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Cleaners 1, Judge 0 in case of the missing pants

District of Columbia Administrative Law Judge Roy L. Pearson may now regret deciding to press suit against a local dry cleaner for temporarily misplacing his suit pants.

In seeking $54 million in damages against the dry cleaner, down from an initial $65 million claim, the judge achieved the extremely difficult task of uniting tort reform advocates and the plaintiffs' bar in condemnation of his two-year legal battle.

In fact, the litigation appeared so egregious that the head of the American Assn. for Justice, formerly the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America, contributed to the dry cleaner's defense fund and called for disciplinary action against Judge Pearson.

The judge had his day--actually his two days--in court earlier this month. Last week, D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff held for the defendants on all counts, and denied Judge Pearson a cent in damages.

In fact, she ordered him to pay owner Soo Chung and the other defendants' court costs, which will be determined later. Judge Pearson's attempt to take the cleaners to the cleaners has left him stuck with the bill himself.

Even so, Christopher Manning, attorney for Custom Cleaners, said it was unlikely the "satisfaction guaranteed" sign the business once displayed would be reinstalled.

"In order to avoid vexatious and frivolous lawsuits going forward, I think that sign is going to rest in peace," Mr. Manning reportedly said.

III exec covers the bases as fantasy sports pioneer

In an industry that deals mainly with losses, some people are hoping for a few wins.

That's no doubt true of Cary Schneider, recently promoted to executive vp of the Insurance Information Institute, who was one of the creators of fantasy baseball, a game that has given countless baseball fans a chance to try their hand at drafting and managing a team of major leaguers.

Mr. Schneider joined the first fantasy baseball league--formed in the early 1980s by journalist Daniel Okrent and a group of like-minded pals--in its second year. They called their game "Rotisserie baseball"--a name that has stuck to this day--after La Rotisserie Francaise, the New York restaurant where the group gathered to work out the details of their creation.

Mr. Schneider said he and a handful of the original league members still play, though he noted that the league's name has changed to AARP, "out of deference to the age" of several of the managers.

And from time to time, the III executive discovers that some colleagues share his passion.

He recounted a summer meeting years ago, during which one of the III board members kept disappearing "for prolonged periods." When Mr. Schneider later caught up with the individual to fill him in on what he had missed, he learned the reason for mysterious behavior: the individual was negotiating a trade for his fantasy baseball team.

In the words of beloved former Yankees announcer Mel Allen: "How about that?!"

Real surgery for fraudulent ailments

"Pssst. Hey buddy, wanna earn a quick buck for letting a doctor cut on you? You might even get a free nose job."

There's apparently no shortage of people in the United States willing to accept such an offer.

According to prosecutors in Orange County, Calif., cappers--people that recruit patients, a violation of state law--helped get perfectly healthy people with employer-paid coverage to undergo a variety of unnecessary procedures for which their insurance was billed.

The surgical subjects from across the country were lured with pay of $300 to $1,000 per surgery or offers of free or reduced-price cosmetic surgery, prosecutors said of the ring that recruited some 2,000 people.

Two cappers, who worked with the now-defunct Unity Outpatient Surgery Center in Buena Park, Calif., each recently received five years' probation for committing insurance fraud.

Three doctors, "real-life body snatchers," also have been accused of participating in the operation and "may be trading in their scrubs for prison jump suits," the Orange County District Attorney's office said.

The insurance fraud group targeted employees with preferred provider organization insurance that did not require prior approval for the surgeries, which totaled at least $30 million, prosecutors said.

Where are the bill review people when you need them?

Shutterbugs get cold shoulder in N.Y.

Big Apple visitors planning to chronicle their trip photographically may soon need to pack something extra in their camera bag--a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance.

New York City's Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is mulling new guidelines, including one that would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than 30 minutes to obtain a permit and the insurance coverage.

That proposal touched a nerve with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In a letter to the commission that the NYCLU posted on its Web site, Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn called the regulation "unreasonable, unlawful and unenforceable," and of course, "unconstitutional."

"We see absolutely no reason why, for instance, a family visiting Ground Zero or standing in line outside the Empire State Building for half an hour should be required to obtain a permit from the MOFTB to snap casual photographs or to use a camcorder," Mr. Dunn wrote.

The commission's officials contend the rules are intended for commercial directors and photographers, not vacationing families or amateur filmmakers or photographers, the New York Times reported.

But the law's ambiguity means it could also be applied to visiting shutterbugs as well, critics contend.

Contributing: Roberto Ceniceros, Mark A. Hofmann, Beth Murtagh, Matt Scroggins