Lawyers Share Their Amazing “I Rest My Case!” Story
Being a lawyer is not easy. From dealing with frustrating clients to trying to stay sharp during long and difficult trials, lawyers face plenty of stress on a daily basis. On a good day, they may think they have a victory in the bag, but a crushing loss is always a possibility. The best cases are the ones that seem to practically resolve themselves. Whether a simple end to a trial is orchestrated by a crummy witness, a terrible defendant or an awful lawyer, some “I rest my case!” conclusions are just too perfectly wrapped up.
In some scenarios, clients talk themselves into their own graves, or witnesses manage to discredit themselves with a few words. Lying, dirty, and inexperienced lawyers can sink a case into the ground as well. However, there are times when these scenarios are taken to the extreme, and those trying to defend themselves end up completely incriminating themselves in the process. These hysterical and facepalm-worthy tales will have you wondering just how far human stupidity can go. Would you be able to keep it together if you witnessed one of these hilarious legal screw-ups?
#1 I Wish We Could See His Face
The opposing counsel decided that I had coached my witness and gave him lines to repeat. He accused him of lying. He asked the witness if he spoke to me before he testified and the witness said he had. The attorney looked like he thought he had me. He then asked the witness what I told him and the witness looked him dead in the eye, saying: “The first thing he told me was: tell the truth no matter what. He said the lawyer is never the one who goes to jail, and if I lie, I’m on my own.” The attorney looked like someone took the air out of him. Everyone in the courtroom simultaneously looked at me. It was the only time I’ve smirked or laughed in court. I wanted to put my feet up on the table like I was Vincent LaGuardia Gambini.
#2 You (Literally) Walked Into That One, Pal
I was prosecuting some kid. He had an “anti-social behavior order,” which meant that he was not supposed to go to a certain street. He had pleaded not guilty on the basis that he had not been there. I opened my cross-examination by holding up a map and pointing at the street. I said to him, “You went here, didn’t you?” He said, “Yes.” In England, we don’t say “I rest my case.” Instead, I looked up at the bench, said, “No further questions,” and sat down. It might not seem cool, but I got the defendant to admit the offense with one question. That never happens!
#3 Smooth, But Not Smooth Enough
A guy in a divorce case transferred money to the “Equity Preservation Corporation.” I looked at the corporate filing—there were only two shareholders. Knowing who they were, I asked ab0ut them during my cross-examination. He denied ever knowing them. I then asked about them by name. He admitted they were his parents. He slipped up and that case was officially closed.
#4 So, You’re Just An Idiot
I represented a company that was sued for breach of contract by a former independent contractor. The dude basically alleged that my client wasn’t paying him correctly in accordance with the contract. During his deposition, the dude admitted that he never reviewed any documents to make sure his allegations were true, nor did review his complaint before filing it. He had no idea whether or not my client actually failed to pay him in accordance with the contract.
Basically, he told me that he was suing my client because he didn’t think their agreement was fair (even though he agreed to the terms when he signed the contract). The kicker is that he admitted he OWED money to my client. At arbitration, he tried to flip his story, giving a testimony that was the exact opposite of his deposition. So, I whipped out his transcript and undermined his testimony bit by bit. Needless to say, I won that case.
#5 Great, You Earned Yourself Two Tickets
The defendant in a bench trial for a speeding ticket said he couldn’t possibly go as fast as the officer clocked him. He knew this because he videotaped himself accelerating from a full stop to the location where the officer sat. His experiment showed his vehicle could only get to 55 mph and not the 67 mph he was clocked at. The ADA then moved to have another speeding ticket issued because the posted speed limit was 50 mph.
#6 The Odds Are Stacked Against You
The complaining witness accused my client of harassment and stalking. She said she told him numerous times that she wanted nothing to do with him. My client claimed they were dating, but whenever she got mad at him, she’d call the police to say he was harassing her. On the stand, she testified that she’d never dated him or invited him into her home. She presented a photo on her phone of him sitting on her porch to prove that he had come to her property. I asked the judge permission to look at the photos before and after the porch photo for context.
The girl had dozens of photos of the guy, who was clearly her boyfriend. I showed her one such picture: “This is my client, right?” “Yes.” “In this photo, he’s on a bed?” “Yes.” “The bed is yours?” “Yes.” “The bed is in your bedroom?” “Yes.” “You took this photo of him?” “Yes.” “He’s smiling in the photo?” “Yes.” “And in this photo, he’s wearing your brassiere?” “Yes.” No further questions, your honor.
