Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 18, 2007 / 2 Tamuz 5767

Ludicrous lawsuits

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I was once sued in state court by a disgruntled reader who accused me of calling him a "crackpot." Fortunately, the suit went nowhere; the plaintiff's nutty, hand-scrawled complaint was apparently all the court needed to dismiss the case. That and the fact that even in Massachusetts, you're allowed to use the word "crackpot" when being harangued by one on the telephone.


But what if the plaintiff in my case hadn't been so plainly bonkers? What if he had been a lawyer, or even a judge — someone who knew his way around a lawsuit? What if he had been another Roy L. Pearson Jr.?


As everyone this side of Mazar-e-Sharif must know by now, Pearson is the administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., who in 2005 sued his dry cleaners for $65 million over a missing pair of pants. He later reduced his claim to $54 million, and the case was tried in D.C. Superior Court last week.


Pearson, representing himself before Judge Judith Bartnoff, declared grandiosely that "never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices. You will search the DC archives in vain for a case of more egregious or willful conduct." Bartnoff let him go on in this vein, the Washington Post reported, and he argued his case "for hour upon hour," though he wasn't permitted to call all 63 of the witnesses he had hoped to put on the stand. Nor did Bartnoff allow him to rehash the saga of his 2004 divorce, which he insists the Virginia courts mishandled.


On the other hand, Pearson did testify that he has between 40 and 60 pairs of pants hanging in his closet, none of which, he was at pains to point out, has cuffs. At one point he broke down in tears and had to ask for a recess. That emotional upwelling occurred as he was recounting the moment when the dry cleaner handed him what he says were the wrong trousers. (They were cuffed).


The whole thing sounds like a Sacha Baron Cohen sendup, and it has certainly drawn plenty of amused media attention. (New York Times headline: "Judge Tries Suing Pants Off Dry Cleaners.")


But Pearson's ludicrous lawsuit, and the legal system's willingness to indulge it, is no joke to Jin and Soo Chung, the owners of Custom Dry Cleaning. The legal bills they have incurred in fighting this lawsuit have wiped out their family's savings. Three times they have offered Pearson a settlement, most recently for $12,000. Three times Pearson has refused.


"How does such a case get to trial?" Post columnist Marc Fisher asked the other day. "How does one man get to make a laughingstock of the system?" His sad answer: Pearson's legal terrorism "is only an exaggerated version of what goes on in virtually every institution of American life, where humane and reasonable behavior is quashed by reminders that someone could conceivably be sued."


Who can doubt it? The population of lawyers in America has soared in recent decades, and with their increase has come an explosion in the lawyer's stock in trade: regulation, disputation, and litigation. In 1978, noting that the number of US lawyers had increased to 462,000, Time magazine rued the way laws and lawsuits were taking over American life, making it ever more difficult for people of goodwill to rely on custom and common sense in settling differences. It quoted then-Chief Justice Warren Burger: "We may well be on our way to a society overrun by hordes of lawyers, hungry as locusts, and brigades of judges in numbers never before contemplated."


If that was true then, how much more so today, when the "hordes of lawyers" (including non-practicing ones like me) have swollen to nearly 1 million? A century ago, there was 1 lawyer for every 714 Americans. Today the ratio is 1 to 288.


Of course lawsuits have a vital role to play in our legal system. If there were no way to hold people liable for reckless or malicious behavior, it would be difficult to keep such behavior in check. "But the converse is also true," as Philip K. Howard, author of *The Death of Common Sense* and chairman of Common Good, testified at a congressional hearing in 2004. "Allow lawsuits against reasonable behavior, and pretty soon people no longer feel free to act reasonably. And that's what's happening in America today."


Pearson's pants case is only the most egregious example of the I'll-see-you-in-court mindset that has battered the medical profession, turned divorce proceedings into ferocious battles, and stripped playgrounds of seesaws and jungle gyms. ABC News recently rounded up reports of some others: The woman who sued an outdoor mall after being "attacked" by a squirrel, on the grounds that the mall "failed to warn" her in advance. The photographer who fell off a garbage truck he had climbed on top of to take some pictures, then sued the waste-management company for $50 million because he "never thought in a million years the truck would move." The drug-abusing patient who sued a hospital for "allowing" a visitor to sneak illegal drugs into the hospital for her. The plaintiff who demanded $832 million from superstar athlete Michael Jordan and Nike co-founder Phil Knight because he found it "distressing" to look like Jordan and be confused with him.


Lawsuits cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Legal fear — the fear of being sued, and the lengths to which US businesses, institutions, and municipalities go to avoid legal risk — makes life more expensive, more frustrating, and less free for all of us. "I think we may class the lawyer in the natural history of monsters," John Keats wrote. But that was in 1819. Imagine what he would have said if he had met Roy Pearson.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles