There are dumb people pretty much everywhere—anyone who has ever worked in customer service would agree. But when you take one of those everyday idiots and stick them in a courtroom, well...the results are hilarious.
1. It Was A High Sign
I was a new mediator presiding over a small claims landlord/tenant issue in a courthouse hallway. Limited civil jurisdiction mediations usually received their own room, but it was common for minor claims to be done anywhere you could grab space outside the courtroom. The two individuals, in this case, were about 20 feet apart.
Both sides were really upset. I was doing a lot of going back and forth, listening, and trying to drill down to common interests and what they could live with as a settlement. Eventually, the tenant started getting more friendly and said he might be willing to compromise, which was really surprising to me after some of the things he had said.
I chalked it up to my excellent mediation skills and went to speak to the landlord. The landlord appreciated the tenant's gesture and said she would think through some of the options we had discussed. I returned to the tenant. They said something I found very weird. By this point, they were all, "Man, you know what, it's no big deal. Let's just do what she wants, it's fine".
Still, after a few more minutes of my making sure it was what he really wanted, we had a mediation agreement signed, lining up pretty much with what the landlord wanted. As I was saying goodbye to the tenant, I looked down and saw him holding a joint by his side. He had managed to stand pretty close to a vent, plus I thought I had only been smelling weird BO.
Upon quickly looking around, it was clear the hallway was relatively crowded, with streams of attorneys, clients, and bailiffs going by. We were about 10 feet from a courtroom door. It wasn't until after he walked away that I realized he might not have had the capacity to sign the agreement. I also think he probably regretted the deal in the morning.
2. He Was Knee-Deep In Sleep
My dad was a lawyer in the Navy. One of his first significant cases was defending a guy who was accused of falling asleep at his post while he was in Vietnam. My dad was all psyched and was delivering what he thought was a well-prepared defense to the judge. The judge interrupted him and told him to turn around and wake up his client.
3. In Pieces
I run a consumer advocacy firm. I had a client tell me that he’d bought a product and the company refused to honor the warranty. I asked for details, and he screamed in my face asking if I was going to take his money or not. I decided then that I wasn't taking him on as a client, but I wanted to know what was going on.
I convinced him to tell me what happened. His story made my jaw drop. He told me he bought a computer back in the 1990s. It had just recently stopped working. But not because it was old and just stopped working. It was slow, so he picked it up, and tossed it out a two-story window. And then he wanted to sue the manufacturer for breaking the warranty.
4. The Happiest Place On Earth
Whenever anyone gets in trouble for spending money that isn't theirs, they always use the dough to go to Disneyland or Disney World. For example: one client was his mother's Power of Attorney. Took his mother on a trip to Disneyland with him, his wife and his three kids...and he used his mother's money to pay for all of it. Every single cent.
If he had only used it for his mother's expenses, it would have been sketchy but at least it could be justified, however tenuously. All six tickets, hotels, flights, food, drinks, though? Not even a little justifiable. And here's the kicker. This whole time, the mother was in a wheelchair and barely coherent with dementia.
This is just one example, but I swear it's every time. Someone misusing a Power of Attorney—Disneyland. Someone misusing a corporate credit card—Disneyland. Someone faking expense reports—Disneyland. Someone taking someone else's identity—buys tickets to Disneyland. Pilfered estate funds—Disneyland. The list goes on.
What is it about Disneyland that entices people so much?
5. The Proof Is In The Pudding
A woman wanted me to sue her previous lawyer for charging her a lot of money but producing almost no work to justify his fees. She gave me what she told me was the lawyer's total work product. When I read it, I almost burst out laughing. It was just a page printed off the internet for where she said she was charged thousands of dollars for advice.
She had already brought a claim via my jurisdiction's disciplinary body for lawyers—she had lost and wanted to bring an appeal. The judgment kept referring to documents that I hadn't seen. I pushed her to give me everything and she then came in with multiple files full of immaculate work that totally justified the fees she was fighting. We told her to get lost but she spent a lot of my time before we realized she was full of hot air.
6. Your Loss—Literally
I’m a lawyer. A lady didn’t pay her general contractor upwards of $20k after the job was finished because of a dozen or so minor complaints—things like he was too slow, nothing major. I told her she should pay him, and after that, we could help her with her complaints. I warned her that otherwise, he will probably be successful in getting a lien on her home.
She didn’t pay. He got a lien on her home. Heck, we then even offered to help her stash the funds in escrow pending their dispute, as this would prevent a lien in the meantime. Nope. My best guess is that she didn’t have the money and was attempting a tantrum to get out of the whole thing. It ended in a total disaster. Yes, she ended up losing her home. But that wasn’t all.
Later that fall, she showed up at my school and was demanding my information from the front office, who handled it well and I never saw her. Apparently, she blames me for what went down. I told you to pay or you’d lose your home. You didn’t pay and lost your home. This was my first internship, by the way—she was literally the first person to ever approach me in a law capacity.
7. Bottoms Up Old Biddie
I was hit by a 65-year-old lady who was under the influence. The authorities knew her husband— who was a firefighter—so they didn’t administer a breathalyzer, do any tests, or charge her. The EMTs had said, "That lady is so sloshed, she’s going to buy you a ticket to Disneyworld", which was how I knew that she was plastered at the time of the accident.
However, I had no proof to bring to the table in the lawsuit because if the authorities didn’t charge her or make notes at the time, then you couldn’t add it later. So, when we got to MY deposition, she showed up. She argued with me the entire time over my points and her lawyer kept having to tell her that she needed to be quiet.
I was becoming less than patient with her calling me a liar when she got off scot-free. That's when she ruined everything for herself. She exclaimed to my attorney that the report was wrong. When my lawyer asked what she meant by that, she replied that the report had her coming from the wrong place. So my attorney asked, "Where were you coming from"?
She replied, "My friend's bar"! So, my lawyer continued the questioning and said, "Really, did you have any drinks at this bar"? To which she replied, "Well yeah". When asked how many, she said, "I don't know. They don’t charge me. They just keep refilling my glass”. It was all caught on tape, and her lawyers were beside themselves at her stupidity.
8. You Started It
My dad was on patrol and pulled over a guy who had clearly been drinking. When my dad tried to take him in, he started to struggle and then he went to grab at my dad’s waist to get his piece. My dad took his trusty mag-light and clocked him once on the head. Then the guy tried to lawyer up. When the lawyer asked why, he was confused. He said, "Wait a minute, you tried to grab his weapon, and he only hit you once."
Needless to say, charges were never brought.
9. That’s A New One
When I was a judicial intern, I saw an arraignment where the defendant claimed the court had no power over her. Her genius reasoning? Apparently, she couldn’t be touched because she was a “sovereign citizen” who did not recognize the federal or state governments. Somehow, to her, this made it all okay. Later learned that her sole source of income was Social Security.
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10. Out For Blood
I was in a car accident when I was 16. It was totally my fault. It was summer and it had rained for the first time in a while, so the streets were really slippery. I was going around a practically 90-degree curve and slid slightly over the center line because I hit my brakes too hard. I was going somewhere between 15-20 mph at the time of the accident.
I hit the front/side of the oncoming car with the front/side of my car. There was very little damage done to either vehicle and the officers who came to the scene did not ticket me. But that was just the start of my nightmare. This absolute witch sued. First, she tried to sue my parents since my insurance was on their policy, but that got thrown out.
Then she sued me. My insurance company provided me with my lawyer, who was a very detailed, thorough guy as far as I could tell. They tried several times to settle with her, but she refused. By the time this went to court, I had just turned 18. I literally had to sit at the defendant’s table all day. I kid you not, the woman I hit claimed she was injured in the accident and could no longer feel her pinky toe.
Her lawyer showed up late, looking like Chris Farley when he slept in a van down by the river. His suit jacket looked like it had been wadded up somewhere. This woman went to all the doctors she could, and each and every doctor’s note presented by her said “she claims she can’t feel her pinky toe, but testing shows no issues”. Then she ramped it up.
