Every lawyer out there has that one client or case that they wish they could just forget about. Whether it was a terrible person or just an impossible situation to deal with for one reason another, it’s safe to bet that every lawyer can all relate to some of the stories below. Here are 50 stories of awful cases that lawyers out there wish they could just forget about.
1. Two For The Price Of One
Who is my least favorite client of all time? I think it’s a toss-up between the admitted child attacker and the mother who lost custody of her kids when Child Protective Services found out that all six of her children were sleeping in a dank basement and getting mistreated by all of their older cousins, with her full knowledge. Neither of them were exactly pleasant people…
2. Horrible On So Many Levels
In Australia, I had to defend an intellectually impaired woman as a client. She had been used as a human toy by him and her brothers starting from younger than the age of ten. Not only was she intellectually impaired, but she was also extremely small. Less than five feet tall. I wonder if the trauma affected her growth.
I do not know if her impairment preceded or was a by-product of her mistreatment. Either way, the whole situation was extremely messed up. She did wind up later having a relationship and a child. She then lost custody of the child because she was deemed an unfit mother, which she very well may have been. She also could not speak, just make funny sounds. But she was able to read and write fairly well.
I would very much like to just forget her entire case. It still disturbs me every time I think about it.
3. Send In The Clowns
I had to defend this weird dude one time who was a circus performer. It was a really weird case and he was extremely rude and mean to me the whole time, honestly. Because the case had to do with a group of circus employees, there was literally a clown in the courtroom at one point. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced.
4. Get Off My Lawn
I once had a client who was a woman charged with violating a no contact order. The order said that she wasn't to come within a hundred yards of her ex's house. One night, several officers pull up to her ex's house, and she's standing in the front yard waving her arms around and screaming. I was wracking my brain for something to argue to the jury as a reason to find her not guilty. Didn't really come up with much...
5. A Tough Choice
Lawyer here. I don't normally do litigation, but as a pro bono project and for some experience doing a different kind of law, I once served as guardian ad litem for these two kids stuck in a high-conflict child custody dispute. "Guardian ad litem" basically means that the court appointed me to represent the kids whose parents were fighting over them, though this is oversimplifying it slightly.
In other words, I didn't represent either parent, but both parents wanted me on "their side" since my opinion of the case would be influential with the judge. The trial was a complete horror show. Both parents were very low income, basically living off of various forms of government assistance. Each had several other kids with other partners.
The mom said that the dad sold substances and that both kids were conceived via non-consensual relationships. She also claimed that the dad was recently out of time behind bars for inappropriate conduct with other women. Meanwhile, the dad said that the mom was a prostitute who neglected the kids. And there were various reports from the kids' school that corroborated this claim.
One of the kids, the sister, was super cute. But the other, the brother, called his sister a hoe in open court and said he hated her. Luckily, the parents agreed to a joint custody arrangement before it went to trial. This experience confirmed for me 1000% that I do not want to be a litigator, especially in family court. What a freaking mess.
6. Starting Young
My least favorite client of all time was the 16-year-old kid who committed armed robbery and assault. He had zero remorse. He was a cold, disturbing person that I wish I’d never met, let alone worked for. There are some kids that you just know are going to be a problem for society when they grow up, as sad as it is to say.
7. I’m Hatin’ It
One of my clients injured a McDonald’s employee with a knife while going through the drive-thru window at one of their restaurants. When he was taken in by the authorities, they found four grams of powdered substances hidden in his sock. Let’s just say he was a difficult client to try and defend, considering everything he did was caught on security video.
8. Almost Famous
I have a neighbor who was part of the defense team for a high-profile case where the person involved was clearly guilty. My neighbor even acknowledged that fact at the time, and was very troubled by having to work with that person. But my neighbor said that it's just about getting them a fair trial, negotiating the conditions of their confinement, determining if they’ll be under maximum, medium, or minimum security, determining which facility they’ll be in based on its proximity to their family, etc.
