“Law and Order” might work for some judges, but not with these ridiculous cases. Whether it’s an incompetent client or an unhinged attorney, these lawyers’ stories of their most outrageous plot twists inside and outside the halls of justice had us banging the gavel and screaming for order in the court. Buckle up, it’s about to get wild.
1. A Shady Past
I used to work at a firm that did a lot of maritime personal injury work. One guy was hurt offshore with a legitimate injury, but the drilling company won’t settle, so it goes to trial. The guy is from some small rural town in East Texas, and the trial is set there. During one of his video depositions, our client shows up in a T-shirt that has a silhouette of a woman dangling from a pole.
At the bottom, there is text that says, “I support single mothers.” Perfect, just what we need for a video deposition. Later, we go to trial, and right as it’s about to start, the client goes, “I was hoping we didn’t get this judge.” My co-lawyer thinks that is strange and asks him why he hoped that. When the man responded, I was chilled to the bone.
Apparently, our client killed the judge’s nephew during a break and enter years ago. It was a huge case in this little small town, and it was something the client neglected to mention at any point prior to this. Perfect. Great thing to know as trial is beginning. Somehow or other, we won the case. I’m honestly still not sure how.
2. I Rest My Case
I had a case where a man refused to pay rent because his apartment smelled terrible and it was making him sick. So, his landlord tried to evict him. A few days after I took on the case and just before his first hearing, the ceiling in the tenant’s bathroom just totally collapsed on him when he came home one day. It revealed a disgusting truth.
Turns out, some plumbing wasn’t connected and his ceiling had been filling with poop for months. The landlord settled pretty quickly after that.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
My friend is a big-shot lawyer downtown, and works on high-profile cases. He once told us about this ridiculous case involving a nurse. This nurse was hired to give vaccines to patients at a local string of assisted living homes. Now, Hepatitis C was very common back in the baby boomer days, from lack of knowledge and a lack of effective protection. So a bunch of these guys had it.
Well, this nurse decided it would be a good idea to reuse the needle they had on EVERY SINGLE patient. She ended up giving Hepatitis C to a bunch of seniors. It was so bad that they had to contact the CDC and consider it an outbreak. The best part was that the family of the elderly were suing the nurse AND the nursing homes.
Meanwhile, the nursing homes were suing the nurse and the hospital that contracted her out. The NURSE even tried suing the hospital for “lack of training.” Also, the nurse had been given warnings before and was previously let go from another job…because she was reusing needles. Absolutely ridiculous circus show all the way around, honestly.
4. That’s Karma For You
I had a guy come in who spoke almost exclusively in quotes from US Presidents. This was a specialist firm in a very English town, and the dude was about as English as it’s possible to be—tweed suit with leather elbow patches English. He wasn’t initially anything to do with me, but half an hour into the initial meeting, my boss wandered into my office totally exasperated.
She said, “Hey, you’re a patient man, find out what this loon actually wants. It’ll be a good case evaluation for you to handle by yourself.” So I spent two hours listening to him talk. Literally every second sentence began with “As Woodrow Wilson once said…” Or “As Grover Cleveland once said…”. He even managed to quote Taft.
Anyway, after two hours I explained how much the meeting was costing him—quite a tidy sum at that point. That’s how I learned why he was really there. He visibly sagged and suddenly blurted out like a naughty child, “I poured bleach on the roots of my neighbor’s tree, and it fell into my greenhouse. Can you make him pay for the repairs?”
I gently explained why that wouldn’t work, and he cried, so I called the loveliest secretary in the firm, who made him a cup of tea and sat with him until he went home. Sorry, buddy, and good riddance.
5. Latte And Order
My family friend is a lawyer. She had someone come to her asking to sue Starbucks because someone spilled their latte on the sidewalk and she slipped on it and hit her head. She claimed Starbucks was at fault because it wouldn’t have happened if “Starbucks didn’t put extra slippery whipped cream in the drink.” My friend did not take the case.
6. A Universal Language
I dealt with a guy once who wanted me to take on his road traffic accident claim. He had written a poem, in Yoruba, about the accident. He refused to tell me anything about his case until he’s read the whole thing, in Yoruba. Among other problems, I can’t speak any freaking Yoruba. As in, not one word. As in, that day was the first time I had ever heard of the Yoruba language.
I’m not even from a part of the world where I might readily be mistaken for someone who speaks Yoruba. It’s a West African language, and I am really, really obviously not from a West African background. I try to explain this to the guy, who becomes very agitated and insists that he must read out his poem in Yoruba. I give up and tell him to get on with it so we can talk about his claim.
He does. It takes him nearly 20 minutes to finish. Anyway, after he’s done, he finishes and sits back with a big smile and says that he’s certain I’ll take his case on now, as if it’s all completely clear. I begin to ask him some questions about his case, but he refuses to answer. He says that this poem (in Yoruba) is everything I need to know about his case.
Basically, I tell him to screw off and stop wasting my time. He does, but not before standing around outside my office for an hour or so, reading out his poem, to no-one in particular, over and over again. In Yoruba.
7. She Said, She Said
I worked on a custody dispute between a mother and grandmother, where both sides were absolutely outraged by the others’ claims. The mother was very upset that she was alleged to have been a stripper. In her own incensed words, “I was a sex worker, but I NEVER did that!” The grandmother, in return, was furious that she was alleged to have 21 cats in her two-bedroom apartment.