She claimed emotional duress because she could only wear sneakers because of her injury. She limped around in the courthouse, but I happened to see her out the window during the lunch break and she literally sprinted to her car. While I sat at the defendant’s table on trial all day, I saw several jurors sleeping and the foreman using a rolled-up piece of paper like a telescope to look around the courtroom while someone was testifying.
The judge instructed the jury to not take insurance into account, which is to say they were not allowed to know if I had insurance and were not allowed to assume that I did. They just looked at me, a scared 18-year-old, and made a stunning decision. They decided that this woman’s pinky-toe claim was worth $250,000. Even her own lawyer was shocked.
That was the day I completely lost faith in our justice system. She actually wasn’t even asking for that much money; I was reminded by my grandma that she actually sued for $100,000 and the jury awarded her $250,000. This lawsuit was solely for “pain and suffering” as my insurance had already paid out for her medical bills and to repair the scratch on her car.
Her only complaint was that she could no longer feel her right pinky toe due to the accident—nothing else. She said not feeling her right pinky toe prevented her from walking normally and wearing high heels. Her lawyer brought all of her doctor notes into evidence and they literally all ended with “we could find nothing wrong with her”. Then there was another beautiful detail.
The case went to court the summer after I graduated high school. The county courthouse was in the town adjacent to mine, and both towns were small, though they were the biggest ones in the county. The trial began with jury selection, and I had to sit there while they asked anyone who knew me in any way to dismiss themselves. I was a cheerleader, and it was a small town, so at least half the people left because they had seen me around or just knew who I was.
This was in the late 90s, so my home phone then was blown up by people I knew calling to ask why their mom/dad/sister/uncle/cousin saw me on trial that day. The answering machine was completely full by the time I got home after court. There were even a few who thought it was a liquidation case (no idea who I supposedly did in). So that was fun. Thanks, lady.
11. He Got Stymied
I worked for the public defender's office. I met a client for a line-up that he had adamantly demanded regarding an offense with multiple witnesses. I met him for the first time in a separate room to let him know how it would all go down and what to expect. It was the kind of line-up that you traditionally see on television where there are a number of similar-looking people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of mirrored glass.
They pulled the people for the line-up from the inmate population, and, despite their best efforts, it was not a huge population. I walked in to meet the client and he had a stye on his left lower eyelid the size of a golf ball. It was the most identifiable mark on a human's face that I had ever seen. He still demanded the line-up and was identified instantly by every single witness.
12. Shady Labelling
A lady emailed me and said that she wanted to sue Garnier because the hair color she bought was marked chestnut brown, but it was actually dark brown.
13. Wrongfully Accused
I once saw a defendant argue for a “not guilty” verdict because there was no "Mr or Mrs commonwealth" who testified during his case in front of the judge. Obviously, the charges he was facing were “Commonwealth v Defendant”. This absolute mastermind just couldn’t understand that. He was found guilty. The judge did not appreciate that defense.
14. How Not To Save A Life
This wasn’t my own client, but my dad—and the hospital he worked at as a surgeon—was sued by a gentleman after he saved his wife's life. Details: So this patient is pregnant with something like her eighth child and miscarries. The fetus is removed, but then it all goes horrifically wrong. The patient starts bleeding uncontrollably, and the doctors are frantic around her.
At a certain point, they realize that the only option available is a hysterectomy. It was either that, or she perishes right there on the table on the table in front of them. My Dad gets called in to do the surgery, performs it successfully, hooray, at least one life was saved that day. Well, nope. Not hooray. Turns out, the patient's husband is quite devout and beyond angry that his wife can't have any more kids.
So he sued the hospital. No firm would represent him, and he ended up bringing proceedings himself. It went all the way to trial and he lost, hard.
15. Baby Mama Blowout
I was arguing for my client to be released on his own recognizance. The judge asked my client where he is going to live, to which he said, "With my fiancée". He spun a lovely tale about how wonderful and how supportive his fiancée was, that they were having a baby, and he wanted to get out and take care of his soon-to-be wife and kid to support them properly.
The judge then asked the courtroom, "Could the defendant's fiancé please approach the bench"? I still cannot believe what happened next. From opposite sides of the room, two women stood up and started walking to the front. One was about four months pregnant and the other was nearly nine. They were looking at each other with identical expressions of "who on earth are you"?
You could see the exact moment when each of them realized what was going on. The fight started before they even got to the counsel's table. Pregnancy or not, those chicks were seriously going at one another. The bailiffs had to stop laughing long enough to break up the skirmish. My client said, "Gee, Your Honor, I didn't think they'd both come".
The judge said he was denying bail for my client's own protection.
16. Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge
My favorite misconception some people have is “If you ask an undercover officer if he is an officer, he can’t legally lie to you”. The truth is completely the opposite. Yes. Yes, he can. But that’s not all. I once had an undercover officer in on a deposition, and he had been wearing a wire for part of the investigation. He was asked if he was undercover by a co-defendant.
His response was “Yeah, obviously, I’m here buying stuff from you guys 'cause I’m an undercover officer. I have a wire hidden under my beard and everything you complete moron”. He said it with such immense sarcasm they didn’t think twice about it and sold him a huge amount.
17. No, You Are NOT The Father!
I work at a law clinic. One day, we had a guy who was representing himself pro se against a client of our clinic. This client had a semi-public job doing promotion for a local pro sports team. Some dude did a brief fan interview with her at a game, and that lone interaction sparked a five-year stalking saga, during which she got married and had kids with someone else.
It culminated in the stalker making the following claim: He wanted a paternity test for her children because he was convinced she had paid someone to follow him, find out when he was playing with himself, break into his home, take his stuff, and deliver it back to her. Apparently, she had then impregnated herself with his Kleenex, and BOTH her two small children were actually his.
I’ve never seen a judge look as shocked, or as tired, as I did on the day that particular motion for paternity was denied.
18. The One That Got Away
This one lady was sacked by a large company, and for no ordinary reason, either. They had caught her embezzling money to fund a gambling habit. They had clear evidence the embezzling had occurred, and she did not deny it. Here’s the kicker: She sued the company for $300,000 for unfair dismissal. My sister's firm represented the company against this woman.
The case was so easy that the firm gave it to my sister as her first-ever solo attempt. My sister screwed it up in the worst way possible. Not only did she lose, but the court also awarded the woman $500,000 instead of the $300,000 she asked for. In the end, it was a good career move. The partners all knew her name and dropped in to her office, one by one, to offer their sympathy.
19. He Took It To Eleven
I was on the prosecutor's side when a defendant failed to appear in court. His attorney couldn’t reach him, and nobody knew where he was. So, we all sat there for about half an hour until the judge got sick of it and moved on with the docket. We found out later that day that the defendant decided to stick up a 7-Eleven the night before and was sitting in the pokey two counties over when he should have been in court.
20. The Ride Of Chucky
Chuck, an idiot friend of mine, came home from college for the weekend and was at a party at my house. He was accused of punching a girl in the stomach. The girl and her friend went to the authorities to file a report the next day. I got called in to write a statement, even though I didn't see it happen. Chuck and I had a mutual friend whose father was a lawyer.
The lawyer said not to go in. Chuck returned back to college the following day and nothing came of it. Three years later, disaster struck. Chuck was back home from college and the authorities randomly ran his tag one night when he was headed home from my place. Four officers headed to his house the next day to serve him with a warrant and take him in on these old assault charges.
Chuck was too busy listening to Tool and playing video games to even hear the officers firing at the next-door neighbor’s pit bull that got out of the yard. He found out what happened and got in touch with the lawyer. They began the process of turning Chuck in so the court case could start. At that time, I was dating the "victim's" friend. That's when the whole truth came out.