#7 Your Records Tell A Different Story
My sister got T-boned by a car, causing a concussion when I was younger. Long story short, we were in court with the judge, who asked the driver if he had ever sped before. “No, your honor, I never speed,” was his reply. The judge asked him a couple more times if he was sure. The driver was adamant. A few minutes later, my sister’s lawyer gave the judge some paperwork. She read it, and said to the driver, “It seems that you have some past driving violations. Can you tell me what they are for?” “…speeding.” The driver had to pay medical bills for my sister.
#8 Get That Man His Money
As a young attorney, I had stated a claim that an insurance company was dragging out a case in bad faith, in hopes that my elderly client would pass before they had to pay him. I was requesting that the trial date be given priority due to my client’s advanced age. The judge was no spring chicken himself, and he seemed skeptical when he asked exactly how old my client was. When I responded that my client was 92 and that the case had already gone on for five years, the judge was visibly shocked, and immediately granted my motion for priority, shutting down the insurance company’s attorney’s attempt to respond. They wrote us a check for a million dollars the next week.
#9 Vengeance Is So, So Sweet
Terrible people had stolen all of this little old lady’s money. They said it was a gift, but their only evidence was a document in some person’s handwriting that was allegedly dictated. The document was dated September 2012. No day, just the month. Clearly, the rogue had forged the signature when she found out about the lawsuit and, not remembering when she had stolen it, she hoped that if she could guess the right month, no one could challenge her. I questioned her about it. Exhibit B was the little old lady’s bank record. Referring to the withdrawal at the bottom, I asked, “Is that the alleged gift?” “Yes.” “Can you read the date of that transaction for me?” “August 25, 2012.” “Thank you.”
#10 Actually, I Am The Expert Here
We had a case where the opposing counsel was cross-examining our expert witness on hydrology regarding some silt and runoff issues.
“Mr. Smith, wouldn’t you agree that the book I’m holding is highly respected in your field and considered to be the gold standard on the subject?”
“I am aware that it is highly regarded in my field.”
“Would you be willing to explain, in your own words, what paragraphs 6-10 on page 121 is describing?” The witness read the passage word for word.
“Yes, I can read, but could you put this passage in your own words for the court?”
Witness: “These are my own words. I wrote it.”
#11 You Should Have Double-Checked That One
The opposing attorney was insisting that “Rule A” meant they could do something that was not allowed. I tried, multiple times to point out that their interpretation of “Rule A” was wrong. During the hearing, the judge reached behind them, grabbed their “Rules of Civil Procedure” (basically a dictionary of rules), placed it in front of the other attorney, and said: “Show me where Rule A justifies that motion you’d like to make.” The other attorney did not take the hint—he read rules out loud for a brutal five minutes, and gave the book back. I said, “Judge, I have nothing to add.” It was pretty fun.
#12 Well, That Was Easy
I brought a motion to dismiss a case on the basis that the plaintiff could not prove my client was negligent, as she had not served the required expert evidence. As the opposing counsel and I waited for our motion to be heard, we were sitting in the courtroom. The judge, who I did not know and who had not read our materials, wanted to talk to the parties of a short trial which was to be heard after our motion was argued.
That matter was also a professional negligence matter and the plaintiffs had no expert support. The judge then spent 10 minutes explaining that he had practiced in professional negligence for many years and was well versed in the evidentiary requirements to prove the elements of professional negligence. In fact, he said, “I very rarely use the word impossible in this courtroom, but it is impossible for you to be successful without expert evidence.” Our matter was then called and I reveled in explaining to the judge that he was about to hear a motion to dismiss a professional negligence case on the basis that the plaintiff had no expert evidence. I won.
#13 Oh Kevin, You Really Screwed Up
My client had hired a guy who we will call Kevin. He was basically the right-hand man for my client’s company. The employment contract wasn’t done yet, but they had an agreement that Kevin would work six weeks at a lower wage, then sign the contract and get the agreed-upon wage. The guy worked decently for five weeks, then he was given a contract to sign. He went to my client and said that he had some small changes he would like to make.
When the owner got the contract back, he discovered that the “small changes” involved removing the “Duties and Responsibilities” section (basically the job description), the non-compete clause, and the confidentiality clause. Not only that, but he had written in a higher salary than agreed and added a bunch of new benefits for himself. Obviously, my client told him that he could either sign the contract as it was originally laid out or he could find himself another job.
He took the latter option, but he started a lawsuit against my client, wanting to be paid for the six weeks he was supposed to work (which had already been paid), two weeks in lieu of notice and FIVE weeks vacation pay. I got the enjoyable job of telling Kevin, in front of a judge, that he was not entitled to anything under the employment legislation and the only way he could get any of that was if he had signed the contract. The judge dismissed the case and awarded costs to the defendant but not before giving Kevin a lecture on wasting the court’s time.