In HER iconic words, “We only have 17 cats! How DARE she flat-out lie and say that we have 21 cats.” The child ended up living with the father in a different state.
8. Sing It With Me: Five…Five…Five-Dollar Foot-Long
I once worked as a prosecutor on the misdemeanor docket, and I heard some really amazing defenses that, if the defendant had an attorney, they would definitely not have made. My favorite was this guy charged with speeding who gave what I now call “the five-dollar foot-long defense.” He pled guilty, but he wanted to provide an explanation to the judge. It became legendary.
He said that he had just eaten a five-dollar roast beef foot-long from Subway and was speeding to get home before he fell asleep because roast beef is a sedative. The judge chuckled and asked if he meant to say turkey, a lunchmeat that might cause some form of mild sedation. The man realized his mistake and said that the five-dollar foot-long contained both.
At this point, I am trying not to burst out laughing. Honestly, he used the word “five-dollar foot-long” about a half dozen times by this point, like he was actively advertising for Subway. The judge said he didn’t think there was such a five-dollar foot-long available at Subway. At this point, the entire courtroom was laughing.
The judge told him to choose his food more carefully and slow down, along with giving him the maximum fine.
9. Is It Art?
I defended a vengeful guy who sent poop through the mail to his ex-girlfriend from behind bars. I don’t know how it got past the wardens, but it did, and the guy didn’t even deny sending the package. However, the case went to trial because he wanted me to argue that the poop was expressive speech, and thus protected by the First Amendment. We lost.
10. No Compensation
I’m a worker’s compensation attorney. I now represent injured people, but used to work on the other side. This is the case that made me switch. There was an applicant who fell off a ladder, busted his back, got his shoulder messed up, and needed years of treatment. He had physical and psychological issues. The poor guy was really messed up, so he went to court to get permanent disability payments from my client. We were five years into the lawsuit and finally getting to settlement time.
If we bought out his future medical, the settlement would be pretty far into six figures, which is a lot, but keep in mind that this guy was the sole provider for wife and two young kids. Then we made a jaw-dropping discovery. We found out that the man had aggressive brain cancer. He would only live for a couple more years, at best.
Thus, my client wouldn’t have to pay him for very long. In the end, the man did get disability pay for $60k-ish per year. But because he’d only get that one check, what should have been millions was much, much less. I felt terrible for the guy and his family. I tried to get my client, the insurance company, to agree to a more humane amount given the circumstances, but the bean counters said heck no.
The attorney knew it wasn’t me making the decision. Even though he worked on that guy’s file for 5+ years he decided to take $0 in fees. I have so much respect for that attorney turning down $10k+ in fees to help his client in a very sad situation.
11. The Veteran
I used to represent veterans to get their service-connected disability benefits. I represented a homeless veteran who told me that he had been stationed in a certain conflict zone. Everything he said corroborated with the timeline and how events played out, and the story barely changed so I took him at face value. I argued to get him compensation for his PTSD with the earliest effective date possible. Then I expedited the hearing due to his homeless status. I got him six figures and off the streets for a while.
I went to town for this guy and worked hard to make sure he got a good result. But then, I learned the real story. The man’s full records finally came in two long years after I had first requested them. It turns out that the man had been in the forces, but he had never served in the zone that he said traumatized him. In fact, he never served overseas at all. Kind of burned me out after that.
12. Not So Friendly Now
A year out of law school, I once had a potential client who wanted me to sue Canada. Apparently, he could not get into the country due to his court record. I tried to reason with him, saying that it was up to the sovereign nation to set its own rules regarding entry to their country, but he insisted that we could make a lot of money suing Canada.
I didn’t take the case, but I told him I might be able to get him a letter that said “Sorry” –from Canada.
13. An Old Grudge
I’m a lawyer in a small town. I mostly do estate planning, probate, old people stuff, etc. I have a client who sued his ex-wife for not selling the house after the divorce as she was supposed to. Judge held her in contempt, and asked what my client wanted to do about it. His revenge was brutal. He had his ex-wife thrown in the slammer. They are both nearly 80 years old.
The client also has something valuable buried on his property for his grandchildren after he passes. I have a sealed letter in my desk that he pays me a goodly sum each month to hold and give to his grandson when he’s gone.
14. Who You Gonna Call?
This call came through on a dreary December day as I was sipping coffee and watching the snowfall. The caller ID read that it was the local hospital, and as I picked up, I spoke to a rather frantic young man who informed me he was being held against his will and he needed an attorney to help him. When I asked where he was, he simply said “the fifth floor.”
While this may sound innocuous, every hospital has a “fifth floor,” where Napoleon roams the halls freely and the residents speak to their imaginary friends who may, or may not, have been an influencing factor in why they decided that clothing was a way for the government to track them and therefore the only solution was to create Poop Pants to throw off the monitoring ability of the CIA.
Long story short, within an hour of the call a friend had dropped off my fee, and I was en route to the Fifth Floor to meet with my new client. I assumed it would be an involuntary committal defense, and after speaking with my client I gauged that, while the man was most definitely in need of mental care, he was not a danger to himself or others.
He had, in my opinion, been forced to agree to being committed by his probation officer, and frankly I wasn’t going to let that stand. I got the name of some contacts from his treatment plan who were willing to vouch that he had, until recently, been compliant with his medications, and contacted his social worker who was able to confirm that, yes, since he had ceased taking the medication due to an inability to afford the medications, the county would assist him with it.