She confessed to the lawyer that the girl was full of it. So Chuck and his lawyer headed to court. The judge agreed that there was no evidence to support that he had harmed the girl out of anger or malicious intent. The case was closed...until the girl’s dad got Chuck riled up outside of the courthouse. Chuck proceeded to body-check the prosecutor as he tried to get in between the father and Chuck.
Unfortunately for him, there were a number of cameras outside the courthouse, so Chuck was cuffed and charged with aggression towards an officer of the court.
21. Her Defense Was A Bust
My husband and I worked at a restaurant. There was another girl who worked there who was an overall terrible person, and she was also terrible at her job. She told all of us that she was going to a store on her break to get some drinks. So, she went to the store, fell, and broke her ankle. I wish that was the end of it. This was only the beginning.
She then proceeded to drive back to work, lie on the ground outside the door, and yell for help. She then tried to sue our employer. However, we were all called to testify that she had already left for the store when the accident happened. Then, they proceeded to pull out the surveillance tape from in front of the store where she really fell.
Ok, so she's already screwed. But when we saw the footage, our jaws dropped. It turned out that she couldn't wait for a drink and right before falling, she took one. Then, for the nail in the coffin, they showed footage from the back door of the restaurant where she hobbled up and layed on the ground. She then got charged with ruse. Gotta love karma.
22. Who Let The Cat Out?
I am a personal injury lawyer, and I work in the UK. I took a call from this potential client that had fallen down the stairs in her own home. She had tripped over her own cat. She told me that she wanted to sue her local authority as the council owned her home and she was not allowed to keep pets as part of her lease.
She claimed that when the house was inspected, no one told her to get rid of the cat. It was therefore the council's fault that she fell down the stairs. We didn't take the case.
23. Missing Something
I had a client who wanted to sue because there were no strawberries in her fruit salad which she got from a supermarket. A secretary was able to screen the call, thankfully. She asked if the package said it had strawberries, and the response was, "No, but I thought there would be some in there." I don't know how these people make it through life.
24. The Good Old Days
My favorite defense I heard from a ridiculous defendant from my entire career as a lawyer: "The judge cannot determine this matter because he is a member of the freemasons, and the freemasons do not believe in the concept of private property". This case ended with the non-lawyer defendant accusing everyone—not just the judge—of being a freemason.
The same non-lawyer defendant also ran an appeal in that case based on the fact that the judge was not a real judge, because the judge had not taken his oath of office. The non-lawyer had dug up a transcript of the judge's swearing-in ceremony which read “Judge Smith takes the oath of office” when the judge took his oath, instead of the actual words of the oath.
Yep, really. Oh, and the non-lawyer defendant referred to outdated and repealed laws from 1730, which said all oaths had to be transcribed word for word, as a basis for the fact that the judge was not a “real” judge. If his interpretation was correct, I think no current judge in Australia is a “real judge”. I’ll say one thing, though: That guy knew how to research.
25. A Loopy Loophole
Just today, a semi-retired officer told us that if you get pulled over while you’ve been drinking over the limit, just chug an open bottle in front of the officer. This guy claimed that they can't prove anything then. Obviously, I didn't have the life experience to call his bluff, and I'm sure a super expensive and super connected lawyer could get it down to open container, but I'm almost positive any lawyer worth their retainer fee could easily prove you were over the limit.
26. I’m Here To Stay
This just happened this week. I've had some pretty rough ones, but this lady...So, I represent a landlord who is trying to evict a tenant for multiple lease violations. In the midst of these disputes, the tenant sends my clients a cease-and-desist letter for harassment. Her reasons are outrageous. She apparently didn't like that they told her she had to keep the house clean.
Another “claim” was that she refused to permit them entry to the premises for repair work, because that's harassment. She's told them on several occasions that they "have to fix" this or that, and it has to be fixed yesterday, but then has every excuse in the book why they can't do it with reasonable notice that the landlord is coming (24 hours or more).
She even went so far as to call the authorities on my client when he comes out at the prescribed period of time. Anyway, my client gets tired of the crabby lady and sends me in to read the lease to figure out how to get rid of her once and for all. Well, she's a nuisance to the neighborhood, she has officers come to the house weekly, she has a dirty house, she hasn't paid her utilities in months (the lease says it's her responsibility), etc.
I count eight violations in total, and some have multiple occasions. No problem, I tell him, I can do this. So I send her the notice that her lease is terminated and she needs to vacate by a certain date. She went down swinging. She ignores the termination letter and informs me that utilities are being cut off and I need to grant her permission to get an extension to pay the city utility bills.
I ask her when the cut-off is, because if it's past the date we told her to leave, it won't matter. The tenant proceeds to tell me she's sure that I'm “aware of the law” and statutes in my state, with my license to practice, and that she's done with my nonsense. Her water was cut off that very day. My clients, concerned that children, including a diabetic, are without water, call city to have it reconnected and put it in their name.
I inform the tenant that she will have water that night, but that this does not mean the lease is still active. I reiterate that we have terminated the lease, and she must move out. She proceeds to tell me that I'm harassing her, that I could lose my license, and that I need to stop harassing her immediately. She also insinuates that I don't understand English, or the law.
She may not be a lawyer, but she knows her rights, and I'm violating her rights, which is discrimination. I've learned only two things from this: The tenant does not, in fact, know her rights, and the tenant does not, in fact, understand my state's laws, or the English language. I filed the eviction proceedings a handful of days ago, and we're just waiting for our summons to get her to court, so we can get her out at long last.
I can’t understand why this lady thinks she’s so smart.
27. A Little Reverse Psychology
Someone once threatened to sue me personally and the store I worked at because I thought her daughter and her friend took something from the store. Like, I heard a boy yell “Oh shoot! THEY HAVE A CAMERA”! I then came from the back to see them all booking it out the door. So yeah, I imagine that you’d probably be a little suspicious of the situation. too.
Anyone, this mother claimed that I traumatized and harassed her daughter when all I did was have mall security stop them while I asked if they took something. Apparently, this Karen had consulted some random person and they said she had a “dangerously good case”. But karma came for her in the best way. She called the authorities on me, only to have the officers end up escorting her out, all the while she threatened to sue their department too.
28. Don’t Mess With Taxes
I represented clients before the IRS. I had a couple who owed around $250,000 in back taxes. We had no defense, so the only thing to do was to have the clients meet with the IRS and plead for leniency. Well, the wife got arrogant with the IRS agent, and at one point, stood up and screamed at them, "You'll take away my Mercedes over my gone body"!
Then, she stormed out of the conference room. Needless to say, she lost the Mercedes.
29. Never Make A Warning You Can’t Carry Out
My dad was suing a customer for non-payment. The judge ruled in my dad’s favor for the whole $15K. Then it went from happy to scary in an instant. The guy he was suing got up to leave, walked over to my dad, and said, "If you think you are going to see a dime of that money, you are a moron. I will get 'rid' of you first".
He then walked away. For a second, my dad was worried the guy would get away with the warning. However, he didn’t worry for long because the guy had said it loud enough for the bailiff and judge to hear. The guy didn’t make it out of the courtroom.
30. What A Take!
I had an idiot ex-friend who took a wallet from a gym locker room and headed straight to Walmart. She was hoping to get there and go on a shopping spree before the victim finished working out and reported the cards missing. Of course, she didn’t know if she was too late already, so she used the card first to buy a pack of gum and was successful.
So, then she went back and loaded up her cart with the most expensive stuff she could find and tried to check out again. But she didn't realize her huge mistake. Turns out, buying a stick of gum and then buying almost $5,000 in electronics from the same store a second later is a red flag for credit card companies. So, the card came up as possibly lifted.
The clerk told her that, so she tried another one of the pilfered credit cards. They were also flagged since they were part of the same account. As a result, she was starting to draw some real attention from the staff at Walmart, and she panicked. She decided to use her own credit card to purchase the electronics, with the intent of returning them later since her scheme didn't work.