9. Won’t Someone Think Of The Children?
I do family law. My hardest clients are the ones that low-key alienate their children from an ex over personal feelings. They don’t typically see it or understand why the behavior is a problem, and they are usually very unlikeable people. Don’t get me wrong, I have represented bad people who still manage to be likeable, but not these walnuts.
10. Little Shop On The Corner
My friend is a lawyer who always seems to have to defend people that shoplift at Wal-Mart. This happens way more often than you’d think, and they always get caught. For some reason, they all think they can get out of it even though there is clear video footage showing them swiping things and getting apprehended with the lifted merchandise.
11. Baby You Can’t Drive My Car
My story doesn't involve lovers, substances, or fights, so I apologize in advance if that’s what you were hoping for. I've been a lawyer for almost a year now, and this was one of my first ever cases. My father-in-law asked me to help a friend of his who was having trouble with his driver’s license. Turns out he had the license revoked because he drove through a red light.
I went to talk with the guy. He told me that it wasn't him using the vehicle and that he didn't receive any notifications about the offense. I went to the transit department to get the files of the ticket and man, it was 1000% clear as day that it was him in the vehicle. I mean, he was even wearing the same exact shirt as in his driver license picture for cryin’ out loud!
I was almost giving up on the case at that point. I told him he could apply for a new driver’s license and that it wasn't a big deal, but then he revealed the secret he'd been keeping and it changed everything. He confessed to me that he actually had bought that license in an underground market and that it wasn’t a real one issued by the government. Apparently, he had paid lots of money for it and couldn't afford a new one.
He is a good driver, but he almost can't read, so he couldn't pass the official written test. As you may know, I had an official obligation to keep his secret. Anyway, here in my country, in order to respect the due process of law, the transit department needs to send two notifications to a person: one about the ticket and other about the potential punishment.
We managed to prove that my client never received the notifications. So he couldn't defend himself and, therefore, the process was invalid. I didn't get into the subject of whether or not he was driving in the meantime, though. Or whether or not his license was real in the first place. Believe me, that was a tough case and a tough guy to deal with! But he was a good guy overall.
Now he is happily driving again, and my father-in-law is very proud of me.
12. When Father Doesn’t Know Best
I’m not a lawyer myself, but my dad was. He was working on one of his hardest cases ever during a day that I had to go to work with him. I’ll never forget the details of it. The judge was very understanding. He gave me an official court pad of paper to "take notes" on. I was maybe about three years old and couldn't read or write, but I took the pad and pen he gave me.
And I copied what everyone else was doing. All it was was squiggles and dots. But hey, I took notes! After he heard the argument, the judge took my notepad back and checked my notes. He played along and told me they were excellent notes. He then told me that I did a good job and asked me if I thought my dad had the better argument in the case.
I said yes, because he was my dad. My dad lost the case because the answer was blatantly obvious to all the adults in the room. But this was still my best memory ever. Also, side note. My dad was an environmental lawyer, and the case was about a house being built near a wetland and the distance of it and the power used. He lost, but hey it worked!
13. Who’s Side Is He On?
I once worked with a D-U-I client who had kicked his trial date down by almost two years. He had a history of charges, but had cleaned up his act until this one. His story: He was sitting in his car waiting for a ride when he got picked up by an officer. There were no keys in the ignition. He talked to the officer from inside the car, but there was no way he could have hoped to drive the thing.
The officer’s story: The keys were in the ignition and the window was down. No one is disputing that he was heavily intoxicated. His case was winnable, but for one thing. The client couldn’t keep his darn trap shut on the witness stand. If I asked him the time, he told me where his watch was made and what the name of the clerk was who sold it to him. Classic mouth-diarrhea sufferer.
His friends were his other witnesses, and I couldn’t have asked for better ones. The officers were the prosecutor’s witnesses, and I poked holes in their testimony left and right. The case was far from an airtight acquittal, but I had more than enough reasonable doubt to win...until my client ruined everything. He voluntarily revealed on the stand that it was his fourth charge.