A slam dunk. I would get him released, then appear in the court to defend him against the involuntary committal. Within 24 hours of being committed, my client was back at home. A hearing was set a couple of weeks in the future, and I did daily checks to be certain he was compliant with his medication leading up to the hearing…until the one day I didn’t.
A call from the local authorities was my tip-off. An older officer, one I was familiar with, called to advise they had responded to a disturbance at my client’s home. He apparently had been screaming in an empty room loud enough that the neighbors were concerned and called them. The officer, a friendly sort, gauged the situation and decided my client wasn’t a threat, but asked what the situation was.
“The ghost,” my client responded, “The ghost won’t get out and it won’t leave me alone.” “Well,” said the officer, “I can tell it to leave.” So he did. He told the ghost to leave. And then, apparently for fun, the officer told him that it was a “civil matter” if the ghost refused to leave, and therefore an attorney would need to be contacted.
At which point my client dropped my name…which resulted in the officer giving me a heads up. So, I call my client, who is inconsolable at the concept of sharing his home with the ghost. Keep in mind, I’ve been to this guy’s house. This is the first I’ve heard of a ghost. But there is a competency hearing on the horizon, and this will not play well in front of the judge.
“The officer said it’s a civil matter,” my client repeated about the 18th time after I told him I was not, in fact, a priest, but was a lawyer and didn’t know how to perform an exorcism. “What do you want me to do,” I snapped a bit, “Evict it?” There are moments in time when you should keep your mouth shut. This is one of them. Of course, the immediate response was “CAN YOU? THAT’D BE GREAT!”
Well, darn. So, I ended up driving out there with a mock-up Notice to Quit addressed to “Any spirits in possession of the property without any authority under color of law,” advising them that their possession was “unlawful in nature” and ordering them to “quit and surrender the premises, or any portion thereof, within fifteen (15) days of the date of this notice.”
I had my client direct me to the portion of the premises the Ghost occupied, an empty spare bedroom, and made service by posting the Notice to the door of the room. I then announced that the ghost “HAD BEEN SERVED A VALID NOTICE TO QUIT AND SURRENDER POSSESSION” and went home. A week later, as we’re preparing to enter the Court for my client’s competency hearing, I ask about the status.
“Oh, it worked great!” my client announced. “He moved out the same night and took all his stuff with him.” The ghost apparently had “stuff.” Anyhow, I smiled and patted my client on the shoulder as I offered some sage advice. “Well, good,” I said, “Now, let’s not mention this in front of the judge. He might have a problem with the service and order us to let the ghost back in if he finds out about it.”
My client nodded enthusiastically. I kept him out of the mental hospital that day, and take some comfort knowing somewhere today, this crazy guy is still telling people about his great lawyer who got rid of his ethereal roommate for free.
15. Family Or Furniture
I did a divorce where the husband (who I was representing) wanted to trade custody of his children for a set of bedroom furniture. The bedroom furniture was not even like a family heirloom. It was furniture that you could probably get at a Rooms-to-Go or something. Ugh, even thinking of that guy still makes me ill. That’s why I got out of family law.
16. What Lies Beneath
I worked at a law office and sat in on some meetings to take notes. We had a guy come in for his case evaluation, and my boss, the lawyer, asked what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to sue this lake. I did my best to keep a straight face, and my boss asked the guy why he wanted to sue the lake. I’ll never forget what he told us that day.
He said that it ate his boat. We asked if he meant it sunk. He said that no, it didn’t, the lake ate it. The boat was gone one day and he checked the video. The video showed the water level of the lake rise almost four inches and fall again, which caused the boat to break loose from the dock and sink. He showed us the video and sure enough, here is this little four-person boat and exactly that happened.
My boss said that she’d take the case, but couldn’t guarantee how well it would do in court. When my boss said she’d need some money to process the paperwork, the guy threw down a brick of cash. There are some real weirdos out there.
17. Animal Instinct
A woman called saying that she had a product liability suit involving animal crackers she gave to her daughter. I was thinking it was going to be something to do with food poisoning and kept listening. I wish I’d never heard her next words. She explained that when she looked at the crackers, it looked like the monkey was holding its ding-dong.
Well, nope, it was a banana. Still, this woman was mortified and ashamed. She said she told all her co-workers, and they were very shocked and uncomfortable. I wanted to tell her she was nuts and that they were probably freaked out, but I didn’t.
18. A Dramatic Reveal
I practice immigration law. I had a woman come in and explain that she was from Canada, had been living and working in the US without permission for decades. Boyfriend beat her up to the point where she was hospitalized. She pressed charges and the boyfriend basically let her know via friends that his lawyer was going to call her credibility into question since she was an unlawful immigrant.
It turns out her mom was born in the US and met the dad in college, which meant that she could gain dual citizenship via mom. We got her citizenship certificate expedited and I made her promise not to tell anyone. Sure enough, at trial, the defense attorney asks, “Isn’t it true that you are a Canadian citizen who has been working in the US for decades?” To which she replies, “No. In fact, here’s my certificate of citizenship. I’m a dual Canadian and US citizen.”
She said the lawyer looked like a puppet when someone cut the strings. Boyfriend became a guest of the State for a long time.
19. Semantics In The Court
I witnessed a pathologist win a case in court by destroying the defense’s credibility. The question was over whether or not carbon monoxide could have caused certain signs of death in an individual, but the defense didn’t study their chemistry very well and kept asking the pathologist whether “carbon dioxide” could have caused these signs.