It was all the authorities needed to get her name and address and ultimately find her.
31. Tight Squeeze
I had a guy who wanted to bring a class action against the company that made his underwear. His reason for doing this was truly outrageous. He was convinced that his underwear was the reason that he had crooked junk. He assured us that as soon as the jury saw his junk, they would side with him. No, we didn't take the case.
32. King Of The Hill
A guy found a rock in the middle of Melbourne that he believed came from an underground volcano. Because of this, he therefore believed that he had discovered the volcano and owned the volcano and that the Melbourne city council as well as the Victorian government should pay him rent to live on top of his underground volcano.
33. An Iron-Clad Contract
Mexican lawyer here. I once had an argument with my dad about the ownership of an apartment that my mom kept after the divorce. "But I paid for it" he said. "That may be so, but you put it in my mom's name and legally agreed to let her keep it during the divorce proceedings. You even signed a judicial agreement that says so". "Yeah, but I paid for it".
"I understand, but that's not how property works. If you put it in her name and didn't contest it in the divorce, it's hers". "... I don't understand. If I paid for it, it's mine, that's how property works. I could have it back if I wanted". Spoilers: He could not.
34. You Don’t Own Me
This was a case I heard about during my time around courtrooms. A girl who was 21 was coming home to visit friends. Her mom wanted her to do errands for her mom’s friends, but the girl already had plans and said she couldn’t. The mom was not having it and actually tried to sue her for stealing a family car. At the court case, the mom was about to win…until one pivotal moment.
The girl said: I am an adult, I can choose what I do with my car. Judge: Wait, the defendant is over 18? Girl: Yes, your honor. Judge: Ok then, all charges dropped. Mom: You don’t understand, she is my daughter! Judge: I know. Mom: She has to do what I say! Judge: No, she doesn’t, she is not a minor. Mom: No, she always has to do what I say!
Judge: Where did you go to law school? Mom: I didn’t, but I know about this stuff! Judge: All charges dropped, case closed.
35. Sorry, Wrong Answer
I had a client once who was charged with theft by receiving in Arkansas, and also theft in Missouri at the same time. Yeah, busy guy. Anyway, I got him a good deal in his Arkansas case where if he would pay back what he took, the State would drop the worst charges and let him plead to a misdemeanor he was also charged with in that case.
His response: “They have to drop the theft anyway, 'cause I’m charged with theft in Missouri, and that’s double jeopardy”! Nope. Nope, it is not.
36. Never Forgive, Never Forget
When I was a baby lawyer doing insurance defense, a woman was late on her premium payment and left a check with her broker right at close on a Friday. The broker just put it in a drawer because she wanted to go home. This had disastrous consequences. The woman who was supposed to be insured got into an accident the very next day.
When the complainant called the company, they told him the policy had been canceled for non-payment. That man went bonkers and tracked down the insured and busted up her car windows and harassed her before being detained. The policy information was updated Monday morning when the broker got back to the office. But by this time, the insured was so upset that she sued the company for a million dollars.
Every week that we didn’t pay, she filed an amended complaint adding a million dollars to the claim and adding whichever lawyer was unlucky enough to cross her as a defendant. By the time the case was over, I’d had to appear in court over a dozen times, the woman was asking for a literal billion dollars, and the judge said she’d rule by mail so no one had to face the insured again.
37. A Morning Drink Got Her In The Clink
I had a client who was an old lady in her 70s that had a serious drinking problem. Due to the senility of her husband, combined with her drinking, some mutual domestic incidents took place. She was under court orders not to have contact with him for a while. She was also ordered to stay off the hooch as part of her probation.
Well, she would continually get sloshed, call up her husband, and harass him, regardless of this no-contact order. After about seven or eight separate breach of probation charges later, she was facing some time in the pokey. No one wanted to send an old lady to the slammer, so up to that point, she kept getting probation instead of penal institution.
I got a no-lock up deal with the prosecutor that was heavily based on reports that she had been successfully attending counseling for her drinking. So my old-lady client was set to show up to court and plead this one out. She indeed showed up to court—by crashing her car right in front of the courthouse steps, because she had booze for breakfast that morning.
38. The Hand That Guided Her
A lawyer friend of mine was defending a guy in court. The main witness for the prosecution was on the stand and was asked if she could identify the defendant. The witness was scanning the courtroom and seemed confused. My friend was already silently celebrating because if she couldn't identify her client, he would probably get all the charges dropped.
As he was mentally adding this case to the “win” file, he happened to glance over at his client. What he saw made him facepalm immediately. The guy had just helpfully raised his hand to make it easier for her to identify him. Even the judge laughed at that one.
39. This Didn’t Fare Well For Him
I worked as a law aid lawyer and had many dumb clients who did many dumb things. One incident that stood out was a trial I was doing for a client, which was at a circuit court that was about an hour outside of the city I operated in. The client decided to take a cab out to the courthouse and told the driver they would pay them when they arrived.
The client arrived in this community and got the driver to stop at a local convenience store that was located right across the street from the courthouse. The client proceeded to attempt to take five 26-ounce bottles of booze and was promptly cuffed and taken into custody. The trial had to be postponed as we spent the day—unsuccessfully—applying for bail.
40. Vicious And Wild
I once was brought to court by someone who said my dog broke into her house and hurt her dog. She claimed that she had, ahem, bathroom-related samples as proof. The animal control officer involved couldn't believe what she had to tell me. She showed up to court absolutely high, and the prosecutor couldn't keep a straight face the entire time she waved a bag of poo around the courtroom. Crazy.
41. He Was Bawling After That
During a divorce, the ex-husband claimed that he didn't make much or any money and thus wasn't able to pay the child support we were asking him to pay. A few hours after receiving this information, he posted a picture on his public Facebook page of a pile of cash talking about how “Ballin” he was. Needless to say, his claim didn't hold up after that.
42. It Was All Just A Little Too Much
I was a law student working at a volunteer desk that helped people complete their forms for court. The awful part was that, since I was not a lawyer, I couldn’t give any official advice, which meant I couldn’t tell these people when they didn’t have a case. However, the stories were great. There was one instance I truly will never forget.
There was one lady who was suing her former employer for giving her too much money on her last paycheck. She told me they did it because they liked her and wanted her to come back. There was maybe $60 extra on the check, yet she was suing them for $10,000.
43. Five-Finger Or Employee Discount?
I worked at a Best Buy, and we had an employee take an old lady’s credit card. He didn’t return it after she purchased something from him. He then proceeded to drive to the closest Best Buy that wasn't ours, about 65 miles away, and use the lifted credit card after he got off work that day. He bought a TV, a surround sound system, and a PS3, all using her credit card and HIS employee discount.
He was taken into custody a few days later and ended up getting into quite some trouble over it.
44. Lying For The Fun Of It
There was a situation where a man, Jim, passed and left some property to Ralph. Ralph couldn’t inherit the property because of some issues, so he wanted his son, Mark, who was Jim’s grandson, to have it instead. Since Mark was a minor, my client, Jenny, was going to take possession of the property as guardian for Mark.
The executor of the estate, Sarah, who was Jim's daughter, told the judge that she didn't have the personal property anymore because she had given it away. The judge yelled at her and said she couldn’t give it away. Then she said she had it. The judge asked her whether she had it or not, and she said she did. When the judge asked why she lied, she said, "Because I'm not under oath".
45. Facebook Fool
One of my father's clients was suing because they "hurt their leg very badly" when they tripped at a restaurant. It was a nonsense case, but my father managed to do a pretty good job and was going to get this girl a decent sum of money. Until she made a Facebook post that revealed the truth. She decided to upload a large number of pictures on Facebook of her dancing in a bar just a few weeks after the accident had happened.
The whole case got thrown out.