Up till that point, as far as anyone on the jury had been concerned, this was his first. Then, he couldn’t keep his story straight about how and where he had talked to the officer. Opening the window versus cracking the door open? Makes a big difference, because the key would have had to be in the ignition for the windows to roll down.
And if I tried to rein him in, he just went off on another tangent. And this was all after refusing to plead to a stipulated first offense, which would have been fines and traffic school. Instead, he torpedoed his own case, got convicted, and had to spend something like sixty days behind bars while also paying a ton of costs. It also sucked because I got frustratingly close to a win.
14. This One Took A Lot Of Work
I was once involved in a case where a workplace accident caused the passing of a worker. I represented the company, defending against charges of negligence, which included various health and safety violations. The owner clearly didn't take safety seriously and constantly complained about how following regulations was hurting his business. I absolutely hated having to defend him.
15. All Eyes On Him
A kid from my high school’s father was the attorney for the bad guy in a very high-profile case. I can’t even imagine how terrible that must have felt for the guy to have to come home to his wife and kid every night after fighting to get someone that awful free of their charges. Also, I imagine that the media attention and public scrutiny was not fun to deal with.
16. The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth
Defense attorney here! Honestly, sometimes the hardest clients to defend aren’t the guiltiest ones, but the ones who are just huge jerks. I’ve had some really sweet, nice clients who are guilty as sin, and my goal is always to get them the best possible outcome and make sure that their constitutional rights are protected. Easy as one, two, three.
But the clients who lie to me because they think it’ll make me work harder if I think they’re innocent, the clients who call me a public pretender, the clients who call me nothing more than a mouthpiece for the District Attorney, etc. Those are the hardest ones for me to defend. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still fight hard as heck for all my clients, whether I like them as people or not.
17. Taking Things To A Higher Court
I once had a client who wanted an eight-figure settlement for an employment discrimination case. She even threatened to file a state bar complaint against me because I told her that the case wasn't worth the effort and that her intended price was not realistic. She wouldn't consent to letting me withdraw the case, and she basically said that she takes her legal advice from God instead of me.
18. Careful Instructions
My court career was very short, as I really didn't enjoy doing it. But I had one unforgettable client who refused to listen to me and would always give me instructions and not respond to my calls. I can't even remember why he was in court in the first place. Maybe we were trying to defend a claim of shoddy workmanship he had done or something like that?
Anyway, the situation became untenable, and, in England, if you are the lawyer acting in a litigation case, called "on the record," it's actually really difficult to stop acting for the client, unless they agree. You have to go to court and get a court order. English lawyers who trained in London will be familiar with the “bear garden.”
It's a place in the Royal Courts of Justice where a scary guy called a Master handles a long line of low-level procedural issues. Things like “Can we have another five days to file a defense?” or “Can we postpone the trial for two weeks because a key witness is in the hospital?” That sort of thing. He also handles applications to come off the record.
Now, I wasn't expecting my client to turn up, but I spotted him lurking at the back of the room. The second I saw him, my stomach sank. Eventually, the Master calls me and asks me about the application and why I wanted to come off the record. "We are not able to get instructions from the client," said I. He replied: "Well, that's fairly unusual. I don't like granting orders on that basis. Have you tried calling him, going to his place of work, that sort of thing?"
At this point, I turned to the client who was at the back of the room smirking. I said: "Excuse me, Master, I need to take instructions from my client." The Master raised his eyebrow. I turned to the client and said "So what do you want me to do now?" As he would typically do, my client told me to "Screw off." Without missing a beat, the Master said: "Application granted."
And that was the end of that!
19. Kids In The Hall
A client of mine once showed up intoxicated for a preliminary hearing on a D-U-I. I had him wait in the hall and I told the judge he was out there. Obviously, I didn’t mention that he was under the influence. Somehow, I convinced the judge to continue the prelim based on some totally creative concoction. If he’d come into the room, the judge would definitely have locked him up for public intoxication and been hot at the idea of a sentencing.
Maybe the judge remembered his pre-bench days and just gave us a break.