After thoroughly frustrating the defense by answering his questions “incorrectly,” the pathologist said very loudly, “OH I’m sorry, did you mean carbon monoxide? Because that’s a completely different thing.” Completely destroyed the defense’s credibility in front of the jury. They were done after that. The opposing counsel screwed himself by not picking up a book.
20. Single White Female
Every day was “outrageous” as a lawyer. The very first person I ever spoke to in a lawyer capacity was a woman who wanted to sue her contractor for an unfinished job and emotional distress. First, being upset at an incomplete job isn’t emotional distress. Second, upon further questioning, I learned that this contractor had actually completed all the terms of the contract.
This woman eventually admitted she was suing him because he was “rude and always late.” I informed her that we would not take this case. Additionally, I warned her that a failure to pay the contract would most likely result in the contractor suing her. She found this idea ludicrous and began to yell at me in my office—first person on my first day—about how she had a right as an American that I act as her lawyer.
So I handle that: We are not helping her in this case. Two days later, I get a call that makes me want to faint. It’s the contractor’s attorney, stating that this woman has cited me as her attorney and threatened a hailstorm of suits upon the contractor from me. It took all of five minutes for the other guy to realize what was going on.
Heck, he even made sure to remind me of the steps I should take to protect myself from any related suits this lady might bring upon me. So, about a month or two passes. The woman comes in again, furious because the contractor sued her and was able to get a lien on the property. She said this was my fault because I didn’t help her.
I manage to talk her down. She then immediately gets fired up again because “they are trying to scam her into giving them all her documents.” Turns out, a trial on the matter was coming up in about a week, and they had requested photographs of allegedly unfinished work, damages, etc. as well as the original contract and payment receipts.
Basically, all typical stuff that’s reasonable to request and that she is obligated to provide. She thought that evidence was supposed to be a “surprise” at trial, and that sharing this information beforehand would hurt her case. NO duh it would hurt her case, because she is a LIAR. Anyways, again. Not her lawyer. I actually make her sign a paper signifying she understands this.
She leaves. Months pass. I’m no longer working at my old job. So the lady finds me at my school. I get a call from the freaking Dean asking me to swing by. Says he just met with a disgruntled client of mine who says I cost her her home, marriage, and children. Apparently, things went downhill fast. She claimed she would do everything in her power to make sure I never did anything again.
Well, the Dean is a nice guy and helped me with my restraining order paperwork.
21. A Real Character
A friend of mine is a magistrate, and a guy appeared before the magistrates after attacking an officer. They first watched a video of the event with the guy shouting all sorts of things at the officers. When the court asked him to answer for what he did, he…started to pretend to speak another language. His solicitor just said, “Please forgive my client, he does speak English, however he is an idiot.”
After this blatant lie of trying to speak a foreign language that was actually complete and utter nonsense, he then started to pretend that he was deaf and dumb, and started to mimic what he thought was sign language, pointing at his mouth and shaking his head. His solicitor again: “Please forgive my client, he is not deaf and dumb, he is just stupid.”
My friend then said to the defendant, “Please take a seat.” He responds “Yeah, no problem, luv.”
22. Tis The Season
During law school, I was a member of a law clinic. We represented low-income individuals. We handled family law issues, but would try to point clients in the right direction if we could not personally help them. One man came in and stated that he wanted to sue Best Buy. This is not uncommon, but why he wanted to sue Best Buy was…different.
See, this man said he purchased a refurbished computer from Best Buy for his daughter as a Christmas present. Best Buy had then neglected to remove the previous owner’s password screen and thus, this man and his daughter were unable to access the computer until they took it back to Best Buy, which was understandably closed on Christmas day.
This, he said, caused his 12-year-old daughter to begin to question the very existence of Santa Claus. He and his daughter then argued the rest of the day, until finally, he admitted to her that there was no Santa Claus. His words were, “Seeing your daughter lose faith in Santa ruined all Christmases to come.” He also claimed that now his daughter was “a real witch” since she had lost all faith and stopped believing in Santa Claus.
What was even more interesting is the amount of damages he requested. He stated he believed that Best Buy owed him “at least 25 million” because Christmas was ruined, his daughter will never believe in Santa again, and now he has to deal with her being “a real witch.” I did not believe he had any type of recourse against Best Buy for inadvertently demolishing his daughter’s belief in Santa.
However, even if I did, our clinic could not help him. I informed him that we only handled family law issues, and he should call the local Bar Association’s lawyer referral service. He stated the Bar Association already told him they would not take his case. Then he proceeded to ask if I had children. I told him I did not.
He then proceeded to wish that all my future kids have their belief in Santa Claus ruined. He stated he would not help me if that happened. He then told me to “screw off” and left. Thing is, the whole time he was there and I was talking to him, I was wondering how this guy’s daughter believed in Santa Claus until age 12.
23. Burn It All Down
As a law student, you have the option of doing a lot of low-level pro bono work. I was at a family court as part of a project to help women get restraining orders against their abusers. To look lawyerly, all of us law students dressed up in suits. As it happens, family court tends to be filled with people representing themselves.
Well, anyone dressed in a suit starts attracting all of the people who don’t want to deal with the issues themselves, since “Hey, they look like a lawyer.” This one gentleman came up to me and my partner, another law student, asking us if we could help him file a restraining order against his girlfriend. When he told us why, I nearly burst out laughing.