46. Clog In The System
I was a lawyer for twelve long years. By far my most memorable client was the guy who was charged with "taking a mobile toilet." After we won the case, he told me he still had the toilet. The jerk had kept it in his backyard because he was too lazy to return it, even though its destination was nearby. I forced him to deliver it back that night, and I’m still offended that he lied the entire time.
47. Keep Your Mouth Shut
"I'm not sure how to get the attention of someone who owes me money. Do you think it's a good idea to make a public Facebook post where I inform the public about how they are in debt to me and refuse to pay back my money? I'm not a lawyer but I think that's the best way to get their attention". You're right, it's also the best way to be sued for defamation.
48. Your Secret Is Safe With Me
This is a funny one from my personal life. I'm a lawyer, and my brother was selling a script to a network and hired an entertainment lawyer to go through the process. I was talking about it with my brother and asked a few questions, mostly just out of curiosity. He said, "I can't tell you, it's privileged". I had to explain to him that he can tell me, his lawyer can't.
49. It Wasn’t Me
I did an intake at a homeless clinic where the person said his identity was stolen. I looked up the government site to file a complaint and everything. That’s when I found out the whole story. Turns out he was convicted for selling substances and represented himself in court by arguing that the government falsified his identity, and he was now looking to sue the officers, prosecutor, and judge.
As much as I wanted to laugh, I am a professional, so I told him the facts don't rise to a level sufficient to overcome sovereign immunity in a prosecutorial misconduct claim. In other words, no.
50. Not Going To Take It Anymore
I’m an assistant at a law office. A lot of times we'll get pro se (clients defending themselves) cases that are filed in-house at the court; the clerk provides a document and a person hand-writes their claim. One person I read was suing for damages because their landlord had invaded their privacy and installed cameras in their apartment.
The roof leaked, the floor was crooked and not only that— but they were suing for a lot of money. $10 million for a bedroom issue, $10 million for the previous issues, and "$20 million because I'm mad as heck”. Sorry, but “mad as heck” is not a defense.
51. He Couldn’t Stay Out Of The Picture
I was doing a traffic hearing for another lawyer’s client at my firm. When we got there, the officer didn’t show up. The client was charged with careless driving—they had rear-ended another car—and was adamant that he didn't do it. It was a three-car accident, and he claimed that the car that hit him pushed him into the car in front of him.
I thought it would be an easy win. I looked at the client and said, "You don't say anything, got it"? He agreed. So we did the hearing and the witnesses testified. But because there was no officer, no one could put my client at the scene or behind the wheel. So the judge said, "Well, in light of all the evidence, I'm going to have to find Mr…", and then my client interrupted.
He said, "Your Honor, I have some pictures I took at the scene". I just stared at him. The judge said, "Sir, do you pay your attorney for a reason"? He said, "Yes". The judge continued, "Did your attorney tell you to talk"? He replied, “No”. Then, the judge told him, “Well, until you opened your mouth, nobody could put you at the scene, and I was going to dismiss the ticket, but now you did that yourself".
The dude literally talked himself into a ticket.
52. Repeat After Me
I was in court for a ticket. The officer had lost the ticket book, so there was no "official" evidence. The judge said the next 15 people on the docket—which included me—just needed to say “not guilty”, since there was no evidence. One moron got up there and started to argue that he was only going five mph over the limit, not 10.
The judge looked at him and said, "Son, just say not guilty". The guy again said, “But I wasn't going that fast”. The judge laughed and repeated again, “Son, just say two words for me, not and guilty”. The guy, confused, mumbled “not guilty” in the form of a question, and the judge said, “Dismissed”. Everyone in the courtroom laughed and clapped for him.
53. The Outcome Was Indeed Positive
I did personal injury law on the plaintiff's side. My best story involved someone else's client who I was deposing. In that case, I was deposing this guy who caused a car crash. The guy worked for a car dealership and was driving a company car. He swerved over two lanes of traffic on a highway, into another car in an intersection, and sent that car flying into my client's vehicle that was stopped at a red light.
My client was trapped in his car until the jaws of life pulled him out. I was quizzing this guy and asked him if he had taken any illicit substances that day. He said no. I said, "How about the day before"? Again, he said no. Then I asked, "How about in the last week?" He said, “Nope, no way”. But I knew something crucial, and I was about to reveal it.
I then slid over to him a copy of the substance test his employer had him take. It showed him testing positive for several substances. I asked him why he tested positive for those things if he had never taken them. His eyes got really wide and he said, "Well, I never would have taken the test if I had known I was going to test positive"!
The case was settled pretty quickly after that.
During my internship as a law student, we had a client who, upon being pulled over and being asked if he had any illicit substances or drinks in the car, voluntarily told the officers that he didn't. He told them that he did, however, have the smack he sold in his hotel room. He then kindly escorted the officer there and gave it to him.
55. Sphinxed It
My dad is an in-house lawyer for a major insurance company. He once spent an entire year trying to help deny insurance benefits for a painter who had stepped off his ladder onto a cat, fallen down the stairs, and become paralyzed. The insurance company was arguing that a cat was a commonly expected occupational hazard.
They argued that as a painter, he was negligent by not checking for cats before stepping down off his ladder. It took a whole year of my dad's life arguing over whether a cat is a known occupational hazard of house painting.
56. That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means
I was a jailer and used to pull double duty as a bailiff. One time, a guy swiped a pickup truck and was later captured passed out behind the wheel and parked on a sidewalk surrounded by a ludicrous amount of illicit substances and guns. His defense was jaw-dropping. First off, he elected to represent himself because he wasn't done being stupid. Then he outdid himself.
"Double Jeopardy, You can't charge me for theft, possession, or anything because I've already been convicted on all of those charges before". In short, during his jury trial he admitted to doing it but explained with a smug grin that since he had already done time for the same charges from another case before that, he could not be prosecuted for them ever again.
This is not how double jeopardy works, folks. He's been behind bars for 20 years now. If he'd taken any counsel he could've easily cut a deal for five.
57. A Little Misunderstanding
I’m a paralegal. I had a client get a judgment for embezzling from a former employer to the tune of $142k. Essentially, she was promoted to office manager, given the responsibility of making the deposits daily, and started pocketing the cash. She then cooked the books at the office to show the clients’ accounts as paid. Prior to the hearing for judgment, she began to see the writing on the wall.
As she did, she said, "It shouldn't be this big of deal, it's only blown up because my former employer's husband is friends with the DA”. Yes...that's why.
58. Watch What You Say
I saw someone on a watch collector forum try to tell people that if you want to avoid paying customs duties, then you just have to use whatever you’re trying to bring across the border in the country you bought it in. As in, "Don't worry sir, you wore that $50,000 watch for an hour before crossing the border...it's now duty-free. Come on through".
59. The YouTube Defense
A marketing person in my company was trying to write copy for an online ad one day. The copy she submitted plagiarized a complete poem from an author I'd never heard of. Obviously, there was no copyright release. Then she said the dumbest thing to me I’ve ever heard. She told me she knew she was covered because she gave credit to the author in the ad.
No, you idiot, what you're doing is even worse. You're openly naming the person you took from. I call this the "YouTube" defense. How many people out there start off their videos by openly admitting, "I don't own this content, I don't intend any infringement” as they then proceed to infringe copyright by posting a song they didn't write. Think about it!
60. Good Intentions Sometimes Have Bad Outcomes
I was a law student assisting lawyers with cases. One day, we got involved in a caretaking debate for an old woman. Her daughter and an attorney were declared the legitimate guardians for her due to her dementia and advanced age. Her niece got us involved, questioning the motives of the daughter as the assigned official guardian.
The daughter’s motives were definitely questionable. She had taken tens of thousands of dollars and even her mom's vacuum cleaner and silver cutlery, which resulted in the poor woman eating with her fingers. The case seemed to be a piece of cake for us. Then, the niece—our client—took the old lady away to a senior citizen home to guarantee that she would be well taken care of.