#14 You Really Thought You Accomplished Something, Huh?
My client and his wife were woken up one night because people were trying to break into his house. He fired two warning shots as his wife called 911. The neighbor also called 911. When the police got the neighbor’s call that there were shots fired, the police sergeant radioed the other officers and said, “He’s going to jail tonight,” referring to my client. So obviously, even with clear signs that someone had tried to break in, the officers arrested my client for endangering his wife by shooting inside the house.
The case got to a jury trial and I started to go off on the police sergeant about why she would say that before an investigation and before she even had any idea what happened. The sergeant had no idea how to respond and literally just sat there staring at me for a solid two minutes before saying anything. Even the bailiffs were audibly laughing.
#15 Hey, Don’t Pin It On The Place
Two high school kids spent their day annoying each other. At some point, they decided to drive to a fast-food restaurant to fight. They parked their cars, got out, immediately approached each other, and threw their fists. Kid A connected the first blow squarely across Kid B and instantly dropped him. The whole fight was ended with one punch in a matter of seconds. The restaurant was then sued for failure to protect its patrons. The case is weak.
Unfortunately, Kid B hit the pavement hard and had severe brain damage. Attempts were made to settle but they were after millions. We knew walking in that they had two former employees testifying about large crowds building up after school. The plaintiff’s attorney aimed to prove the restaurant had a reasonable expectation of trouble and should have had armed guards in the parking lot. At best, their witnesses were wildly exaggerating to the point of perjury. Their credibility was shaky in being highly disgruntled for being fired.
We had a list of witnesses ready to refute their claims. At trial, the plaintiff’s attorney presented first. He spent a long time building up the bad blood between the kids, the serious damages of Kid B, and his potential earning capacity. We went for lunch on the second day, after which it would be the defense presentation. As we were talking through where we were and how we should proceed, we realized the restaurant was not really mentioned at all. The plaintiff held back his “star” witnesses to rebut the defense presentation.
When we reconvened, the judge said: “Defense rests your honor.” The plaintiff attorney fell out of his chair. He began frantically shuffling papers on his table and was stammering. The judge said, “I take it you will need a few minutes for your close?” After that break, the plaintiff’s attorney gave one of the worst closing remarks I’ve ever heard. Jury: Kid B 10% at fault. Kid A 90% at fault. Restaurant 0%.
#16 ‘I’ll Take That As A No’
Me: “Did you or did you not pay into the state-mandated unemployment insurance fund for all your employees past and present?” Silence. Mediator: “Sir, answer the question.” Silence. Mediator: “Did you or did you not pay into the state-mandated unemployment insurance fund for all your employees past and present?” Silence. Mediator: “I’ll take that as a no.”
#17 Time To Drop That Client
I represented a guy who had bought a company which had failed spectacularly within months, due to a number of reasons I could attribute to the seller. They had clearly lied about the company’s finances to induce him to buy. I was suing to rescind the deal and get my guy his money back. I laid out my huge case and thought I had it in the bag, and then opposing counsel asked my guy, “Isn’t it true that you listed this business for sale a month ago?” “Yes.” “And you did sell it, correct? You signed a purchase and sale?” “Yes, but he never finished paying me, he has more payments to make. I’ll just give his money back when you guys give me my money back.” My idiot client had me suing over a company that he had legally sold. The jerk never told me. Game over on the spot.
#18 How Much Dumber Can You Get?
I represented a man in a slip and fall case involving a national chain that grills chicken. The restaurant is not supposed to clean the grills until after they close because it is a huge sloppy mess that involves using a garden hose and chemicals to remove all the grease. The closedown process can take up to three hours and involves packing up the food for the next day, scrubbing the grills, mopping, etc.
Even though the corporation knew this, they refused to pay more than one hour’s worth of wages after closing time. Thus, the shift managers and cooks decided that they would start the closing process two hours before closing while there were still customers in the restaurant. This was really dangerous, as employees delivering food could track the greasy water into the lobby where the customers were.
On one fateful day, two hours before closing, one of the cooks was cleaning the grills, using the hose to wash them down. This slurry was so slick that the cook had to wear a plastic smock and slip-resistant shoes for the process. While he was waiting for the chemicals to remove the grease which takes about 15 minutes, the cook went into the lobby, tracking the stuff into a hallway.
