While lawyers are supposed to be as impartial towards their clients as possible, besides handling their case, there are some clients who just stand out as being terrible. Maybe they weren’t listening to their lawyers, speaking out when they weren’t supposed to in court, or even threatening their counsel. From confessing they were never going to pay their lawyers to lying about their cases, follow along as these lawyers expose their nightmare clients.
1. Worse Than Just Back Luck
Someone I know was offered many thousands of dollars to represent a drug dealer who has been recently captured. He refused, and a colleague took on the offer, calling my acquaintance stupid for rejecting that kind of money. Well…the trial hadn’t even begun when the lawyer who took on the offer had to leave the country with the youngest of her kids.
Her husband, the other two of their kids, and her parents were supposed to meet her a few days later. A pure horror story ensued. They were ALL killed by a rival cartel. YOU DO NOT MESS WITH MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS.
2. Over And Over Again
One time, I was appointed to represent a guy who was having a trial for adjudication in a dependency case. He wasn’t at fault for the removal of his children and was so incredibly angry that he had to be party to the case, even though it’s the law. So, he’s yelled at me for several weeks about this and I’ve simply said “I can’t do anything about it man, it’s the law.”
He threatens to fire me and I say, “Go for it.” He rescinds. Repeat. This happens a few times. So we get to court and the judge comes in and says, “Any issues to go over before we start?” My guy stands up and says the dumbest thing ever: “I want to fire my lawyer because he’s not gonna help me!” The judge looks at me and asks if that’s true and I said, “No, Mr. X is angry that he’s a party to this case because Ms. X is the offender. He doesn’t believe me when I say that it’s simply the law.”
The judge asks him and he agrees and says he doesn’t think he can trust me to represent his interests. So the judge lets me go, I close my folio and hand him the file, ask to be withdrawn, it’s granted, and I turn and head for the door. As I’m walking out, the judge says, “Ok Mr. X, who’s your first witness?”
Mr. X gets mad and yells about needing an attorney to which the judge replies, “You’re allowed appointed counsel and you fired him, we’re still going forward. Who’s the first witness?” I couldn’t see it but I knew that I was smiling in 5D. But that wasn’t the last time I saw him. Two or three years later, while representing another hapless soul in a case to terminate her rights and waiting for a judge to enter to begin her trial, I spotted this guy in the audience waving at my client.
As it turns out, he had befriended her and fed her the same strategy, which she then applied to her case and which turned out exactly the same. She then came to me a week later in my office complaining about me just allowing her to make that mistake. The audacity of some people is astonishing. I just told her to get out because I wasn’t her lawyer anymore.
3. Made It Easy For Them
A friend of mine was defending a guy in court. I don’t remember what he was charged with. The main witness for the prosecution was on the stand and was asked if she could identify the defendant. She was scanning the courtroom and seemed confused. My friend was already silently celebrating because if she couldn’t identify him, he could probably get all charges dropped.
As he was mentally adding this case to the ‘win’ file, he happened to glance over at his client—and his jaw literally DROPPED. His client had just helpfully raised his hand to make it easier for her to identify him. Even the judge facepalmed on that one.
4. Don’t Talk About It
I’m a New York City defense attorney here. All inmate phone calls at the city lock-up, Rikers Island, are recorded. I remind my clients on a regular basis that somebody is listening to all their calls, and that they should never discuss the case or call anyone related to the case from lock-up. I had a client who was charged with stalking and harassing an ex-girlfriend.
The thing about these charges was that this was the first and last time I had seen a legitimate case of double jeopardy with the defendant being charged with the same thing twice. The defendant had already pleaded guilty and done a small amount of time in lock up for the same incidents. I walked into court on our first appearance supremely confident that my client would be walking out of court a free man. But there was a surprise in store for me.
Turns out, there was a second indictment charging him with new offenses. My genius client had called his ex-girlfriend, and the DA had recordings of him threatening 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.
5. Take Their Word For It
A colleague of mine was being prosecuted for dangerous driving after he failed to stop for officers, drove down the wrong side of the road, accelerated to over 115, and was chased by a helicopter. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, but then found a lawyer that was willing to defend him with a not guilty. The main defense was that there was no evidence of anything and only multiple officers’ words.
Any idiot knows that a court will take an officer’s word as evidence and there’s not a hope in heck that you can convince a court that the officers are lying, which they weren’t. But the worst was yet to come. On the court date, the lawyer didn’t even turn up. He went ahead with this horrible defense and narrowly avoided a sentence, but got maximum fine, driving ban, community service.
6. Just Out Of Reach
My mother was a public defender and once got a client who was charged with reckless endangerment for the n-th time. It happened SO many times. She tells him to basically be quiet and she will talk to the ADA and see what can be worked out. They end up getting in front of the judge and the client just starts trying to tell the judge his story.
In his story, he complains that he had just stopped at McDonald’s and so had a Big Mac in one hand and a large Coke in the other hand. His cupholder wasn’t easily accessible, so since both hands were full, he clearly couldn’t control the fact that he was going 90+ on a winding country road with a 30-speed limit.
