WASHINGTON - A judge had to leave the courtroom with tears running down his face Tuesday after recalling the lost pair of trousers that led to his $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner.

Administrative law judge Roy L. Pearson had argued earlier in his opening statement that he is acting in the interest of all city residents against poor business practices. Defense attorneys called his claim "outlandish."

He originally sued Custom Cleaners for about $65 million under the District of Columbia consumer protection act and almost $2 million in common law claims. He is no longer seeking damages related to the pants, instead focusing his claims on two signs in the shop that have since been removed.

He alleges that Jin Chung, Soo Chung and Ki Chung, owners of the mom-and-pop business, committed fraud and misled consumers with signs that claimed "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service."

Pearson, representing himself, said in opening that he wanted to examine the culture that allowed "a group of defendants to engage in bad business practices for five years."

An attorney for the Chungs portrayed Pearson as a bitter man with financial troubles stemming from a recent divorce who is taking out his anger on a hardworking family.

"This case is very simple. It's about one sign and the plaintiff's outlandish interpretation," attorney Chris Manning said.

The Chungs were to present their case Wednesday. Manning asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff to award them reimbursement for their legal costs if they win.

Pearson called several witnesses Tuesday who testified that they stopped going to Custom Cleaners after problems with misplaced clothes.

Pearson also called himself as a witness, saying his problems began in May 2005 when he brought in several suits for alterations. A pair of pants from a blue and maroon suit was missing when he requested it two days later. He said Soo Chung tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants.

As Pearson explained that those weren't the pants for the suit, he choked up and left the courtroom crying after asking Bartnoff for a break.

Pearson originally asked the cleaners for the full price of the suit, which was more than $1,000. But because the Chungs insisted the pants had been found, they refused to pay.

Manning has said the cleaners made three settlement offers to Pearson, but the judge was not satisfied and increased his demands - including asking for money to rent a car so he could drive to another business.