My client walked out of the restroom and slipped in the greasy water. He hit his head so hard that it caused a subdural hematoma, which required surgery to relieve the swelling and blood from the brain. Go figure, the video system wasn’t working that day. In any case, right after that, the cook was fired and the corporation claimed that they could not locate him during litigation.
I did some research and found a relative of the cook, which eventually led to me finding him. He admitted that he was cleaning the grill, but denied that he was the one that tracked the greasy water into the lobby since all of the other employees could have been just as guilty. The corporation, during the entire three-week trial, testified that cleaning the grills before closing was against their policy and that it NEVER happens.
Thus, it had to be anything else that caused my client to fall. I was talking to the cook before trial because we were going to call him as a witness. He was angry that they fired him. I asked, “Do you think they are still cleaning before closing because they are denying that they do.” He told me, “Absolutely.” On the first day of trial, I sent my investigator to the restaurant at the time my client was injured which was two hours before closing to record video on his cell phone whether they were cleaning or not.
Guess what, they had the hose out and everything. I couldn’t believe that they would continue to do this at the restaurant at issue in the case. I told my investigator to go back up there when there was a different shift manager and cook to see if they were doing the same thing. They were. At the end of the trial, the defense put on their general manager for the region. He swore up and down that this never happens. He was their last witness.
We got up and said, “Judge, we need a sidebar.” In the judge’s chambers, we revealed the videos to the other side. The attorney for the corporation was freaking out. The judge let it in for rebuttal. The last thing the jury saw before going into deliberations was five minutes of video with audio of the hose as they were cleaning the grills two hours before closing. We completely wiped out their entire defense in a three week trial with that video. Needless to say, we prevailed.
#19 We’ve Got The Proof Right Here
I was defending an alimony case and in my state, cohabitation with a new lover is a bar to alimony. We had a PI on the plaintiff’s tail for a few months and she and opposing counsel had no clue. I had a mountain of evidence that the plaintiff had moved in with a new boyfriend and they were essentially husband and wife without the marriage certificate. If I could prove cohabitation, she wouldn’t get alimony.
On cross-examination, I’d set her up with a question I knew she’d lie about and then hit her with a photo contradicting her. “So, it’s your testimony that John Doe never visited your house?… Oh, so do you have an explanation for why he’s walking in your front door in this photo?… So he did come over, but never stayed overnight?… I see, do you have an explanation for why his car was parked outside of your house overnight on these nights, as seen in these photographs?”
For a solid 45 minutes. I’d ask a question and she’d lie. Then I’d impeach her with a photo directly contradicting her. I was catching her in a lie per minute or more. She never wised up, either. After the first few times, you’d think she’d tell the truth knowing that I’d just catch her in another lie, but nope. She just kept on lying. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on cross. Eventually, the court made the specific finding that the plaintiff’s testimony was “without an iota of credibility.”
#20 I Can’t Believe He Was Honest
I was in a gang-related jury trial for attempted murder. The defendant was a known Crip and the victim was a Blood. Against his attorney’s advice, the defendant testified. The defendant had a tattoo on his arm that said “BK”. I asked him what “BK” meant. He replied with “Blood Killer.” I was shocked he said what it actually meant, but in retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t have been since he actually decided to testify.
#21 Oh, How The Tables Have Turned
I called up my client’s disgruntled former employee about a contract dispute that got my client into litigation. After two questions, it was obvious he was a lying son of a witch. I didn’t want to call him as a witness; he was prone to act unpredictably. I took down his story as we talked, which was easily proven false by official documents. I did not tell him how I’d caught him in lies.
Later on, I submitted a list of known witnesses to the opposing counsel, as required by the rules. Witness number one was the liar. Fast forward to the trial—the opposing counsel called the liar as his first witness. He tells the same story on the witness stand that he told me on the phone. I took the emails that he wrote and entered them into evidence, proving him to be a clear liar.
My client didn’t breach the contract, the party suing did. After the witness left the stand, I asked the court for a brief recess, which was granted. I approached the opposing counsel. My client was still willing to sign on to the walk-away settlement where no money changes hands and no fault was admitted. We offered the deal two months before and it was angrily rejected. Now, suddenly, it was accepted. Score.
#22 You Guys Outsmarted The System
State law enforcement was trying to prosecute a local cop for accessing the name and address information of an individual in the State’s criminal justice computer system. They were trying to help a friend who was a process server. The State was prosecuting the cop for violating the computer crimes act, which, in part, makes it illegal to share any information which the State has an intellectual property interest in.
We showed up for the trial, having waived our right to a jury, and allowed the head of the Attorney General’s litigation department to make this wonderfully colorful speech about a police officer breaking the public trust and this other nonsense. For our opening statement, we moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the State’s theory of the case was a legal impossibility.