7. Where There’s A Will
A friend of mine is an estate attorney and apparently, some woman kept wanting to will things away that weren’t hers. He told her that he could not take her on as a client after 10 minutes and didn’t charge her for his time, because she kept trying to will things like her still-living husband’s car to one of her grandkids. But that wasn’t all.
She also demanded a plaque be placed in her honor at a local park. While the park did have a “donate a brick” campaign, that was a decade ago and you cannot compel the city to do that. She wanted to donate her boat, which she owned jointly with her husband, to a charity that disbanded years ago. Finally, she wanted to deed her house to the aforementioned charity on the chance that she outlives her husband.
Again, that charity disbanded. He said she seemed a little off.
8. Bye Bye Mercedes
I represent 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 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 him: “You’ll take away my Mercedes over my dead body!”
Then she stormed out of the conference room. Needless to say, she lost the Mercedes.
9. Doesn’t Do Drugs
I had a client who was charged with possession with the intent to distribute, PWID, and narcotics…several times. He was a subsequent offender to these charges and was looking at a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence if convicted. The State offered a plea agreement that would remove the mandatory sentence. He would have received a 12-year sentence and would be eligible for parole in three or four years.
The client, who was out on bond, vehemently stated that he was innocent and that the drugs weren’t his and that he doesn’t sell drugs. On the day of the trial, disaster struck: I couldn’t find my client anywhere. I told the judge and prosecutor that he may fail to appear. I leave chambers and a deputy alerts me that my client was in lock-up. I went back and talked to him.
He had been incarcerated for driving while intoxicated the night before the trial, and the officer found 15 baggies of narcotics hidden in his shoe. He, again, said the drugs weren’t his. Unsurprisingly, he was found guilty at trial of two counts of PWID. That day he received a 21-year sentence with 10 being mandatory, which can’t be paroled or suspended.
He was subsequently convicted of another PWID for the narcotics in his shoes and received another 25-year mandatory sentence to run consecutively to the other conviction. But hey, they weren’t his drugs and he isn’t a drug dealer.
10. All For Nothing
Well, I’m a defense attorney, so I could probably write a whole book, but this one was pretty bad, and it ended horribly. I co-counseled a murder case where the defendant allegedly, although he has been convicted already, shot a guy for supposedly taking his sister’s $50 bag of weed. The evidence came out that the sister’s boyfriend had allegedly pistol-whipped the guy, who witnesses said, didn’t fight back.
He left the place he was and walked to some other apartments, where he was gunned down by another person, allegedly the defendant. The sad thing was, after the shooting and the victim was pronounced dead, it came out in the trial that the bag of weed was later found, and it had fallen behind a bookcase. Whether he did it or not…I’m sure the appeal is still pending…the victim passed for no reason.
11. Not The Right Courthouse Attire
I was representing a kid accused of conspiracy to supply crack. He was accused of acting as a lookout, warning the others whenever the officers were approaching. He had a fantastic case and it looked like he was going to win. On the day of the trial, he turned up for trial wearing a HUGE shirt with the Warner Brothers Logo on it. Above and below the Warner Brothers logo was printed, “If you see da pigs…Warn A Brother”
He refused to change. “Na bud, no white boy tells me how to dress.” He was convicted.
12. Not Much Can Be Done
My high school best friend’s father is a lawyer, and I remember him telling me this story years ago. He got a client who was being charged with driving while intoxicated. He asks the client what happened, and the client states that he had two drinks, gets stopped and that the officers wrongly charged him with driving while intoxicated.
My friend’s dad then looked over the evidence as any good lawyer would do. As he came to find out later, there was video evidence from a dash cam! Awesome! His client on video was visibly intoxicated, and he described it as that you’d be stupid to think he was sober. He was convinced there wasn’t much he could do with this. There’s icing on the cake though.
When the officer went to give him the breathalyzer, his client is heard stating, “I’m too intoxicated to use this darn thing.”
13. Landlords And Lawyers
I had a dispute with my landlord a while ago that was in the “let the lawyers talk to each other, but we are ready to go to court for this” phase. At some point, the landlord’s lawyer sent us some documents, including an inspection report for the water boiler, which caused the problem, that was done just before we moved in which seemed to state that the boiler was in perfect condition.
Unfortunately for him, we also had a copy of this document in our files, and there, it stated that the valve, which was the specific cause for the problem, needed replacing. Upon having a closer look at the document they sent us, it became apparent that this part was very poorly photoshopped out of the document. Our lawyer sent an angry reply to his lawyer.
Then, I never heard of the other lawyer again…but strangely the landlord was suddenly very open to the settlement that we offered him. So, I don’t know what happened on their side, but my hunch is that his lawyer dumped him for setting him up with forged evidence.
14. Seeking Free Revenge
I was asked to collect child support arrears, pro bono, for a secretary at our firm. The child was already 18. The dad was in arrears but legitimately disputed about half the amount, as a lot of it was for expenses that were questionable. Also, the AGs had not kept tabs on anything. The guy was unemployed and this was during the Great Recession.