However, she hadn’t consulted us. Although her intentions were good, the daughter and her attorney were still the woman’s authorized guardians. They were the ones who had the right to determine the woman’s place of residence. It ended in the worst possible way. Eventually, our client was charged with kidnapping, and we lost the case.
61. Twice Tanked
My all-time favorite was a client I had who was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence. He wanted to challenge the charges on the grounds that he didn't think he was too far gone and that the test was administered improperly. Unfortunately, he appeared at his court hearings rip-roaring smashed—twice. He proceeded to sweeten the deal.
Both times, he got into his car and tried to drive away. On both occasions, the authorities promptly stopped him, administered a breathalyzer, and charged him. We didn't win that case.
62. Their Worlds Were Turned Inside Out
A lawyer friend of mine had a client who went on a double date with his friend. He and his friend decided it would be a good idea to get busy with their respective dates in his van. That's when they did the stupidest thing ever. See, the problem was that they had only one rubber...and to "fix" this issue, they decided to share it.
After one finished, the other proceeded to invert the dirty prophylactic and have relations with his girl. Here's where it got REALLY weird. The girl got pregnant from the friend's junk that was on the outside of the protection that her guy was wearing. The result was a very messy paternity suit, as I'm sure you can imagine.
63. No-Show Bozo
I was a paralegal, and the list of dumb clients I have seen would stretch to the moon. We had a defendant/client with a very simple traffic issue but he WOULD NOT come to court. He had a good attorney who had negotiated a sweet, sweet deal, but since he wouldn't come to court, the judge put a warrant out for his arrest.
We eventually found the client, arranged for him to come to court on the next available day, and filed the appropriate motions to have the warrant lifted. And, again, he didn’t show. As a result, his sweet deal was blown, he incurred $600–$700 in additional attorney fees for the extra work, and there was still a warrant out for him. Dumb.
64. He Couldn’t Bail Himself Out Of That One
There was an accused bank burglar at a bail hearing who was told by the judge his bond was set at $100,000. The judge explained to him that meant he could post $10,000 in cash to be released pending trial. He then asked the accused if he had $10,000 for bail to be able to go home. His answer did him in with one simple sentence.
The accused replied, "Judge, if I had $10,000, I wouldn't have been holding up the bank". The US Attorney asked for a copy of the transcript—it was the easiest conviction ever.
65. He Was On A Losing Streak
There was a guy who offed his girlfriend after a fight at her house. Afterward, he took off all his clothes, left them on the bed next to her body, and set it all on fire to destroy any evidence. He didn’t realize until after running to his car—undressed of course—that he had left his keys in his pocket. He then ran back inside and tried to somehow retrieve his keys from his burning clothes.
He became overcome by smoke and jumped out of the window, then quickly fell unconscious. Eventually, the authorities responding to the fire found him lying outside with burns. He claimed he was coming to visit his girlfriend, saw the house was on fire, and ran in to try and save her. When asked why he didn’t have any clothes on, he couldn’t answer.
66. Called Out
I was a defense attorney in New York City. All inmate phone calls at the city penal institution were recorded. I reminded my clients on a regular basis that somebody was listening to all of their calls and that they should never discuss the case or call anyone related to the case from inside. I had a client who was charged with stalking and harassing an ex-girlfriend.
This case was the first and last time I had seen a legitimate case of double jeopardy. The defendant had already pleaded guilty and done a small amount of time for the same incidents. So I walked into court on our first appearance supremely confident that my client would be walking out of court a free man. I was in for a very nasty surprise.
Once I got in, I was informed there was a second indictment charging my client with new offenses. That's because my genius client had called his ex-girlfriend while inside, and the DA had recordings of him menacing to beat her if she came to court to testify against him. We took a plea right there and he served three years for witness tampering and contempt.
If my client had only listened to my advice and let me do my job, he would have gone home three years earlier than he did.
67. He Was Pushing His Luck
There was a defendant at a preliminary hearing for a domestic battery charge. The alleged victim—his girlfriend—failed to show up, so the prosecution dropped the case. The judge told the defendant it was his lucky day and asked if he had anything to say about that. The defendant started to explain his point of view on what happened and just about talked himself right back into that charge.
68. Get Back To Basics
After my first year of law school, I spent the summer representing children in the public defender's neglect docket. These were basically situations where children were taken away from their parents because of harm and neglect. Their parents and the government were also represented parties in those proceedings. The bar is set very low for parents.
Basically, they have to have adequate food, shelter, and supervision without any harm present to the kids. When children are taken away, the moms are told they can get their kids back by holding down a basic job, getting an apartment, testing clean, and breaking up with whatever harmful person they are seeing. The number of mothers who couldn't satisfy those requirements was astounding.
69. Show Me The Lie, Though
The best "excuse" I heard from a client was in relation to a charge he had after drinking too much and then driving his car. The alleged reading he got was 0.258. For those who don’t know, this means the guy was absolutely plastered, 100% for sure. His instructions were to contest the charge on the sole basis that he couldn't remember what happened.
70. Letting It All Hang Out
I had a client who was just ridiculous. He was a real estate guy who decided to get into government. Had a lot of investigations going against him, but instead of letting his lawyers do the talking, he made the biggest mistake ever. He just kept tweeting random nonsense about the cases he had ongoing. We tried to take his phone, but somehow he always got a new one.
Can’t keep his mouth shut. Somehow he hasn’t ended up behind bars yet.
71. Courtroom Betrayal
I had a client who won just shy of a seven-figure settlement in a personal injury case. She then dropped into my office to ask me to file a fee dispute against the attorney who represented her in the personal injury action. That attorney took a little over $260,000 on this case. If you're doing the math at home, this guy took a 27% fee on the type of case where 40% fees are common.
He also did a fantastic job because the woman got nearly a million dollars. Then she turned around and tried to sue him to recover any of his fees. I rejected the case out of hand and then got an ethics complaint for discriminating against her.
72. Gone, Gone Forever
This one father was in his 60s. He hadn’t been paying child support for decades and he owed more than $60k for two kids who were adults now. He was basically living at a farm in the middle of nowhere so no one could find him. He worked for cash so the money could not be garnished from anywhere. Just so careful on the time. Until the day he slipped up.
He then came into an inheritance, which was deposited in his bank account and promptly confiscated by Family Maintenance. He came to us because he wanted it back.
73. Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed
My brother's a lawyer. His client took a backhoe and dug up a standalone ATM. He then scooped it onto a flatbed truck. Then, and only then, he noticed a security camera nearby filming everything. So what did he do? He got some black spray paint out of his truck, went up two inches away (really nice view of his face), and sprayed the camera lens.
He insisted on pleading not guilty.
74. Paper Trail
Someone I went to high school with was taken into custody. He served his time and ended up out on probation. He couldn’t find a job to pay for his probation and court costs, which is when he made a very bad decision. He decided to stick up a bank. He walked into the bank and handed a note to the teller saying he was holding up the place and to give him money.
She did, and he left. After he left, she flipped his note over to find that the piece of paper he used was the backside of his probation papers with his address and information all over them. He was back in custody shortly after that.
75. Ah, The Company One Keeps
A girlfriend of mine was married to this piece-of-sleaze who had a dumb piece-of-sleaze friend. The dumb friend got himself behind bars because he held up his own local bank branch where he did his banking. Despite wearing a ski mask, a teller recognized him from his frequent visits to the bank and told the authorities.
So, he got locked up. Then, my girlfriend got raided by the authorities at 6 AM. They were looking for the moderate crop of plants she had planted in the backyard. She asked how the officers had detected it and they told her the dumb friend had written her and her husband a letter from the pokey. It said, “How are you? I am fine. How is your crop doing?"
“I can't wait to get out so we can smoke some. The supply in here is very unreliable, so I hope you are looking after that crop real well. Ha-ha. Say hi to everyone for me”. Then he signed it. All mail was read by the censors inside, so they informed the authorities, and my friend and her piece-of-sleaze husband got busted.
