surely this would be instantly thrown out of court. Well, not only did it run through the court system but the plaintiff making the ludicrous claim was himself a judge!
Judge Roy Pearson lost his case against Custom Cleaners (and its owners, the Chung family). However, what came afterward was even more profound. First, the Chung’s cleaning business went under due to the burden of legal expenses in defending this case. Second, Judge Pearson has now lost his job. The Washington Post reports that a source close to the committee reviewing Judge Pearson for re-appointment did not turn down this re-appointment due to the dry cleaning case. It was because “proceedings over which he had presided and found he did not demonstrate ‘appropriate judgment and judicial temperament,’ according a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.” You would think one would be indicative of the other.
So, when you think you have nothing to lose, this case demonstrates that everyone has something to lose.