Finally, he agreed to the full amount but asked to pay over five years if, after the principal was paid off, we waived the interest. He even agreed that if he was even one payment late, we could demand the full amount with interest. The client refused. So I asked her what her goal was in this whole thing. Her response made my blood boil. She said, “I want to prove to the world what a lousy father and a bum he is.”
Fortunately, this was before I had filed anything or made any type of appearance in a court. So, I told her that if she wanted to do that, she could hire and pay for an attorney, but it wasn’t going to be this attorney.
15. Never Contact Us Again
I had a client come to me to do his will. He insisted it would be simple because he never married or had kids. I met with him as usual and went through everything he needed in his will, and I explained my hourly rate and how long a will usually took to draft and sign. He came back in a few weeks, signed his will, happily paid his bill, and left. And that’s when the nightmare truly began.
First, this guy was very rich and, second, he could not name a single friend who he trusted to be a backup executor. As soon as he got home, he immediately wrote a long ranting email to my boss. He claimed he had been massively overcharged for his will. He said he had only spent half an hour in my office, so he should only have to pay for half an hour and that there was no reason he should be paying for my time.
He claimed he would go to the law society and all those kinds of threats. My boss called him and told him to bring in all of his will and power of attorney documents and he would issue him a refund. The conversation went like this…My boss said, “I don’t have time to deal with petty garbage like this. This is a document stating that you are willingly destroying your will and POAs. Sign it, and I’ll give you this check for all your fees back.”
The client said, “This isn’t a petty issue to me.” My boss countered, “This is a petty issue to everybody.” The client said, “I’ll tell all my friends and family never to work with you.” My boss said, “Good. I don’t want to work with your friends, I don’t want to work with your family, I don’t want to work with anyone who cares what you think of me. Luckily, I don’t think that will be a problem. Go find another lawyer.”
So the guy signed the document and my boss dragged the shredder out into the middle of the lobby and shredded all of his documents in front of him and then went back to his office. The guy slunk out and never contacted us again.
16. Never Getting That Time Left
When I was taking defense cases while training to be a lawyer, I had a gentleman come in and ask me to help him lie his way out of a driving while intoxicated charge. He had this brilliant plan where all his friends were willing to lie along with him and claim he was out of state at the time so it couldn’t have been him who was pulled over, field sobriety tested, breath tested, and thrown behind bars.
This was despite the fact that it was clearly him, with, I assume, his wallet and ID, in his car…and he told me straight away that it was him. His belief was that, since it would be “just the officer’s word” versus him and his friends’ word, there was no way they could convict him. He seemed flabbergasted when I told him that no attorney was likely to assist him in perjuring himself and I certainly wouldn’t.
“Lawyers lie for a living,” he said, and, “Besides, officers lie all the time, why couldn’t he?” It was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
17. Talk About Deadbeat
I had a custody case one time where I was representing the mother pro bono. The lawyer on the other side was representing the father pro bono as well. Let me tell you about these two. The mother was in her early 20s and her income was from a part-time job at Walmart and government benefits. She never finished school and lived at her dad’s house who himself was not working and living off the government dime.
She was missing half her teeth and her overall hygiene was horrendous. After meeting her, it blew my mind that someone would feel comfortable enough to have unprotected intercourse with her. That’s until I met the father. He was also in his early 20s and didn’t finish school. He had a marked speech impediment. His mom told me he has some kind of mental health diagnosis with the word “explosive” in it and described how violent he could be.
He was certainly no looker. For income, he too was on government assistance, but his Facebook was replete with get-rich-quick schemes which clearly never panned out. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. He was also alleged to be selling drugs to supplement his income. Well, the father also has other kids with other women in other parts of the state.
He is WAY behind on child support payments for all of them. So, he gets scheduled for a contempt hearing for failure to pay. He asks his pro bono custody lawyer about the contempt hearing, and the lawyer reminds him that he’s only his custody lawyer and that he doesn’t represent him in any other matters. So, the day of the hearing comes and the father goes to court without a lawyer.
It doesn’t go well for him, so he decides to blast his custody lawyer on Facebook for “screwing him over” in his support case. He also decided to call his lawyer afterward to yell at him, but the lawyer wasn’t in the office so he spoke to the lawyer’s secretary. We were scheduled for a custody trial the next day, and it had been on the books for months.
I got a call from the father’s lawyer stating he’s filing an emergency motion to withdraw and postpone the trial and was seeking my concurrence on the motion. Apparently, the father threatened to kill his lawyer’s secretary during his rant to her. We have an emergency hearing that afternoon with the judge and the father’s attorney tells the judge what happened.
I tell the judge I have absolutely no objection to his lawyer withdrawing. The motion was granted and the trial was rescheduled for three months later. I don’t know what was said to the father by his lawyer, but I hope it was, “Screw you, you are on your own!” Three months later, he didn’t show up for his rescheduled custody trial because he was again behind on child support, this time in another county, and they threw him in lockup.