She wrote on her Facebook wall that he had a small you-know-what, which he assured us wasn’t true. He also wanted to get a restraining order against a different ex-girlfriend because she took some of his clothes and things when they broke up and he wanted them back. He also wanted to get a restraining order against his brother for beating him up when he was a kid. He was in his 30s.
24. From Love To Hate
I am a personal injury lawyer in the UK. I took a call from a potential client who had fallen down the stairs in her own home. She had tripped over her own cat as she went down. She told me that she wanted to sue her local authority, as the council owned her home and she was not allowed to keep pets as part of her lease agreement.
She claimed that when the house was inspected, no one told her to get rid of the cat. It was therefore the council’s fault that she fell down the stairs. We didn’t take the case on.
25. Parole Corruption
In the spring of 2018, I was a third-year practicing intern at a public defender’s office. As the job entailed, I dealt with a lot of clients who were facing time, but none stuck in my mind the way this one guy did. One day, I looked over the file where the client had three years of probation. I found this very odd due to the initial charge: Possession.
Even so, I go to the docket call and to talk to my client. He’s a white male, 30-35-years-old. The first words out of his mouth were “$600.” I didn’t know what that meant or what was going on. So, I asked him. What I quickly learned was that this client was mentally impaired. During our conversation, he kept bringing up the fact that he didn’t do anything, and that he is “paying, paying every month” etc.
And, probably due to my lack of experience, I kept trying to steer him towards the issue: Why did he violate his probation conditions? It didn’t even cross my mind that, hold on, maybe he didn’t actually do it. I left the cell, talked with the public defender, and told him about the situation. After our conversation, I realized what the client was trying to say.
He had fees of over $2000 and all he had left to pay was $600. If you don’t pay, you are in violation of your parole and you have to go back in the slammer. So, in his mind, he thought he was there because he hadn’t paid in full. The reality was much worse and different. After a mini investigation, I determined it was the half-way house where he resided.
I contacted the wonderful old woman who “ran it” if you will. She gave me details that this man, although he knew, could not regurgitate and express. Turns out his parole officer was a complete scum bag. He had gone to the half-way house, told our client what a piece of garbage he was, and how he was a total waste of DNA.
He proceeded to go into the kitchen and bring out his service weapon. Then, he ordered my client to go into the back yard and literally dig a grave for himself. All of this was done in front of the old lady. On the day of the case, I called and she immediately came to testify for him. The judge dismissed the case. Found out later, the parole officer was doing this kind of thing to multiple people. He got fired immediately.
26. What Money?
I represented this construction worker in a divorce. The wife stayed at home with the kids and had no money. Through entire divorce her attorney claimed that my client was hiding money. They had no evidence and the client vehemently denied it. We had a good settlement in the case and I considered it done. When the client came in a few weeks later to pick his file, he thanked me for my work and said, “And she never did find the money I hid!” He had a big laugh and walked away.
27. Showing Off
My mom was a personal injury solicitor, and she was basically trying to prove that the car that hit her client and caused life-changing injuries belonged to this one guy. This guy at first pretends not to live where he does, then the car is found abandoned and all wiped down. The trail seems to end. But my mom gets a hunch that saved the case.
She checks his Facebook profile. He had a public profile, and his profile picture was him standing right next to the car in question. She screenshots the photo and sends it to the opposing counsel with a slightly more politely worded “Your client is a total idiot.” She’s retired now but she considers it to be one of the most satisfying moments of her career.
Needless to say, she won the case and her client got a million-pound settlement and is now living in Spain. All for the want of a simple privacy setting and a touch of common sense.
28. This Guy’s Fired Up
I once had a gentleman come to my office wanting to sue his former employer. My office is general civil litigation, and I handle our employment matters. I met with him for about half an hour. He explained that he had been terminated from his employment and believed it to be gender-biased. In my jurisdiction, an employer needs to show a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for discharge.
While this hurdle can be overcome, it’s a high one. I asked him if he had ever been disciplined, cited, or written up in the past. I wanted to establish if the employer would be able to say he was an unfit worker. If he had an unblemished record, our job is easier. He said yes, he had been written up. Not only that, he said it had happened 12 times. In two years.
I finished the interview, thanked him for his interest in our business, but told him we would not be able to take the case.
29. Relapse Regrets
I do family law. I once represented a father who had lost almost all custody of his kids because he’d had issues with illicit substances and had spent time behind bars. He came to me saying he had been clean for nine months and had his life together. He seemed so sincere in wanting to get a full relationship with his son. Meanwhile, the other side fought viciously to keep him away. After a long trial, we prevailed and my client got fairly frequent unsupervised partial custody.
Only about three months after the case, everything unraveled. The father was back doing drugs and selling all his stuff for more money. But for me the most soul-crushing thing is that he set up a fake GoFundMe stuff for his child’s “cancer.” His child didn’t have cancer and has never had cancer, so you know where that money was going.
I withdrew from the case at this point so I don’t know what happened afterward, but I imagine and hope his custody was taken away. Basically, the net result of winning the case was that the poor boy had to witness his father relapse and then get exploited by his own dad for money. Definitely the worst case I ever won.