20. His Bottle Runneth Over
A client once told me all about his big fall in a supermarket. I did all that I could to make it clear that the client was traumatized because the supermarket didn't clean the darn floor. Lo and behold, the supermarket showed a recording of the client setting up his fall by opening a bottle himself and pouring it all around the corridor.
I just dropped the case right then and there, and left him on his own to figure out how to pay for all the fees and expenses he had piled up. And that’s the story of my most impossible to defend client of all time, and the one that I can never forget. I really had a hard time moving on from that case and trusting clients again. I didn't even try for a while after that point.
21. What A Coincidence!
Not my client, but my public defender friend told me of an old case he once had. The case was all about stuff that had been swiped. This happened in a semi-high-income neighborhood. Basically, this dude came home and found that his place had a broken window, his stuff was scattered all over the place as if someone had been rummaging through it for things to take, and he actually was missing a few personal items.
Some of the missing items included a Rolex, a MacBook, and more. So the dude called the authorities. A suspect had been brought in later that same night. Turns out, this suspect was caught by private security in the same area. He was seen jumping over a wall, which landed him on the main street almost adjacent to the victim's place. Security saw and went on a short chase.
Officers were then called in. What a coincidence that the suspect had on his person the exact same Rolex, MacBook, and other things that had been reported missing. Still, my friend had to defend the suspect and try to come up with some kind of excuses as to why the guy might actually be innocent despite having been caught red-handed. Let’s just say he didn’t feel great about himself that day…
22. Absolutely Horrifying
At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to a defense and we have a job to do, but it can be really hard at times! The worst I’ve ever had to do was cross-examining a five-year-old who described having to perform adult acts on her father. The amount of detail she went into made it very clear she was telling the truth, as she couldn’t have otherwise known about certain details of the human body at her age.
Having to cross-examine a patently truthful victim of something so horrible, and her description of the smell of my client’s body, it was just awful! Just looking at him, you could tell that he would smell!
23. He Has A Way With Words
My client once told the judge that he wanted different counsel, because I had allegedly demanded that he "eat my butt for a bag of coffee." Whatever that’s supposed to mean. One of the judge's many responses after that was suggesting that my client had a constitutional right to be an idiot. There was also a lot of yelling that day.
24. I Got You In A Stranglehold, Baby
My most memorable and difficult client of all time was the guy who told the judge he was going to strangle me if he didn’t remove me from his case. He said this right in front of the jury. The very same jury that he was hoping would believe he was innocent and that he would never hurt a fly. Let’s just say things didn’t end well for him…
25. Living On A Prayer
Not a lawyer, but I once led a tenant case. Out of twenty families, I could not find a single person that I could trust to put up on the stand and successfully bring our case out. Of the two best candidates, there was one that just kept making ridiculous and illogical demands, while the other kept throwing me under the bus in settlement talks by contradicting everything I said.
All that was required of them was to answer basic questions about living conditions. I put in more than 500 hours learning how to argue a case properly, and still managed to get them a good deal despite all of their terrible behavior. Yet not a single one of them bothered to say so much as a simple thank you to me afterward.
26. From Bad To Worse
Early in my career, I had to defend this gangbanger-type guy who was clearly guilty of substance trafficking and arms charges. He was caught red-handed. The guy was apprehended with several pounds of various substances on him, including several of the most dangerous ones you can think of. There were also a number of swiped items with his fingerprints all over them.
One of the items ended up being traced back and implicated in a really horrific case that happened a few years earlier. The only thing was that the officers messed up in the way they apprehended him, so he ended up getting off the hook. Apparently, the officers ended up pulling down the guy's pants during the interaction and were taking polaroid photos during it as well.
This was back in the late 1990s. To be specific, the officers had this guy's private part out in the open, and they were taking pictures with their faces near it. Some of them were holding one of those crime scene scale rulers next to it, touching it, and one of the officers even put it in his mouth for one picture. I’m fully serious about all of this.