I told the judge that’s why the father wasn’t there and the judge wanted to reschedule the trial. I reminded the judge about what happened three months prior and the judge changed his mind. He dismissed the custody case, which kept the kid with the mother, which is what she wanted, but in his dismissal order said the father had 30 days after he was released from lockup to request a custody trial. The father never did.
18. Simple Source Of Income
I had a client, who, upon being pulled over and being asked if he had any drugs or liquor in the car, voluntarily told the officer that he didn’t, but that he did have the narcotics he sold in his hotel room. He then kindly escorted the officer there and gave it to him. We had a client charged with selling the narcotics. In order to determine if he qualified for a public defender, the judge asked if he had any way to make an income and the client replied, “Well, you know, from selling coke.”
19. No Pay, No Service
I once had a potential client come in for a free consultation in which she confessed she didn’t have money and never had any intention of ever paying me. I thanked her for her time and got her out of the office. Fast forward to the next month and the judge’s office is calling me to ask where I am. The same lady was on her third hearing and was asking for another continuance because I failed to appear again.
I had to tell the judge I never accepted her as a client, never communicated any intention to her to do so, and had no notice of the hearing. She was dragging my reputation with the judge in order to escape hearings. That’s the first time I knew someone that was incarcerated for contempt of court.
20. You’re On Your Own!
Many years ago, I was representing a tenant in an eviction case. The landlord wanted to demolish the home due to substantial and irreparable foundation cracking. The tenants claimed it was a rent-to-own agreement, that they were not in arrears, and presented a signed agreement of purchase and sale and a receipt for the deposit signed by the realtor.
They further had an engineer’s report on the foundation issues, an invoice marked paid for their repair, and a second engineer’s report claiming all deficiencies repaired. Finally, they gave me a copy of a $200,000 Superior Court claim which they had brought against the landlord that had all of these documents attached as exhibits.
My first order of business on arriving in court that morning was to make a motion to either stay or dismiss the landlord’s application for eviction on the grounds of jurisdiction and open questions as to the ownership of the property. It was at that point, I presented the above-named documents to the court. This is where it all started going wrong.
First, the judge pointed out this was the third time the matter had been called. I was told it was the first time. The judge also said that the jurisdiction questions had been answered twice prior. I asked the judge for clarification and she provided me with a known copy of the landlord’s signature. At that point, I realized everything in my hand was a blatant forgery.
Not even good ones. They were clearly made without the benefit of an actual reference signature. It was at that point I informed the court that “a situation has arisen which would prohibit me from continuing to act for this client” Read also, “Client, you are on your own,” and was excused by the court. I walked straight out.
21. Not This Guy
My family had a long-running feud with my neighbors over boundaries. They were completely rude about it and we knew they didn’t have a case. The court time happens and apparently, they have continued being rude to their own lawyer. Usually, if a lawyer doesn’t want to represent a client, he’ll say something ambiguous like, “I will no longer be representing these clients.”
But, not this guy. He was as tired as we were of putting up with them after only a few months. He makes a 30-minute statement to the court detailing all the ways his clients have been rude. He complained about things like not paying his fees, repeatedly not showing up for meetings, oh and also shouting at his receptionist.
Instead of withdrawing with modesty, our neighbor decided to represent himself. What followed I’m told was about an hour of courtroom beatdown. Our lawyer and the judge pick apart everything they say, expose their continuous lies, and show them up for the horrible people they are.
22. Where Could They Be?
I was on the prosecutor’s side when a defendant failed to appear in court. His attorney can’t reach him, nobody knows where he is, so we all sit there for about half an hour until the judge gets sick of it and moves on with the docket. Later, we found out the sorry truth: The defendant had decided to rob a 7/11 the night before and was sitting in lockup two counties over when he should’ve been in court.
23. Out Of Thin Air
My most recent client was a favor for a friend. I agreed to take on his buddy’s case. It was an immigration law/deportation case. I had a call with the guy and told him I would send him the retainer via email. I sent him multiple emails/left voicemails and the guy never responds. I’m thinking he got another lawyer, but fast forward six months and we’re both at the mutual friend’s house for a BBQ.
He comes up to me to ask me what the status of his case is. So again, I tell him he needs to sign the paperwork and respond to my emails, that we need to set up some time to talk, and so on. I haven’t heard from the guy since. His daughter sent me an email a couple of weeks ago to see how her dad’s case is going. I’m not going to magically put together a case for him out of thin air. Screw it, he’s on his own.
24. Dropped More Than Once
I only wish I knew what my aunt’s ex-husband’s lawyers thought as they dropped their client, the ex. My aunt got in some trouble and her ex decided to try and take their kids away for full custody. Luckily, my aunt cleaned up her act and has been doing great personally and as a mother. Her ex, however, decided to try and get their kids taken away from her and didn’t think her one mistake was enough.
So, he started making up wild stories about her that the kids denied over and over as well as flat out stalking my aunt, along with his girlfriend, who is a therapist! After the stalking, the first lawyer dropped him. He hasn’t been able to hold onto a lawyer for long since. His crazy antics also made it where CPS said he could only have supervised visitation of his kids, and most times he never bothered to show up. But, he still wants to fight for full custody to this day.