30. Scot Free
I have been a defense lawyer for 30 years. I have tried over 100 violent cases and 20 capital cases, but here’s the one that stuck with me. I had a case very early in my career where I defended a man who was being accused of ending a young man’s life. In the end, the jury was hung and my client was acquitted at his second trial. I was doing my job, but I had this suspicion that my client’s story wasn’t completely honest.
As we left the courthouse, he was walking one way, and I another. I yelled back and asked, “ You shot that guy didn’t you?” He said, “Yep!” and laughed. I have never asked a client if they were actually guilty since hearing that man’s laugh. It bothered me for quite a while.
31. No Prosecution
One time, I represented this client first when he was a juvenile charged with disorderly conduct at school for fighting, then when he became an adult, it was for simple things like possession. As he got older, it became easier and easier to figure out what parts of his life hadn’t gone well. Over the years, I tried to counsel him and push him to better himself.
When he got his high school diploma, he started going to Narcotics Anonymous, started classes at a community college, and found a part-time job. Then, on the night of his 21st birthday, he was charged with driving while impaired. Of course, I take on this case for him. But about 6 months later, when we’re supposed to be in court, my client doesn’t show up. At this point in his life, this was highly unusual.
As I’m trying to figure out where he is, the court starts going over Arraignments and First Appearances. Lo and behold, three people are up for murder charges. The prosecution starts to tell the judge about the facts of the case. During his speech, he mentions the victims’ names. That’s when I felt my stomach drop. One of the victims was my client.
Apparently, my client was at a party when these three individuals decided to allegedly do a drive by shooting. My client suffered multiple wounds and didn’t make it to the hospital. So…by default, as you can’t prosecute someone who isn’t alive. Thus the State has to take a dismissal which means that technically I won my case.
Either way, it was crushing. My client was finally turning his life around…only to pass before he could enjoy it.
32. Memories Are Worth More Than Plastic
This happened during the course of the divorce. Neither side would follow the court orders. When they had to go back to court, they were fighting over a pistol and the man’s grandmother’s bowls. I assumed for weeks that these bowls were some sort of heirloom or expensive china. I was so wrong. When they finally brought the bowls in to swap, they were freaking Tupperware.
33. Brain Matter
I came into law school with a very clear moral compass. I knew what I wanted to do (defense) and I had very strong feelings about capital punishment. I thought there was never a situation that warranted it. Cut to me working in my school’s Capital Punishment clinic. The way the clinic worked, was that you’d typically be assigned 1-2 clients, review their case, visit them, and do research at the discretion of the supervising attorneys. I had one client, and his case will haunt me for the rest of my life.
He goes in for life after a really brutal assault on a teenager during a burglary… and proceeds to move to more and more secure facilities after numerous attacks on guards and an escape attempt. But that wasn’t what got him capital punishment. See, while my guy was in supermax, he managed to slip his cuffs, beat a guard lifeless with a metal bar, and throw his battered corpse down the stairs.
All of this is on video. There’s no question he did it. So, the jury deliberates for like a day before they give him the long goodbye. By the time I get the case, it’s about reviewing his eligibility for capital punishment. So, I dig into his case file for the testimony that appeared at trial and there’s all this stuff about huge problems with his cognitive ability and like his actual brain structure.
With the supervising lawyer’s okay, I do a little independent research, consolidate all the different testimony and map it onto a brain. The conclusion I come to is pretty simple but completely shocking. This guy has less than half a brain. Through a combination of substance use, a rough upbringing, and birth defects, roughly half of my client’s brain just is not present anymore in any meaningful way.
Including all the centers that regulate hormone production, fight or flight response, and threat assessment. I find a bunch of medical reports where people with just some of these conditions get severe behavior imbalances, and in at least one case psychotic episodes. Basically, I help establish that this guy has the kind of diminished capacity that makes him ineligible for Capital Punishment under Atkins.
If he’s successful on an Atkins claim, then he is structurally ineligible for capital punishment. But, do I feel good about helping to probably save this guy’s life? Heck no. Because it means he’s going to be in a supermax forever and he’s already shown that he can harm people in a supermax. If he doesn’t get the chair, he’ll still be in prison for life, and I can almost guarantee that he will injure (or worse) another guard during that time, probably multiple ones.
BUT if he’s executed, we’re executing someone who really isn’t meaningfully responsible for their actions because most of their brain is gone. He never had the option to make the right decision, or make any decision, because of his incredibly extensive brain damage. It’s out of my hands now, but they are appealing so it’s going to go before the court eventually.
I drank a lot that semester, and I’ll never do capital punishment work again.
34. Axis Of Evil
My dad was a lawyer in California, and this husband and wife were getting a divorce. Everything went normal, but then the husband requested partial custody. This was fine…except for the fact that they had no children. No, the husband wanted partial custody of the dog. The jurisdiction is that pets are personal property, so this couldn’t be arranged in the first place, but my dad had to wonder why the heck this guy wanted partial custody of a pet.
“Does the pet mean that much to you?” He asked. “No, it’s that we both like the dog, so she’ll have custody and like it, but when I get custody, I’m gonna take it to the vet and have it put down.” That’s 101 on what you don’t say to your defense lawyer.
35. Little Caesar’s Downfall
When I was in law school, I clerked with a solo practitioner. Our client wanted to go to trial over a charge of impersonating an officer. What happened that led up to this? Well…One night, our client got drunk and ordered a pizza for delivery. Now, I’ve been there before, and it can be frustrating to wait forever for that glorious, delicious pizza.