Part of me was excited that there was such a clear-cut case of officers bungling a case. Their blundering was to such a degree that the whole case was eventually thrown out. But this guy was clearly guilty, and he ultimately got picked up on a much worse charge a few years later. Maybe the couple whose lives he took would still be alive if the initial officers hadn’t behaved in such a messed up way.
27. A Likely Story
I was defending in a drinking and driving case where the guy argued that the reason there were signs of drinks in his blood is that the officers had used alcoholic hand sanitizers when taking him in, and the sanitizer was on his skin where the needle went. Due to the ethical code of the bar association, I had to ask several questions about this from an expert witness who had more than twenty years of medical experience.
The witness kind of understood why I had to ask these insane questions that made it seem like I actually believed my client’s story was possible. But I felt like a moron one way or the other. In the end, I still got him a better sentence than he would have gotten with his plea deal. But he remains the client I wish I could forget, but can’t.
28. It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It
The worst was a guy who was convicted for having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. He met this girl online, courted her, then drove a significant distance to meet her. He then took her from her parents’ house to a motel and they did their thing. It was straight out of “To Catch A Predator,” except for the facts that everything was real and that Chris Hansen wasn’t hiding around the corner.
The girl was unmistakably under the age of 18. His defense at trial was that she told him she was over 18. She denied that, and their chat transcript didn’t show that. He was convicted and filed a post-conviction relief petition arguing that his prior lawyer was ineffective and that there were errors in his trial. I was appointed to represent him in this second attempt at getting off.
This guy did not get it. He did the thing he was accused of and was convicted of. He kept blaming everyone else for his predicament: the victim, his prior lawyer, the judge, the officers. It was everyone’s fault but his. I told him he had no case, but he was convinced his conviction would be overturned. We had our hearing and it was very short. Petition denied.
He contacted me later about filing an appeal and I was able get out of the case by filing paperwork showing that his case was without merit and that nothing I could do would help him.
29. Nothing To Lose, And Nothing To Gain Either
One awful client that I had was a career offender. An undercover detective contacted him about buying substances. He wasn’t randomly selected. The substance task force had intel that this guy was selling. Plus, his prior record was full of convictions over similar issues. He was represented at trial by a public defender.
The PD suggested that he cooperate with the substance task force to help to identify other substance dealers, as a way to get a reduced sentence. This idiot took that to mean that the PD’s office was working for the prosecution and was therefore corrupt. He demanded that the court give him another free lawyer right away.
The judge denied his request several times, so he demanded that the PD be removed so that he could represent himself. The judge ordered that the PD stay on as “stand by” counsel, meaning that he would be there as a resource for the defendant, but not act as his lawyer. Around the same time as this defendant got in trouble, one of the detectives on the substance task force got fired for sleeping with an informant.
The detective and informant were not involved in this defendant’s case. At trial, acting as his own lawyer, the defendant tried to argue that the issue with the fired detective somehow had an effect on his case. The judge had ruled pretrial that this evidence was inadmissible, because it wasn’t related to his case. He nonetheless tried to argue it anyway, and almost caused a mistrial.
When he took the witness stand, he did the single worst thing possible. He admitted to conducting a substance transaction with the undercover detective, basically proving the prosecution’s case. He was found guilty. I was then appointed in a post-conviction petition. Again, he acted like everything was everyone else’s fault. He said he should have been able to argue that the substance task force was corrupt.
He argued that his prior lawyer was corrupt because he had suggested cooperating with the substance task force. All sorts of nonsense. The dude admitted at trial that he did it. That hearing was quick too, and he went back to serving his sentence. He then filed a subsequent post-conviction petition, arguing that I was ineffective.
Somehow, his subsequent lawyer was able to convince him that he had no case, so they withdrew it. So I suppose the hardest clients to defend are the ones that blame everyone else for their problems and can’t see that all their problems are their own doing. And those guys always file post-conviction petitions because they have nothing to lose. I’ve stopped taking those cases.