The State cannot have an ownership interest in someone’s name or address. The judge was annoyed with our tactic and so he put the screws to us by asking dozens of questions, but we kept repeating our theory: the State cannot own a name or address as intellectual property. Finally, the judge got it and turned to question the Attorney General. He tried to dance his way out of answering the big question all sorts of ways.
Eventually, the judge flat out asked him if he contended that the State can own someone’s name or address. The AG responded by saying, “Judge, I came here to try a case, not to argue the law.” The judge was not impressed. He dismissed the case immediately and wrote a letter to the Attorney General asking him to be more selective in his prosecutions. That was a fun day in court.
#23 The Court Was Definitely On Your Side
I argued a conversion case before a state court of appeals over a painting of the 1950s era. My friend won at trial court but asked me to write and argue the appeal for him. It was my first appellate argument, so I worked my butt off. I had three-ring binders with tabs that I could flip to as I went along with my argument outline. I practiced with my friends and barely slept the night before. I was pumped and prepared.
The other side appealed, so they went first. They got HAMMERED by the court. It was kind of painful but also terrifying, because I was next. I figured I was going to get just as roasted. My turn came up. I started my long-rehearsed presentation and almost immediately got interrupted with a question. Then another question, and so on. I realize I could only hurt myself if I went on, as the court was OBVIOUSLY on my side. I asked, “Can I answer any other questions for the court?” The bench said no, and I thanked them and take my seat. Twenty minutes of argument available to me and I used 3. We won.
#24 That’s One Awesome Parrot
A parrot testified once. It helped defend my client and convict the right person.
#25 There’s No Point In Lying
I helped the prosecution rest his case. I got jammed up during spring break doing dumb spring break stuff. So there I was, in court, to face the music. As I sat there waiting for my turn, I watched person after person speak before the judge. The prosecutor read their charges and some information from the police report, stating what the potential max sentence was for each person. Then the judge asked what plea they wanted to enter.
Almost everyone said “not guilty” and I could see that both the judge and prosecutor were getting tired of their nonsense. FINALLY, my turn came. I was probably second to last after what seemed like hours. The prosecutor read off my charges and cited the police report. The judge looked at me with this “Let’s just get it out of the way, tell us you’re not guilty” look and asked how I pled. “Guilty, your honor.” The judge and the prosecutor both looked at each other and the judge said, “Say again?” I repeated, “Guilty your honor. I did it. Just the way officer so-and-so’s report reads.”
They exchanged looks again and the prosecutor held his papers at arm’s length as to get a better look at them and did the unthinkable. “Your honor, this all reads to me like a case of college prank gone bad. The county moves to reduce charges.” I walked in there expecting some jail time and walked out paying like $110 plus costs. I didn’t really know how to feel about the scariest day of my life turning into one of the happiest ones.
#26 Way To Make A Good Impression
I had one case where I pretty much knew the jury was on my side by the end. I had prepared my closing statement the night before, so I was ready to go. There was a break where the jury went out before receiving their instructions. I noticed that the opposing counsel was writing his closing statement during that break and would likely continue while the judge was reading the jury instructions. His table was a mess—papers and books were everywhere and he was frantically scribbling on a notepad while shuffling through papers, adding things up in a phone calculator, etc.
I decided to clear everything off of my table and put it out of sight. When the jury came back in, I just sat there with nothing but a brand new, clean yellow legal pad and a pen. The opposing counsel was still scribbling and shuffling, and his table was still a mess. I sat back with crossed my legs and pressed my fingertips together while I listened to the judge read the instructions to the jury. I like to think that made a good final impression on the jury. They came back with a verdict fully in my favor.
#27 Guess Who Is Out Of Luck?
Back when I was a prosecutor, I had a defendant object that I couldn’t compel him to give a fingerprint sample for comparison. It’s how we proved our prior convictions. Our expert would fingerprint the defendant both outside the presence of the jury and in the presence of the jury, then compare fingerprints to the ones included on old judgments. This is 101% nonsense because fingerprints aren’t testimony and can be compelled, but the judge for the day was actually buying the argument. So I stood up, told the judge I was applying for a search warrant and asked to be sworn in. She swore me in, I applied for a warrant, and she wrote out a warrant in return for his fingerprints. No longer with a valid objection, the defendant was fingerprinted and surprise—his four prior felonies were indeed his. He’s serving life now.