25. The Injustice Of It All
I watched a case play out in traffic court where the guy who went up before me did something stupid that should have been a small fine. But, he completely lost it and started hollering about the injustice of it all, and was carrying on about how America was going down the drain and was being taken over by communists, when finally, the judge lost it right back at him.
It went something like this…The judge said, “Be quiet! Not one more word! I’ve heard enough, NO MORE…Silence!” The client, “But Your honor!”…Followed by a long silence and the judge looks down at the guy…”But…your honor…” “Not one more word.” “But..” “I see this is difficult for you to understand. Let me say this exactly one more time, a last chance so to speak, NOT ONE MORE WORD.”
“Your…” “BALLIF!” So after watching the idiot getting hauled out of the courtroom, the judge bangs his gavel and it’s my turn. I walk up to the judge’s desk and say, “Well I had this well thought out defense as to why I was driving without a license and expired tabs, but I’m just going to go with the fact that I was an idiot for forgetting both of them.”
“Oh well, it happens to the best of us, show me your license and papers are current and we’ll forget about it.” After I showed him, I asked him, “So what’s going to happen to that guy who went before me?” “Probably going to sentence him to picking up trash on the side of the highway for a few weeks.” I thought that was pretty darn funny considering this is Alabama in the middle of the summer.
26. Right Within Earshot
The worst was a person involved in an assault charge who called the alleged victim a “witch” at a preliminary hearing within earshot of one of the courtroom deputies, then gave the judge some attitude when questioned about it. The judge had the deputy handcuff my client to the “taking you into custody” bench, and my client came this close to being put in lock-up for contempt.
I think I might have been more upset than the judge was since what should have been a routine 15-minute matter turned into an all-morning ordeal. This wasn’t my client, but it was the single worst act of self-sabotage I’ve ever seen.
27. Who Did They Hire?
A council had seized an animal they suspected to be of a “dangerous breed” and were going to terminate it. Naturally, the owner objected and said that it was neither a dangerous breed nor inherently violent, so of course the matter ended up in the tribunal. The councils’ representatives enlisted a very well-renowned veterinarian as their “expert witness” to prove their case, and that the animal should be put down.
The way this is proven is through a check of facial and certain muscular dimensions, as well as a specialized consensus that the dog does resemble a dangerous breed. On the other hand, the owner had managed to get a very niche and rather eccentric “animal psychologist” as their expert witness, despite the fact that they could not contest the measurements. Now, here’s where things get interesting.
The council’s representatives were headed by a particular solicitor notorious for being a total piece of work. He’d waltz in a minute before the proceedings begin, yell, and indirectly threaten the defendants and talk over them during their submissions. Even the judges thought this guy was a tool. The first day goes horribly for the defendant.
His wife had gone into labor that morning and he was five minutes late. To make things worse, the smartass solicitor set out to devote the entire first day to attacking and undermining both the owner and the animal psychologist’s credentials and behavior. “If you can’t leave your wife’s bedside to defend your dog, then you mustn’t care about it at all,” and “I’m amazed you got a job with such a pointless degree.”
After a very intense first day of proceedings, the second day opened with the applicant’s expert witness. The veterinarian just finished giving evidence that the animal does in fact match the anatomical measurements and the rude solicitor starts laughing OUT LOUD, announcing “We’ve already won this, I don’t think you need to say anymore.”
The veterinarian jumps up at this remark yelling at the solicitor and causing nonsense to break loose until the judge finally calls an adjournment in the matter, and most people leave the room except for the veterinarian and the defendant. Fast forward a fortnight and the matter is reheard, only this time, the veterinarian is now part of the defendant’s expert witness lineup and the applicants have a graduate zoologist as theirs.
It turns out that since the rude solicitor didn’t get a chance to tender the veterinarian’s report and statement as evidence, as well as the veterinarian not confirming that it facially resembles a dangerous breed, that the applicant’s entire case was shut down. The veterinarian defended the dog physically, saying that although the measurements matched up, the dog was very muscular but did not resemble a dangerous breed.
Then, in comes the eccentric animal psychologist lady who presents some incredibly long report along with pages and pages of research study into dog behavioral patterns. The dog is found to be neither a physically or psychologically dangerous breed. Case is adjourned within a day, the defendant gets their dog back, and the rude solicitor gets chewed out by his colleagues.
28. Talk About A Messy Divorce
My dad’s divorce with his first wife was a mess and a half. After the divorce was finalized, she and her boyfriend accused my dad of breaking and entering and assaulting them. The boyfriend was adamant that my dad ran up to him, punched him, and ran off several blocks to his car. Their lawyer looked like he was ready to run away, pride be gone.
Because my dad broke his right leg and had to have surgery, he was wheelchair-bound for at least six months. It was clear they made the entire thing up.