76. Delete, Delete, Delete
I handled white-collar cases, so most clients are big companies. I had an international tax case about a company's transfer pricing arrangement. During discovery, we found a non-privileged email with the subject matter "Transfer Pricing". It began with the words, "Make sure to delete this email as it would be a terrible trail for the IRS to follow".
We had produced 10 copies of the email, INCLUDING a scan of a paper version, because someone had printed it out and put it in their files.
77. Watch Your Language
My dad was an attorney. He was in a meeting with some guys who were unaware that my dad fluently spoke their native language. They were telling him one story in English, then would switch to their native language to confer about covering up the truth. My dad let them go on like that for a while before he finally cut in—in their language—and asked them about the real story.
They were extremely dumbfounded and busted.
78. Need A Ride?
There was a guy who held up a bank and fled the scene. His "clever" getaway plan was so stupid. He decided to jump into the nearest taxi. He got in and yelled at the driver, "I just held up that bank, now drive"! But he had made an enormous mistake. The driver of the car turned around—it was a law enforcement officer.
In his haste, the guy mistook the cruiser for a taxicab. Since both vehicles were white, it would be a feasible mistake, but an incredibly dumb one at that.
79. His Own Worst Enemy
We once had a client skip bail and run. I looked him up on Facebook and he had posted a photo of the bond paperwork and a bunch of 20-dollar bills. The post read something like " Man, screw the law AND my bondsman!! Nobody can tell me what to do”! What he didn't realize was that the only reason we bonded him in the first place was that we were going to represent him.
We withdrew on the bond and the case. In the Motion to Withdraw we quoted his Facebook post and attached a copy of it as Exhibit "A" when we filed it.
80. Don’t Like The Cut Of Their Jib
I represent condo and homeowners’ associations. One of my condo association clients wanted to evict some tenants. When I asked why, his answer stunned me. He wanted to do it because they were fat. I am not even joking. Now, the law does, in some cases, allow the association to evict non-owner tenants. This is very fact-specific, however, and hard to do.
I spent a long time trying to elicit from my client exactly what these tenants were doing that warranted eviction. Client: "Well, they're just disgusting people! They are fat”! Me: (exasperated) "You can't evict someone because they're fat”! We did not end up filing suit.
81. Probably For The Best
My dad was a patent and trademark attorney about 10 years ago and worked for a pharmaceutical company. Hilariously enough, the owner of the company adopted the slogan “Just Do It”, somehow not knowing that the trademark belonged to Nike. When the owner found out that the trademark belonged to one of the biggest companies in the world, rather than change the slogan and avoid a lawsuit, he CALLS UP NIKE and expresses how funny he thinks it is that they have the same slogan.
My dad got them to settle the case and the catchphrase was later changed.
82. Gotcha There
I once handled a case where the client who was defending themselves made the argument that the District Court's ruling held no weight because the DC judge was a woman and "only men can be judges”. Biggest. Eyeroll. Ever.
83. Not Their Circus, Not Their Monkeys
This woman lived on a large riverfront block and had a jetty for a boat. One day, her large tree fell over in a storm and landed mostly in the water, making it difficult to moor her boat. She wanted to sue the government for not taking away her fallen tree.
84. He Got Some Crazy Advice
A defendant moved to remove his public defender, after apparently listening to advice from his cellmate. They told the judge that they wanted to represent themselves. The judge asked the defendant if they were going to change their plea, to which the defendant replied, "Yes, I would like to plead not guilty by reason of insanity".
So, the judge asked, "Do you have a mental disorder"? The defendant replied, “No”. After a brief chat with his former attorney, the defendant reinstated the public defender as his counsel. My guess was that the defendant listened to counsel when they told him that pleading “not guilty by reason of insanity” meant admitting he did indeed perform the acts of which he was accused.
85. His Reasoning Was Out Of Control
My mother was a public defender. She once got a client who was charged with reckless endangerment for the nth time. She told him to be quiet and said that she would talk to the ADA to see what could be worked out between them. They ended up getting in front of the judge and the client started trying to tell the judge his story. The most ridiculous words came out of his mouth.
He complained to the judge that he had just stopped at McDonald's, had a Big Mac in one hand, and had a large Coke in the other. His cupholder wasn't easily accessible, so since both hands were full, he clearly couldn’t control the fact that he was going 90+mph on a winding country road with a 30mph speed limit.
86. It’s Not Mine!
I had a client who was charged with several possession with the intent to distribute (PWID) counts. He was a subsequent offender to these charges and was looking at at least a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence if convicted. However, the state offered a plea agreement that would remove the mandatory sentence. It should have been an easy choice.
He would have received a 12-year sentence but would be eligible for parole in just 3–4 years. The client, who was out on bond, vehemently stated that he was innocent of all charges. On the day of the trial, I couldn't find my client anywhere. I told the judge and prosecutor that he might fail to appear. I left chambers, and a deputy alerted me that my client was in lock-up.
I went back and talked to him. He had been taken in for operating a vehicle under the influence the night before the trial, and the officer found fifteen baggies of smack hidden in his shoe. He again said the stuff wasn’t his. At trial, he was found guilty of two counts of PWID. That day he received a 21-year sentence with 10 being mandatory, which couldn’t be paroled or suspended.
He was subsequently convicted of another PWID for the shoe incident and received another 25-year mandatory sentence to run consecutively to the other conviction. But hey, the stuff wasn’t his, and he wasn’t a dealer. Unbelievable.
87. Bedazzled Bonehead
An individual was told by her attorney to come to trial "in her Sunday best". When she walked in the room, the courtroom gasped. See instead, she showed up in a matching sweatsuit with the word "sexy" bedazzled on the back and the behind. People filed in for jury selection, and she asked how long this trial was going to take because she left her baby in the truck out front with the flashers on.
88. Security Breach
I was passing through courthouse security with my client when the deputy pulled my client aside. The deputy lifted his jacket by the lapel, and I could see that my client was wearing a shoulder holster. That is what apparently alerted the deputy. I thought, "Did this idiot bring a piece to court"? The deputy reached into the holster and pulled out a pack of smokes.
For some reason, he liked to carry them in a shoulder holster.
89. Door Jam
My father was a lawyer. When he was a federal prosecutor, they had a case where the defendants were holding up a bank. They successfully held it up and were headed on their way out. Then it all went wrong for one simple reason. The door would not open. They repeatedly tried pushing the door and slamming into it but eventually gave up.
In their panic, they thought they had been locked inside the bank by the manager. The authorities showed up, calmly entered the bank, and took the puzzled bank thieves into custody. The door was a pull door.
90. The Proud Owner Of Nothing
I worked in-house for a famous character company with a large fanbase. Because of their profile, a few crazies a year call in. A guy once called in claiming that we pilfered characters that he created and demanded to be compensated. I calmly asked him to provide more details so I can determine whether this has any merit to it and decide any next steps.
He states he designed the characters himself and gave it to the well-known actual creator when he was a kid, and the creator then pawned them off as his own. I asked him when he was born, and it’s a good 20 years after these characters were actually created. I ask him to explain this issue, and he pivots and says he also created some other well-known famous characters and brands.
Characters and brands that are not owned by my company. I kindly ask that if he wants to pursue anything to send us something in writing and hang up. I figured if he wasn’t going to do some really basic research on his own claims, he wasn’t going to spend any time writing it up. Never heard from him again, as it turned out. I love being right.
91. Leave It To The Professionals
I work for a courier service and while we don't specialize in courtroom work, we still get quite a lot of requests of that kind. The best are the kooks trying to do pro se work. Non-lawyers trying to represent themselves are 99.9% of the time completely insane, believe me on this one. One time I referred a pro se kook to a different lawyer service and 20 minutes later got a call from that service laughing and telling me to not send them any more crazies.