#28 Wrong Exam Results, Dummy
I was representing a woman with a severe neck injury. Opposing counsel presented a test result that showed her cervical exam was normal. I felt almost bad when I pointed out he had the wrong cervical area in mind…
#29 That’s Not A Criminal Offense, Sweetie
My ex read a Reddit thread of mine where I had been making fun of her tattoos (she braggingly posted to bad tattoo threads, so I don’t see what the big deal was). In retaliation, she filed for a restraining order. In her written allegations, she straight-up admitted that I didn’t have contact with her and that I’d spent most of the last year living 2,000 miles away from her. If that weren’t enough, on our day in court, when the judge asked her what threat I represented to her safety, security, and privacy, she said, “Nobody should be able to say that about my tattoos.” She literally forgot about all of her made-up accusations while talking to the judge.
#30 It’s Easy To Demolish A Terrible Defense
I was a second-year associate and handling my first trial. I represented the plaintiff. The defendant had an expert witness who had testified previously in about 40 similar cases. This expert came out to my client’s property and did a completely nonsense examination of the issue. His expert report was equally bad. For those of you that don’t know, an expert testimony needs to meet a certain standard (the Daubert standard, at least in my state) in order to be admissible.
This guy basically took some photos and put a ruler on the ground a few times to make his “report” seem legit. The partners at my firm told me it wasn’t worth trying to file a Daubert motion to strike his testimony because the case was of low value (under $100,000) and those types of motions can be very complex. I was so angry that this guy was being deemed an “expert” that I came in on a weekend, on my own time, and drafted a 20-page motion to strike his testimony.
I didn’t bill the client a dime. The defendant didn’t file a response to my Daubert motion to strike. Instead, they waited until right before the expert was set to testify (he had been sitting in court racking up fees for two full days beforehand). The judge had the jury leave the room, told the expert to go to the stand, and allowed the defendant to do a direct examination of their expert. The defendant’s attorney, not taking my motion seriously, had their inexperienced associate do the examination.
It was incredibly basic and didn’t respond to any of the points in my motion. I was in charge of doing his cross-exam (it was my first cross-exam of a witness, ever). I tore the guy, a seasoned expert witness, on the stand. I got his entire testimony and report struck. They also had a second expert witness, who was pretty terrible but not quite as terrible. I also did his cross exam. Realizing that they were in serious trouble without their primary expert, and their second expert at risk of getting struck, the lead counsel for the defendant (a named partner at a well-known firm) did the direct exam for the second expert. I again did the cross. I got the second expert’s testimony struck except for one very, very tiny area. So essentially he was forced to testify with both hands tied behind his back. It was the most gratifying moment of my legal career so far.
#31 Pull The Receipts, Buddy
The first involved a lawsuit against the owner of a Mexican restaurant for not paying his employees and keeping the waiter’s tips. He was just a terrible all-around guy. He created these fake handwritten schedules and payroll records going back years to try and prove that his employees didn’t work enough hours. It was difficult to prove they were fakes, but we managed to trap him during his deposition.
I made the guy go through random bits of his work schedule and asked him to confirm if they were correct. We did a random week in February, March, April… Then we got to May. “So here in early May, you had two servers working every night, one hostess, one bartender, and two cooks?” “Yes.” “And that didn’t fluctuate. You didn’t have a need for extra staff on, say, weekend nights?” “No. It was very steady no matter the day.” “What about this Wednesday? How much staff did you need?” “Just the two servers, my hostess, the bartender, and two cooks. The same as every other night.”
“And if you would indulge me, what date are we looking at?” “May 5th.” “Okay. So it’s your testimony under oath that you had the same staffing needs on May the 5th as you did on May 4th and May 6th.” “Yeah.” Opposing counsel’s head begins to hang while shaking. “So you are comfortable telling the judge you didn’t do extra business on May 5th.” “Yeah. Or June 17th or whatever date you pick. It was always steady.”
“You have no problem walking into court and telling the judge and the jury, under oath, that your Mexican restaurant didn’t need any extra help on May 5th? That these schedules and payroll records you’ve produced are 100% accurate for Cinco de Mayo? You are totally comfortable with doing that?” “Yeah, I… Oh.” The case settled within a week.
#32 Wow, This Is Honestly Genius
I’m a corporate lawyer but this was on a pro bono housing matter. My client just needed to not lose her housing, I was trying to get her on one-year probation (but would agree to two) instead of termination. On the day of the hearing, I had six summer associates come with me each carrying huge binders. When my hearing was about to begin, I had them all bring them in and set them in front of me.