So this guy came up with an “ingenious” plan. To speed things up for himself, he called the pizza place back and told them he was an officer, and if they don’t hurry it up there would be trouble. However, as it turns out, the guy who answered the phone at the pizza joint was a volunteer firefighter, and asked for our client’s name because he knew all the officers in that town.
When our client gave him his real name (not smart), and inevitably it turned out that he was not, in fact, an officer, a small investigation led to him being charged. Before trial, our client wanted us to argue he had a First Amendment right to tell people he was an officer. He doesn’t. He ended up pleading out, but that case stood out in my mind.
36. Daddy’s Little Secrets
I work for a small but really old firm in Texas, and I work with a few attorneys who handle estate planning and wills. This man was a doctor. He passed on. He was worth about $2,000,000. He wasn’t very wealthy, and we also handled a lot of bigger cases. However, he had five kids and an ex-wife. When he divorced years before, he came out as gay and moved in with his partner.
After he passed, his will stated that his house and money would go to this partner. His kids tried to argue it, and we ended up going through mediation. As kind of a whackadoodle move, his partner actually requested a paternity test on the father’s frozen specimen to see if the kids really had any claim at all to the estate. Well…
It took a lot of pull to do it, but in the end…It turns out all five kids were not actually related to the now-deceased father. The partner got to keep the entire estate.
37. Exhibitionist A
My client was charged with harassment for sending risqué photos and videos of himself to his ex-wife. The client swore to me, in private, that it was baseless and that his wife was lying. He never sent photos like that in his life. Then my office received a folder for discovery from the other side. Its contents were astonishing.
It’s filled with photos of my client’s nether parts. Not only that, it was full body shots, with his face in frame. Sometimes, my client was wearing a baseball cap, sometimes he was wearing sunglasses, but without fail, he was never wearing clothing. I had to yell at him because it was an unbelievably flagrant lie to me. I told him he needed to trust me as his attorney.
After this confrontation, he only asked one question: “How many people saw me?” My answer was, “It should have been three or four. It was probably closer to 50.”
38. The Doghouse Becomes His Revenge
My uncle represented this guy getting a divorce from his wife of 15 years. Super toxic breakup, and they split everything 50/50, even the land that the house they lived in sat upon. Well, she decides to build a house right behind the other house. Mind you, this was a lot of land. There was probably 200 yards separating both home sites, and the backs of the houses faced each other.
The house gets built, and my uncle gets a call from his client asking about the situation he had gotten himself into. Apparently, his ex-wife would spend a lot of time in her backyard, so he saw her all the time. What he did was buy a female dog and name it the same name as his ex-wife. Anytime he would let his dog back in from letting her out, he would yell “Susan, you b****! Get in here!”
He would also yell if she was peeing on the flowers, “Susan you b****! Quit pissing on the flowers!” or “Susan, you b****! Quit digging in the dirt!” The ex-wife called the authorities on him a couple of times, but there was nothing they could do because the dog was registered under the name of Susan, and it was literally a b****, so there you go.
39. Permanently Leaving The Neighborhood
I had a client who was the cleanest cut of the clean. Think of the nicest, most innocent, stable guy you can think of (I only take clients based on their initial few weeks of behavior and background check). He was basically Mr. Rodgers. No record, same company for 20 years, great character references that were proven.
Then the client went and got not one but two DUIs and an assault charge. Then he committed suicide. I know he didn’t want me to get stuck with no money and hordes of paperwork. I think I’m a nice guy. But sometimes I wonder.
40. You Get What You Pay For
This guy was a super smart engineer, but he fell for a woman who was just white trash. He married her, and at the time of the divorce, they had two kids aged six and four. One day, she told him she wanted a divorce and wanted him to move out. It was a huge house in a gated community, so I advised him to just move to another part of the house so he could be near his kids. But I knew something he didn’t know.
See, the reason she wanted him out of the house was so that she could have the man she was cheating on him with move in. I’d seen it before, and I was pretty sure it was the case here. He didn’t believe she was cheating, though, so I told him to go to the gate and check the logs. Sure enough, my client left every morning at 6:30 am for work.
Then around 7:30 am, three to five times a week, another man would check in at the gate and say he was headed to my client’s house. I dug into the name, and it was my client’s wife’s ex-boyfriend, who was fresh off an eight-year stint behind bars. My client confronted his wife and recorded it. Her response was bone-chilling.
She basically admitted to cheating, then told my client she wanted to move her lover in, and if my client did not move out, she would make their children’s lives miserable and make sure they know it was because daddy is being selfish. She lawyered up after that, and we played the tape for her attorney in the first conference.
He made some noise about consent and it not sounding like her, but he knew he was done for. In the end, my guy got the house, full custody, and the bank accounts. She got one car, her clothes, and jewelry (which were very valuable), some of the household items, and $25,000 cash. She literally moved from a palatial home in a gated neighborhood in the nicest part of town into a trailer in an unincorporated part of the county. Don’t marry trash.
41. A Misplaced Identification
When I was in law school, I clerked for a defense clinic. We had an assault and battery case where there was only one witness to the incident: the victim. I was sitting at the defense table with the actual attorney, another law student that worked on the case with me, and the defendant. We were all in similar looking suits as a matter of unplanned coincidence.
The victim was asked to identify the person who committed the assault in court and she pointed to me and not the defendant. Our attorney asked several times if she was really pointing to me and if she was sure, and she said yes. The prosecutor was visibly upset and the trial pretty much ended there as this was a bench trial and not with a jury.