29. Do Not Disturb
At my former employer’s office as the junior associate, I represented a client at trial for a restraining order he was seeking against his ex-girlfriend. They have a kid together. Due to rules of venue that lawyers would know, County A is where the paternity action was filed and is pending. County B is where the client currently lives with the child.
He has primary custody because the mother is indeed a mess and where the restraining order was filed. At the outset of the trial when our matter is called, the County B judge makes it abundantly clear he is NOT going to disturb the custody and visitation order issued by County A. He tells both of them that if they want a change to the custody order they need to file a motion in County A.
So, I win at trial for him. I do all the lawyer stuff…objecting, keeping her evidence out, that kind of thing. I do good. And the judge, true to his word, does not disturb the custody order except to order that exchanges are to take place at the nearby station, and again reminds the parties they need to file in County A if they want to change the custody order. So, where did it all go wrong?
A day after the successful trial, I get calls and emails from this client. He wants me to make an ex-parte emergency application to terminate the mother’s custody, which of course he tried to do with the restraining order, which the County B judge again said he wasn’t going to do. My boss gets on the phone with him and tells him he will do no such thing, that it is offensively blatant forum shopping, and that we would have no part of it. So, we dumped him.
He has since sent emails, in response to his final bill, telling us that we overcharged him, that we gave him bad advice to file for a restraining order in County B, where he lives and where his ex drove for at least an hour from where she lives in County A to shove her way into his house and attack him, for the motivation of charging more fees. He told us he might report us. Okay, buddy. Have fun with that.
30. Defending Drugged Driving
Our office represented a man with a very implausible story that he wanted to use as a defense to his drugged driving charges. He proceeded to miss court several times and showed up apparently intoxicated. This dragged on forever as he was marked on to the trial calendar, then took a deal for a few months of probation with the possibility of having a clean record if he succeeded.
At the last court appearance, it wound up being unclear if he had met all the requirements or not. While I was in the middle of arguing with the judge that he should get the benefit of the deal, he got frustrated and said he wanted to fire me because we had never told his side of the story. He proceeded to tell his ridiculous story to the judge.
The judge proceeded to tell him it was completely unbelievable and sentenced him to three years of probation with a conviction. Normally, I would try to stop a client from saying stupid stuff, but sometimes I let them because it insulates me from them later making a claim that I didn’t make the arguments they wanted me to.
31. Right In Front Of The Jury
Marvin Gabrion once punched his attorney in the face in front of the jury. During the trial, that lawyer asked the judge for permission to quit and was denied. Personally, I feel like the evidence against him was pretty cut and dry. Basically, everyone he comes in contact with disappears mysteriously. I don’t have evidence of this, but I can’t imagine that lawyer really giving it his all after that.
He later appealed the guilty verdict on the basis that punching his attorney in the face in front of the jury could have prejudiced the jury against him.
32. On The Hook
I work for an insurance company and written in our policies is a clause that says you’re required to cooperate with us so we can provide you with an adequate defense, and, if you refuse to do so, we can pull coverage. I had one client who absolutely refused to cooperate. He ignored every voicemail and email I sent him.
We started sending letters via registered mail to his address and would get nothing back. Eventually, we had to hire a private eye to track him down and explain the situation to him. The PI did make contact with the client, not even once. Then the idiot starts dodging him too. So, having exhausted our options, we refused coverage for him and he was personally on the hook for everything.
And the worst part of all? If he’d cooperated, we probably would have won the case. All because he was too dumb to bother spending 20 minutes answering his lawyer’s questions.
33. One Distinctive Feature
I worked for the Public Defender’s office and met a client in lockup for a line-up that he had adamantly demanded regarding a misdemeanor with multiple witnesses. I met the client for the first time in a separate room to let him know how it would go down and what to expect. This is the kind of line-up you traditionally see on television where there are a number of similar-looking people standing shoulder to shoulder in front of mirrored glass.
They pull the people for the line-up from the locked-up population and, despite their best efforts, this is not a huge population. I walk in to meet the client and he has a stye on his left lower eyelid the size of a golf ball. It was the most identifiable mark on a human’s face I have ever seen. He still demanded the line-up and was identified instantly by every single witness without a shred of doubt in their mind.
He still demanded a trial and the stye was gone by the time the trial commenced.
34. Just Need To Not Neglect
I spent the summer after my first year of law school representing children in the public defender’s neglect docket. They are basically situations where kids are taken away from their parents because of neglect. The parents and the government are also represented parties in these proceedings. Now, the bar is set very low for parents.
Basically, they have to have adequate food, shelter, and supervision with no neglect. When kids are taken away, the moms who are almost all parents in the system and are young, single, and poor mothers, are told they can get the kids back by holding down a basic job, getting an apartment, testing clean for drugs, and breaking up with whatever abusive douche bag they are seeing.
The number of mothers who couldn’t satisfy these requirements was astounding. They failed drug tests, had bad relationships and were quitting jobs arbitrarily. I saw it all. And my heart goes out to all the children who drew those straws in life and ended up in foster care institutions and felt unloved.