The opposing lawyer was a very overworked NYC housing attorney who had budgeted an hour that day for my hearing. She instantly said, “What is this?” I told her it was my arguments. She said she didn’t have the time. I started off on a two-minute opening I had prepared then grabbed one of the binders and she was like, “Let me stop you there. What do you want?” I said three months probation, she countered with a year, ended up agreeing on six months. The binders were all empty.
#33 Well, Kid, You Blew It
My client was a stepfather of a 13-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy. Allegedly, my client did inappropriate stuff. The mom was in a rehab facility at the time. My theory of the case was that the girl made the whole thing up because my client refused to pay for modeling classes for the girl. The boy testified and said he saw the criminal act from where he was sitting on a recliner. On cross-examination, I asked how he could see what happened since the lights were low at the time and my client (who is 6-feet tall and weighs 200 lbs) was in between them. He said he was told to say that by the sister and the prosecutor’s victim coordinator. The prosecutor rested her case. I shut up and sat down. I presented no defense and it took the jury three minutes to find him not guilty.
#34 Your Camera Wasn’t Broken, Man
So I was fighting a DWI case and the cop was a liar. He was telling big lies about what signs he saw on the field sobriety test, alleging that my client was intoxicated. The state had not moved expeditiously enough to have a copy of all of the evidence in the case. So we got him up on the stand talking all about how my clients looked on the horizontal gaze nystagmus eye test, then buried him with his own body camera footage which he thought had been destroyed. It wasn’t. The judge, the newly elected Democrat in Texas, made findings on the record that the police officer had intentionally lied and misrepresented the truth. The state still tried to fight the case, but it came out the right way.
#35 Keep Your Mouth Shut Next Time
It was an illicit substances case and there was some discussion between the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the judge about the quantity. The judge said something like, “Right, but that’s in ounces. How many grams is that?” The prosecutor and defense attorney both said they didn’t know. The judge continued: “I mean, we can figure it out, how many grams are in an ounce?” Prosecutor and defense attorney still shrugged.” All of a sudden the defendant piped up: “28.3.”
#36 We’re Happy To Sue You Twice
I got into a dispute with a contractor who screwed up royally when installing a new heating system, resulting in asbestos contamination of my house. Their insurance argued the contractor couldn’t have caused the contamination because the contamination was way worse than could have been possible from what the contractor did. They argued the contamination must have been caused by the contractor who installed the previous heating system.
It was super satisfying to write our response: 1). The previous heating system was placed 12 years earlier. The asbestos dust was visibly lying everywhere. Arguing we didn’t vacuum for 12 years was beyond ridiculous. 2) The asbestos dust was on a floor we installed six months earlier (included the receipt for the floor). The third point was the most fun to write: 3) I said they were welcome to believe the contamination was caused by the contractor who installed the previous system 12 years ago. I included the receipt of that installation: it was done by the same contractor. The next letter was very brief, stating they would pay us for all damages we were claiming.
#37 Flattery Goes A Long Way
I once had an appeal where the precedent, all from other circuit courts, was very bad for me. My goal was to convince the court to follow its unpublished decision, not the decisions of the other circuits. During my argument, I cited the unpublished decision. One of the judges interrupted me and asked, “But wasn’t that decision unpublished?” I answered, “Yes, but it was well-reasoned.”
He replied with a self-effacing quip, “I was on the panel for that decision, so it couldn’t have been that well-reasoned.” The audience laughed a bit. I answered quickly, “In that case, your honor, it was at least well-written!” The audience (and all the judges) burst into laughter. I ended up winning in a published decision, which turned the old unpublished decision into binding precedent! A bit of humor can go a long way in the courtroom. Especially when you’re flattering the judges.
#38 It’s Too Late For That
A guy moved out of his apartment, turned in his keys, then came back 15 days later demanding access so that he could retrieve belongings that he had left behind, which at that point had been trashed. It was just some minor furniture-type items and a box of his college notebooks (i.e. notes he took during class). He was furious and sued the landlord in small claims for $5,000 (the state maximum) because his notebooks had such huge value, apparently.
They hired me and I responded, which moved the case out of small claims (it’s just the way it works here). This put him at a huge disadvantage because now he couldn’t rely on the lax rules of small claims. He went out and hired a lawyer. The lawyer called me to try to talk settlement—I know her pretty well, so I wasn’t rude or anything, but I kind of scoffed and was like no, that won’t be happening.
I directed her attention to a particular state statute, then read it out loud to her. This statute, unlike everything else in the law, isn’t overly long or wordy or hard to follow, it just says bluntly that when someone actually moves out and gives notice of this, items left after 10 days are abandoned, end of the story. I could feel her deflate on the phone and encouraged her to dismiss the suit. She did not, so we proceeded to a short bench trial in the district court that we won.