30. I Rest My Case
These three numbskulls once broke into a mortuary. Well, technically speaking, it was unlocked, but they still made an unlawful entry. Anyway, they cut off the head of a corpse and violated its trachea. I did my best to make a decent closing argument, but all the prosecutor did for their closing statement was play the videotape of the incident. Seriously, what kind of a moron videotapes themselves doing this kind of stuff anyway?
Of course, all three got convicted.
31. Seeing Things
The hardest client that I’ve ever had to deal with was the one who was clearly low-key hallucinating throughout the entire trial. Mental illness is not a fun thing.
32. I Just Came To Say Hello
The worst clients I’ve ever had to deal with are the ones who keep breaching their restraining orders or mutual no-contact orders. I'm a family lawyer, so I'm not defending them when they're charged for it, but those charges then mess with their entire careers or get brought up later when we're trying to figure out parenting issues.
HOW HARD IS IT TO NOT TEXT THEM OR NOT GO TO THEIR HOUSE?? FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD, STOP IT!!
33. Calling All Cars
I’m not a lawyer, but my wife is a prosecutor. She has listened to calls by incarcerated people on multiple occasions, including for multiple defendants talking to associates on the outside about wanting to take their attorney’s life because they didn't like how they were handling the case. Seriously. One attorney filed a motion to drop the client. The other did not.
So, guy trying to have you done away with certainly gets my vote for worst client ever!
34. Worst Case Scenario
My friend's mom is a lawyer. She had a case of domestic mistreatment to work on where the victim was a man. The man was mistreated by his wife and his mother-in-law. Although he had bruises and burns, the lawyer had a hard time defending him. The man was reluctant to get a divorce, as he feared he would lose his only daughter. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in the end.
35. Siding With The Enemy
I was a public defender and once had an older man as a client who beat up a teenager in an intoxicated road rage incident. The kid testified at a preliminary hearing and, thanks to some handy work, I got all the charges dismissed. The hard part was that the kid was 17 years old and very gay. My client admitted to me and anyone else that would hear it that he was trying to “get some Jesus in the kid” and “make him right.”
I felt terrible about defending this guy and helping him while he treated the poor kid that way. I never told my client and it’s not exactly obvious in my case, but I am also very gay. That case was a real moral and ethical struggle for me.
36. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
An officer friend of mine once busted a guy for pleasuring himself while doing 80MPH down the highway. He said he had about 16 drinks at the beach earlier and just felt the uncontrollable urge to do what he was doing. There were empty cans, contraceptive wrappers, and skittles all over the floorboard. I can only imagine that the public defender had quite a chuckle when he reviewed the facts of the case.
37. Can’t Argue With That
The only time I've ever been in court was after a USAA member rear-ended me on my scooter when I stopped for someone parallel parking. Their lawyer looked completely defeated when the guy admitted to looking at a girl in a bikini on the sidewalk when he hit me. I swear to god, he openly said this in court! USAA still tried to fight paying for the damages or my ER bill.
38. From Client To Stalker
I had a client who violated women, that I managed to get found not guilty. He has since sent me messages of an adult nature, as well as videos of himself working out across various social media platforms in the years since the case. I always block him, and he always finds me somewhere else. I was in my early 30s at the time and I’m female.
39. Not My Department
A guy and his wife grabbed about twenty expensive coats from a department store, ran out the door, jumped in their car, and sped off. Of course, all of this was caught crystal clear on security cameras, including their faces, car, and license plate. The authorities tracked them down at home and found the coats still in the back seat of their car with the tags still on them.
How the heck was I supposed to defend that?
40. Rooting For The Other Side
Not me, but a family friend of mine who lives in a small town was a public defender and got stuck defending a guy who violated and took the life of a young girl. He presented a defense, even though the evidence was fairly clear cut, and he was incredibly relieved when he lost. If he'd gotten the guy off, he was planning on moving across the state.
41. Funny How Things Happen
I'm a lawyer. My worst client was someone I had four years ago. It was my first case. The man had filed for divorce against his wife and wanted to get everything she had. He was a gold digger. I inadvertently showed proof that the husband was guilty, yet he still won the case. I'm now dating the wife. How’s that for a surprise ending?