35. It’s Just Karma
I was a trusts and estates lawyer. I handled small businesses and mainly immigrants. As soon as you start accusing me of “screwing you over,” we’re done. Go pay three times what I charge for some rude dude in a glass tower, and experience true screwing. This didn’t happen much with my actual clients, but their kids and family would occasionally get enraged because they “heard from someone” that such-and-such isn’t true, and I’m trying to screw them out of their parents’ money—like I get a cut of the estate or something.
God, I wish. This was especially a problem when the kids were sketchy and the parents set up trusts or other provisions to limit their access to the estate. I had a kid…well, not a “kid,” he was in his 30s or 40s…who liquidated a bunch of stock and lived it up for about a year. Then, he discovered capital gains taxes, which I warned him about, and actually recommended a financial adviser that could help him with shelters.
He came down to the office ranting and raving and was under the impression that I was the one levying and collecting the taxes. “How can you charge me for spending my own money?!”
36. Didn’t Stand A Chance
I was rear-ended when I was on my scooter by a driver that had USAA. My lawyer that I had on retainer for over twenty years “noped” right out of that. He paid me back every penny I had paid for the retainer rather than having to take on USAA. I found out why, since judges and juries always rule with them since they represent veterans.
I lost the court case to pay for damages to my scooter and my ER bill. The guy that hit me was a Delta pilot and a former fighter pilot in Vietnam. He later paid me for the damages anyway even though he didn’t have to. The USAA is just crooked and screwed him even though he was their long-time customer.
37. Liars And Cheats
I’ve ditched clients that have wanted to, or attempted to, swear false affidavits or falsify documents. For example, I had one client who tried to claim an expense for a service when they were in fact getting that service for free by backdating a false service agreement. They started saying it’s “easy to make it look like I sent an email earlier than that.” I ditched them on the spot for a “breakdown of the relationship.”
38. Reaped The Rewards
I got fired by an attorney once. There was a class-action suit against a company I had invested in and they were representing the class. They were very sloppy in how they asked for information. I got really upset and wrote an angry letter. They said I was on my own. Without doing anything, I was part of the class anyway and got a check from the company in the settlement.
I later found out I got more than I would have if I’d stayed with that lawyer.
39. Construction And Consent
This woman had an obvious drinking problem and didn’t want to accept any kind of responsibility or get help. I told her her options several times. It was either more probation, which she’d keep failing because of her addiction, or time locked up for 30 days. She started sending me texts while intoxicated late at night about how she “knows construction [constitutional] law” and “won’t consent” to time locked up.
I got her permission to withdraw. I’m pretty sure she missed her next court date even though I told her about it, and she has a warrant out.
40. Here’s What Happened
I generally only handle serious injury and wrongful passing cases. I have told dozens of clients to pack their bags once I determine they lied to me about what happened. Most of these liars admitted it to me in a way that indicated they thought the entire process was a game of be-the-best-liar, “They’re going to lie, so I’m going to lie.”
You never, ever—no matter the weather—want a serious injury client with a credibility problem. We regularly put six figures in expenses and time into these cases and I’m not about to do that if we have a liar for a client. Keep in mind, I am talking about lying about important facts, and not, “This is what I remember.” Also not talking about when it turns out inconsistent with the physical evidence.
I’m not talking about, “I didn’t mention this yesterday because I was embarrassed.” I’m not even talking about, “I didn’t tell you I have been double filling my oxygen script that was a decade ago, and I can’t do that anymore, because I knew it was wrong.” I’m talking just about lies about what happened.
41. Proving Their Point
This was a family law case. The judge had asked to interview the minor child in a closed courtroom with no parents. The attorneys could stay. When done, the client re-enters the courtroom to see the child crying, and promptly tells the judge that he is “Completely retarded.” Right up to that point, my client was winning and was about to have the other party’s parenting time suspended.
The kid had said the other party harms him and that he did not want to see that parent anymore. The judge was not pleased. The other party’s parenting time was suspended, and my client has anger management classes ordered, fines, psych testing, and drug testing.
42. Rules Still Apply
I’m a public defender. I don’t have a whole lot of room to bail on cases I’m assigned. No matter how horrible. I did punch out of one case though. My client was a sovereign citizen who believed that, because he no longer recognized the authority of the state to govern roads or motor vehicles, he didn’t need a driver’s license. He was very wrong.
He insisted that I file his “pleadings” composed entirely of pseudo-legal jargon and citations to obscure provisions of hilariously outdated laws and court opinions. I told the judge what he wanted to do, and why I couldn’t do that, because I took an oath to uphold the laws of the state, not argue that anybody can pick and choose which ones to follow, and that the client needed to represent themselves.
43. It’s Not Worth It
I’m not a lawyer, but I deal with many through work. The other day one asked me, “Can I ask you a question? Have you ever fired a client?” Basically, he had a guy that was just annoying as all heck, and the nitpicking and complaining over everything he did for him just weren’t worth the compensation. I told him I had. It’s a decision of grief vs reward.
If you ever say to yourself, “This isn’t worth the money,” then I see no issue with “firing” a client.