#39 I Mean, He Gave Him A Choice
I was waiting to be tried in traffic court before Earl Warren Jr., the son of the great Earl Warren of Supreme Court fame. The guy before me was being tried for reckless driving. When it got down to sentencing, Earl Warren Jr. ordered some nominal fine and traffic school for the defendant. The defendant got all upset and began ranting how he didn’t need to go to traffic school.
As the defendant slowed down, Earl Warren Jr. calmly stated, “Well sir, I cannot make you attend traffic school. I can only issue the order for you to attend. If I find after two weeks you have not attended, I will issue a warrant for your arrest and place you in the county jail for 30 days. At the end of which I will renew the order for you to attend traffic school. So we can keep you going in and out of jail until you decide to attend traffic school.” The guy just grumbled and walked out of court. I don’t know if he did go. I certainly did when I got a similar sentence.
#40 Someone Didn’t Pass Mathematics
I got a ticket for going 75 mph on I-88, near Chicago. The officer wrote on the ticket that I was going 88 mph on I-75 (that runs from Detroit south to Miami, not near Chicago). I showed up wearing a suit because I had one and I figured I may as well wear it. The judge called on me asking me if I was a lawyer. I said I am not, but I got to go first since I was the only one in a suit.
The judge looks at the ticket, says, “You were going 88 on I-75? Officer, what does this ticket say? Isn’t I-75 out of our jurisdiction?” At this point, I opened my mouth and shut it, because I had the right to remain silent. The officer said, “Your honor, at my age I have no idea what I wrote.” The judge gave him a look, then threw my license back at me in the plastic bag, saying, “You are free to go.” Always wear a suit to the traffic court.
#41 Now This Is Just Laughable
The client was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance. The officer was going through the usual signs and symptoms. The cop testified that both of client’s eyes were red and bloodshot. He also claimed the client’s pupils were dilated and sensitive to the exposure of light. In my opening, I had hinted that the officer will testify to some falsehoods. The client got up on the stand and popped one of his eyes out. The client had a fake eye that could obviously not be bloodshot or have pupil dilation. The judge smirked and the rest was history. Not guilty.
#42 Sorry, Bud, That’s Not Remotely Possible
I was in traffic court one time and saw a lawyer straight-up end a cop with words. The cop had previously testified that the weather on the night of the traffic stop was heavy rain and winds so strong that the defendant could only open his window three inches, and that the car had stopped on an area with very little shoulder, forcing the cop to approach from the passenger side, not the driver side.
The cop had then testified that he smelled a strong smell of drinks on the defendant’s breath. When the defense lawyer got up, he repeated what the cop had said almost verbatim and asked how he could have possibly smelled the breath of someone on the other side of the car, through a three inch crack in the window, on a night with pouring rain and strong winds.
The cop sort of opened and shut his mouth a few times. Then he squirmed around in his seat, and said, “That’s just what I always write in my log, to remind me that it was a DUI stop.” The judge threw the case out. No motion to dismiss needed. Then, he took a break and called the traffic prosecutor and the cop into his office. I’m guessing it wasn’t for a nice spot of tea and some scones.
#43 That Doesn’t Seem Very Fair
One time, the opposing counsel was forcefully insisting that it was ridiculous for me to expect a certain provision in a contract we were negotiating. I pointed out that this provision was standard in his own firm’s contract forms, as I knew from several prior transactions I’d worked on across from them. Pretty exciting stuff. He took it in stride and said (jokingly), “Well, of course, it’s fine when we ask for it.”
#44 We’re Off To A Good Start
When I was in law school, I had to argue a case for an exam. I was the last in my class to go so there wasn’t anyone arguing against me. I opened with a motion to dismiss since opposing had failed to show. The judge grading me while chuckling and said, “Touche counsel.” I still had to go forward but we got off on the right foot and I ended up with an A.
#45 You’re Not Making A Great Case For Yourself
I was on the losing end of this one. I was representing a pro bono defendant who was attempting to regain custody of her children. The Family Division attorney was laying out his case to the judge for why my client wasn’t ready, and his final point was that my client had refused emotional counseling to avoid violent fits of rage that she had inflicted on her children. On cue, my client jumps up screaming: “SCREW YOU JUDGE LADY! YOU STUPID JERK! SCREW Y’ALL FOR TAKING MY FREAKING KIDS, YOU FREAKING JERKS!” I just caught the opposing attorney’s smirk of satisfaction as I got up to usher my client out of the courtroom.