42. Watching Your Back
The hardest client that I’ve ever had to defend was the one who had literal ninja assassins after him. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep too well at night while on that case…
43. World’s Smallest Violin
I remember one case where I was defending a man who had been charged with intentionally ending his girlfriend’s life, and he kept going on and on about how much he loved her. It was ridiculous and no one in court was buying it. He also kept on making himself look like a fool by spurting out stupid answers to questions that were completely out of context…
44. Knowledge Is Power
I once had a client who was a former paralegal, so he used his knowledge to do everything he could to make the process harder for everyone. He was hoping to drive us all crazy until the judge or prosecutor would just give him a good plea deal to get away from him already. One time, he took things to the next level. To prevent us from holding a hearing, he stripped naked, coated himself in his own poop, and then refused to exit his cell.
So, the cell extraction guys would have to go and wrestle him out of there. While he was covered in his own poop. We'd obviously have to adjourn. He'd spit at people. He'd reach into his pants in court, grab out poop, and smear it all over his head. He'd cuss at people. He'd try to get judges to recuse themselves by biasing them against him. In order to make that happen, he would try insulting them thoroughly and constantly. It was an absolutely ugly situation on all fronts.
45. Throwing Things Out There And Seeing What Sticks
One client tried to represent himself, but was denied by the judge because he was clearly mentally incapable. He's mentally ill, but that doesn't excuse his epic hatred of others. He's also a poop thrower. He has consistently made up accusations of being mistreated while under custody, because he seemed to think it meant the court would have to dismiss the case and let him off the hook.
46. Making Gender An Issue
One client of mine was accused of attacking the mother of his child while she was holding the child in her arms. The regular public defender had to withdraw, because he kept talking down to her because she was a woman. He would call her "sweetheart" every time he addressed her. This made my client think that the judge was biased against him based on his gender.
The guy was a total jerk. He threatened to fire me within our first conversation. He also seemed unsure about how to proceed when I told him I didn't care. When I discussed the incident with him, he essentially admitted that he did it because his baby's mother had insulted him, and he felt a visceral need to put her in her place.
47. Playing The Freedom Card
I once had a client who was accused of a noise violation. Literally the most minor misdemeanor ever. But he was absolutely adamant that he had a constitutional right to play music as loud as he wanted. And any time anyone tried to tell him otherwise, he'd cut them off and yell at them about his rights and freedoms. I had a thirty-minute conversation with this guy in which I struggled to even explain the basic process to him because he kept cutting me off.
He repeatedly insulted me, saying I was too dumb to realize how he was going to get off. He kept saying his case should be dismissed because "some wealthy suburban guy got off on constitutional grounds, so I should too! Maybe I should look up his lawyer so you can talk to someone who's actually good at his job, and he can tell you how to do your job. Have you even heard of the First Amendment?"
48. I Didn’t Know That!
The hardest client that I ever had to defend was the one who was unable to grasp the simple fact that ignorance of the law is not a defense. He even blurted it out in front of the judge. He had to be restrained at one point. It was absolutely ridiculous. Let’s just say that this guy wasn't my client for much longer after the first hearing…
49. Speaking His Mind
I’ve had so many awful cases and clients over the years. But there is one in particular that stands out in my memory. He was a man constantly in and out of incarceration, and with clear mental illness and aggression issues. He was very threatening, rude, and psychotic. I can't give specific details due to privacy considerations, but use your imagination.
Anyway, during his trial, he appeared by telephone. Use your imagination as to why he couldn’t appear in person. When the opposing counsel began to give his opening speech, my client began screaming that the lawyer was a liar. He accused him of making things up and being full of total nonsense. So I start telling my client to let the attorney finish and that we'll have our time later.