44. Are We There Yet?
I sent numerous detailed letters explaining that this is not an overnight deal and that litigation takes time. I first provided a detailed estimate of how long this would take based on my lengthy experience. When the court set a formal schedule, I sent another letter saying, in very professional and diplomatic terms, “See? My estimate of how long this will take was spot on. Here’s an order from the judge setting the same schedule I predicted.”
Regardless, I kept getting phone calls all the time asking, “Is it settled yet? Is it settled YET?!” and offering suggestions that, well, these suggestions were so ridiculous that if they had come from a young associate attorney, I’d have to wonder if I could continue to employ that attorney.
The last straw was in yet another of those, “Is it settled yet? Why isn’t it settled yet? Let me give you some suggestions about how to settle this,” calls when I got a, “You do know what you’re doing, right? This isn’t your first case is it?!” I prepared a sternly worded, but quite diplomatic and professional, letter saying, “You either need to shut up and listen to me or you need to leave me alone and find someone else.”
45. Not A New Man
A client wanted to have his name put on his son’s birth certificate and have custody. The problem is the son is 20 years old and doesn’t want the guy in his life. The lawyer asks why he wants this even though the son is an adult. The client talks of being a new man, but it comes out his own parents disowned him and all his inheritance is going to his son.
He thought he could go back to their good graces if he became a father.
46. Pay Up, Please
We dropped a client because they got a new lawyer. But, they still hadn’t paid our bill, so we exercised our lien over the file. Before that happened, the other side made a very significant disclosure to us. So, the new lawyer asked them to make it again, because we wouldn’t hand over the file until we were paid. The lawyer on the other side called us up and told me quite explicitly to make sure we hold onto our file and don’t hand anything over until our bill was paid because they sure as heck weren’t going to spend all that time and effort to make the disclosure again.
47. The Deal Is Off
My client was charged with possession of a weapon. He was pulled over for speeding and had a massive knife in his car door. He told me he absolutely needs the knife back because it’s a one-of-a-kind gift. I negotiated with the officers. I managed to get a deal where he pleads guilty, gets a good behavior bond, and the knife back, plus no conviction.
The moron emails the officers behind my back just being horrible to the officer and “poking holes” in their case. As such, the deal gets taken off the table. He then impersonates a lawyer and pretends to negotiate on behalf of himself. The officers sent me an email along the lines of, “Hey is this your guy?” and attach all of the abusive emails he’s sent them. That was the final straw.
Throughout proceedings, he would constantly change his instructions literally an hour before hearings and conferences and just would not listen. I ended up telling him to find another lawyer who would be willing to follow his instructions verbatim.
48. The Family Man
I was arguing for my client to be released on his own recognition. The judge asks him where he is going to live. “With my fiancé,” he says. He spins a lovely tale about how wonderful his fiancé is, how supportive she is, and did he mention they are having a baby and he wants to get out of lockup and take care of his soon-to-be wife and kid to support them properly?
The judge asks the courtroom, “Could Defendant’s fiancé please approach the bench?” That’s when the drama kicked into high gear. From opposite sides of the room, two women stand up and start walking to the front. One is about four months pregnant and the other is nearly nine months pregnant. They are looking at each other with identical expressions of “who the heck are you?”
You could see the exact moment when each of them realized, “That woman is sleeping with my man.” The fight started before they even got to the counsel’s table. Pregnancy or not, these chicks were seriously trying to kill one another. The bailiffs had to stop laughing long enough to break up the fight. My client says, “Dang, your Honor, I didn’t think they’d both come.”
The judge said he was denying bail for my client’s own protection.
49. Everyone But Me
I was defending a fraternity president that got some kid seriously injured during a hazing incident, at one of their parties. During the opening statements, he jumped up on the table and blamed everyone in the courtroom for what happened. Everyone except himself. “If any of you were cool enough to be invited to our parties…then you could have stopped us! This is on you. And you. And you. Aaaand you, your honor!”
50. Own Worst Enemy
One of the guys in the lawyer department at work used to do personal injury stuff. He once told me about a time that he represented a guy who was suing a big chain DIY store claiming he slipped on some spilled liquid in one of the aisles and wrenched his back. Subsequently, he had trouble walking, trouble sleeping, and trouble getting it up.
I believe he was suing for mid-six figures. There were no CCTV cameras on that particular aisle, so the store had no way of disputing his claim. The guy swore blind to him that all his injuries and symptoms were genuine. And then the other shoe dropped…The store’s solicitors turned up a bunch of photos from the guy’s wife’s Facebook page of the two of them on a skiing holiday about a month after the fall supposedly happened.
I believe the other side’s solicitors said something along the lines of, “So do you want to get your guy to drop his case now, or shall we wait until it gets to court and we countersue for all our fees and your client making a false claim?” My buddy emailed his client with a link to the photos saying essentially, “You need to give me an explanation for these, and for your sake it had better be a really good one…”
But, the guy never responded. The case got tossed out before it ever got close to a courtroom.