Hey people, if you are working with the law, get a lawyer.
92. Street Smarts And Book Smarts Don’t Mix
A tale from back in my public defender days: Sovereign citizens—those people who say they don’t believe in the law so aren’t subject to it, basically—are a special kind of stupid. Percentage-wise, I don’t know how many of them are true believers and how many think they’ve just found some clever loophole or another. At any rate, they were always the most interesting clients.
One of them was a young gent who decided to represent another buddy of his to spin his nonsense to the judge. There was just one problem. Unfortunately, the fellow who would become my client was a regular defendant in that same courtroom—and everyone there knew he wasn’t a lawyer. When he was detained—which is to say immediately—the judge was not swayed by his argument that he was “acting of counsel” rather than “practicing law without a license”.
The operating a motor vehicle charge which would follow was only semi-related.
93. Leveling The Playing Field
I’m a lawyer. I’ve had a few clients who have wanted us to “pressure” or “strongarm” the other side into doing something or they would come forward with damning evidence. But they don’t understand a crucial detail. Depending on the circumstances, their game plan often amounts to demanding money with menaces or blackmail, and despite what TV seems to think, that’s very dangerous.
You’d think people would be more understanding when you say you won’t break the law for them, but I guess not!
94. Do You Know Who I Am?
I had a non-lawyer (I am a lawyer) try to tell me that testimony was not reliable evidence and that a judge could not rely upon it in making a factual determination. This was in the context of a small claims case I was helping my client prepare for. It was my client's word against the opposing party's, plus some photographs he was planning on introducing.
I told the opposing party that "I'll guess we'll see what the judge does”. Spoiler: The judge found my client's testimony much more compelling and ruled in his favor.
95. Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey
Lauren Lake's Paternity Court is incredible. My favorite case was one where the woman spent almost the entire 25 minutes going over all this "proof" that the kid was this guy’s kid. She used facial similarities and even brought in a witness to attest that she was of good character and wouldn’t cheat. She also tried insulting the guy, saying how awful it was that he denied his child.
Through all of this, the guy just stood there quietly; not saying a word, not defending himself, nothing. Finally, the judge asked if he has anything to say or if he would like to plead his case. He motioned to the only thing on the desk: A manila folder. The plaintiff took it to the judge, and she opened it. Its contents changed the whole case. She read it for a minute, then dismissed the case in the favor of the guy.
Turns out, he had been deployed overseas in Afghanistan during the year before, which was when the pregnancy and birth occurred. He came home after four years and was introduced to "his" two-year-old child.
96. I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
This was unbelievable. My co-worker’s girlfriend filed for divorce a few weeks ago. That's right, girlfriend. They aren't married, and common-law doesn't apply in my state. They lived together for five years. She has a job. She isn't on the mortgage. And she left him a few months ago. There are no kids involved. They were never engaged.
In the "divorce," she wants him to leave his house and she wants to be the one to move back in. She also wants him to pay her $2,800 a month for some reason. I referred him to my divorce attorney, and now that attorney is probably going to represent him. The chick is nuts. She has already tried to get a restraining order against him that was dismissed.
97. A Mother’s Love
Not mine, but my mom’s story. She was fighting for custody on behalf of the father, trying to prove that the kids were living in subpar conditions with their addict mother in spite of the ample child support he had provided. It was a tough case because courts are so hesitant to pull kids away from their moms, and they have the upper hand.
Then the mom burst out that she had been feeding the kids cat food as proof that she wouldn’t let them starve. Needless to say, the judge didn’t take that as a good reason for the kids to stay with their mom.
98. An Iron Clad Defense
I was an Assistant DA in a college town in Texas. A fellow prosecutor (in plain clothes) overheard this exchange between a defendant and his attorney in the courthouse hallway. "Why don't they dismiss this case? The paper says 'State of Texas v. ______,' but I didn't punch the state of Texas. I punched my wife." Oh, buddy…
99. A Good Foundation
So, I do a lot of insurance work, and I try cases of all kinds, large and small. I had a small case, over about $2,600, from where a contractor drove into a retaining wall at this lady's house and damaged it. He wouldn't fix it, and, after like eight months, the homeowner allowed her insurance company—my client—to have it fixed and then sent the bill to the contractor.
Surprise surprise, the contractor wouldn't pay. There was lots of squabbling between my client and the contractor's insurance company, who offered less than $500 on a $2,600 bill. We had a trial to settle it. I brought our claims adjuster and the homeowner. The defense attorney brought the contractor and an adjuster from the contractor's insurance company.
Everything goes fine with questioning the homeowner, who was a sweet, middle-aged woman. She, like most people, knows nothing about the finer points of masonry. Then, we get to my claims adjuster. He says, "Well, we paid $2,600 to have this fixed, but I'm not an expert on masonry." However, he also discussed how estimates on masonry were made.
I close my proof. Next, the contractor gets up on the stand. They go over what exactly happened with the retaining wall. Then, he testifies that he "knows for a fact" that the $2,600 invoice includes overhead and profit and accuses my client of "running a scam." The judge strikes the answer. I look down at the estimate for repair and grin from ear to ear.
It says, in bold print, "This amount does not include overhead or profit." I look at the invoice. It's the same amount as the estimate. This guy is lying through his teeth—and I’m going to catch him. On cross examination, I show the contractor the invoice. "Sir, this is a $2,600 invoice for repair, correct." "Yes." Then I show him the estimate.
"Sir, this is a $2,600 estimate for the same repairs, correct?" "Yes." "They're the same amount, correct?" "Yes." "Does the estimate say it does not include profit or overhead?" "Uh..." "Does it?" "Yes." "Didn't you just testify that you knew for a fact that the estimate included overhead?" "I don't know." "What don't you know?"
At this point, the contractor is furious and beats his hand on the stand. "It doesn't include overhead and profit, does it?" "I guess not." "But you said it did, right?" I pass the witness. But I wasn’t done yet. Next, the defense attorney calls the contractor's insurance company's adjuster. He testifies about how much he thought it should cost, like $500.00.
I cross-examine him. "How did you make this estimate?" "I put the numbers into a computer program." "How do you know what numbers to put in?" "Uh..." "Are you a contractor?" "No." "Are you an expert in masonry?" "No." "Have you ever worked in construction?" "No." "And the computer programs spits out what you put in?" "Yes."
"And you can just put in whatever numbers you want?" "Yes." "And it makes an estimate based on the numbers you pick?" "Yes." "But you don't know anything about masonry?" "No." The adjuster just testified that he made up the estimate. Defense closes proof. And the judge takes the matter under advisement. So let’s recap all this glory.
The contractor lied and was discredited, and the adjuster for the contractor admitted he just made everything up. We got $1,000 out of the trial. Less than half of what we sought but double what the defendant argued it should be. It was a win in my book.
100. A Signature Defense
A friend of mine who is a lawyer was in the middle of a case where a guy was accused of graffiti vandalism, among a bunch of other things. He rolls up to the court to plead “not guilty”, and the conversation with the judge went like this: Judge: "Sir, did you make this graffiti"? Defendant: "No, I did not”. Judge: "But it has your signature at the end, isn’t it”?
Defendant: "Yes, an artist has to sign his work”! Case closed, thanks to that man’s brilliant law-oriented mind.
101. Thinking Outside The Box
I worked in family law in California for like two years before deciding I would be much, much happier if I changed career paths. In California, the obligation to pay spousal support (alimony) ends when the recipient begins cohabitation with a new romantic partner. This one guy came into our offices one day. To be fair, he was positively getting screwed by sending half his monthly payments in as alimony.
He told us he was aware of the rule about cohabitation and wanted me to argue his “point” in court. What was his point? You see, his ex was a narcissist. She was in love with, and had begun cohabitation, with herself. Her presence in her apartment should count the same as if there were a romantic partner there. He was bordering on begging me to take his money. I refused.
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