The client screams at me that if I can't correct the lies, then he'll have to do it himself. I tell him there's a procedure and we can correct any lies we want when it's our turn. He pipes down. The other lawyer continues. My client is snickering angry remarks under his breath the whole time, like "This is all fake!" He then starts to scream at the other lawyer.
The judge quiets him down, but now he starts yelling at the judge and stuff is getting real. I'm telling my client to listen to the judge and not to talk over him. After a while, my client finally ends his screaming. We barely finish. More snarky interruptions from my client ensue until the judge says that if I cannot control my client, who is constantly screaming like a toddler, then he would lose the right to talk for the remainder of the trial.
Somehow, my client makes it through the next bit without screaming, and whenever he is close to yelling, I have to calm him down by saying something like: "Don't worry, Mr. X. We'll have our turn." The judge is extremely angry and annoyed, because what should have taken an hour took two and a half. Then he says, "Any final remarks?" This is when my client did the stupidest thing I've ever seen.
And I kid you not, my client addresses me out loud and is like, "Am I allowed to say that if the judge doesn't side with me, then I'm going to..." I cut him off immediately, and was like no. I inform him that unless there was any evidence missing, then there was nothing more he should say. Till this day, I'm not sure what he was going to say, but based on a prior conversation where he said he'd "bash someone's head in" if they got in the way of his goals on the streets, I suspect it may have been threatening in nature.
Anyway, we lost the trial. Many weeks later, I heard that people from several rooms away heard my client screaming during his trial. Also, oftentimes, believe it or not, lawyers are very underpaid for the kind of BS we have to deal with. Some make a lot of money, but many of us are basically typewriters, babysitters, researchers, editors, therapists, counselors, middlemen, advocates, actors, and officers of the court, all in one.
We get a lot of hate, and there are some true jerks in the field, but many of us are dealing with society's biggest drama and earning very little reward.
50. A Fatal Mistake
I once had a client who was a nurse that had administered a fatal injection and ended the life of a baby. It was a long story, but I got her off any charges of negligence despite being very disturbed by what had happened. It happened many years ago, but this case will stay with me forever. Here is the full story, for all of you who might be interested.
It was after hours in a small rural hospital. They were understaffed and under-equipped. In the pediatric ward, a baby was very ill with gastroenteritis and hadn't responded to weeks of treatment. The baby was losing weight despite everything. There was no doctor on the pediatric ward that night, or, in fact, in the entire hospital.
When the lab phoned the baby's blood work results in to the nurse on duty, she said that the baby was going to pass soon if he didn't receive urgent treatment. The nurse phoned the doctor on the telephone. He wasn't supposed to go in that day, having already worked long hours that day. He was just supposed to be available for phone calls.
The doc gave instructions for a sister to give the baby an ampoule of potassium chloride. She wrote down the instructions. But the doctor made a fatal mistake. They didn't specify that it should be given orally, which was what was meant. But because the doc specified that a sister must give it, the nurse assumed that it should be an injection, as she herself wasn't qualified to give injections but a nursing sister would have been.
The nurse called the sister from the maternity ward and asked her to come by and carry out the instruction. She explained the urgency. The sister was very busy in the maternity ward, but came to the pediatric ward and gave the injection. The baby passed from immediate cardiac arrest. The partners in my firm didn't want to touch the case, as they thought it was impossible to win.
But in our law, negligence has a specific definition. I won the case for the nursing sister by arguing that my client was trying her best, with only the instructions and resources at hand, under circumstances where she had been told the patient would pass very soon if the treatment wasn't given. She was an amazingly dedicated person and what happened had completely devastated her.
It was to the point where she wanted to quit nursing. I hope she changed her mind after that. There is one other point, though. The one good thing that came out of this tragic event was that I mentioned to a local Rotary Club member that the hospital in question desperately needed some telemedicine equipment, knowing that the club had such a project.
Shortly after that, they were able to make a donation of equipment to the hospital. I even coincidentally saw that doctor in passing years afterward and the doctor was so grateful for that equipment. It definitely changed the situation and made it far less likely that a tragedy like this one would ever again be repeated at that hospital.
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