It was never discussed or admitted to, but I suspect our attorney purposefully had me there at the trial because I did have a passing resemblance of the defendant.
42. Hijinks Ensue
My brother, fresh out of law school, was asked to defend this fraternity being sued for defecating in the dorm room of a pledge who did not finish his bid to be a brother. My brother called the co-defendants and the plaintiff the “Poopers” and the “Poopee” respectively in our group text.
43. A Family Affair
I am an attorney practicing estate planning and wills and trust. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear a story about a family squabbling over an inheritance, but there was this one guy in particular. He had an aunt who was a lesbian and had recently married her lifelong partner. His aunt passed shortly after they were finally allowed to be married.
Like many couples, they had a trust together and, as you would imagine, it left everything to the surviving spouse. Only when both of them passed was it divided between other friends and relatives. The nephew was left with a fairly generous gift once both his aunt and her surviving wife passed. Well, apparently that wasn’t good enough for him.
He wanted to sue his aunt’s widow to get his inheritance that he was “entitled” to now. I explained that wasn’t really possible, since the trust was very clear and it wasn’t like his aunt left everything to her spouse under duress or anything like that. Also, the spouse had complete authority to change the trust and could theoretically cut him out of the trust entirely if she chose to.
There is something that happens when you tell people something contrary to what they want to hear. When you give someone advice that conflicts with how they believe the world works, they get upset, flustered, and more entrenched in their position. They will ask the same question multiple ways just to try to get you to tell them the answer they want to hear.
So he kept asking different ways he could sue to get his inheritance, and I kept telling him that he would mostly likely lose the case and then not receive anything, ever. Finally, he asked, “So what can I do?” My actual, legitimate advice: “You can be really, really nice to your aunt’s wife.” He stormed out of my office without saying a word.
That was a first for me. His mother was there for the entire meeting and apologized for his behavior, saying, “He’s upset, he was really close to his aunt.” Right, sure. It was absolutely clear where he developed his sense of entitlement.
44. The Bad Neighbors
These people wanted to sue their neighbor after having her house burned down because the fire spread to their house and they needed to do…a roof repair. The catch? Said neighbor passed in the fire. Their argument was that her behavior of taking homeless people into her house to give them a meal and some clothes was recklessly negligent. Thankfully, I was working defense on that case.
I think they just wanted some insurance settlement money, but we took it all the way and they took our offer to settle for nothing the week before trial.
45. A Bird’s Eye View Of Terror
I represent school districts. One of my clients has a farm that is used to teach agricultural science to the students. The manager of the farm once decided to brutally euthanize a whole bunch of chickens in full view of a group of elementary school students. Sometimes, farms have to euthanize chickens. We understand, and that in and of itself was not the problem.
The problem was that he was whacking the chickens over the head with a hammer. And, to make matters worse, he had decided to whack each chicken like five or six times before they were done in, because he is apparently some kind of psychopath. The poor chickens were NOT dying from this. That didn’t deter him from continuing.
If one of them refused to die, he’d just toss the chicken on the ground and try again with another one. But the birds were all getting horrifically damaged and injured, so they were just flapping in circles on the ground, or walking with terrible, stuttering limps, or screaming in pain. One of the kids recorded the whole thing and wow was it awful to watch!
Obviously, I recommended that the school district fire him immediately because his behavior was completely unacceptable. He then tried to sue us. For GENDER DISCRIMINATION. That case was practically over before it began…
46. Did Not See That Coming…
I was asking a witness about a conversation from years ago, and how he could remember it so well. His answer was disturbing. When I asked how he could possibly be so sure about the exact time of a meeting that occurred years in the past, the man’s reply was unforgettable. He said, “I remember because right after that meeting I went back to my desk and suffered a heart attack.” After that, I had no further questions.
47. This Old House
I’m not a lawyer, but I was involved in an outrageous case that changed my life. I bought a property while I was in college. When purchasing, I got title insurance from First American Title. At the time, the seller suggested I use them because that’s who HE used and they did a great job—this will become important later.
Three weeks after buying the place, my nightmare begins. I get served by a Sheriff. Lawsuit says I’m in unlawful possession of someone else’s property. What? So, I sent a letter to my title company and told them to handle it. No problem. They hired a lawyer who responded. Apparently, some guy who owned the house 10 or 15 years before had lost it in a lawsuit judgment.
Later, however, the lawsuit was overturned, and he wanted his property back. So, the previous owner sued the SELLER, AKA the guy I bought it from. The seller did the same thing I did, and told the title company First American. And they fought it for years. So, then this jerk seller decides to sell the property to me and not disclose this little problem.
Title company doesn’t say anything, either. I didn’t know any of this until one day in court, my attorney mentioned how she was so sick of dealing with this guy, Tim, who was trying to sue for the property he lost. I did some research and realized it was big cover-up by the seller and the title company. This went on for YEARS, as this Tim guy wouldn’t go away.
College ends, and I need to move to another city. I can’t sell the house because no one in their right mind would buy a house they know they are going to get sued for. So, I sued both the seller and the title company. Scraped every penny I had to keep it going. It came down to my last dime, but finally, we got them to settle.
This was basically paying me for what I owed on the house, and nowhere near what I should have gotten. And—the best part—the SELLER had to buy the house back. I think they are still battling it to this day. Same guy.
48. A Swing And A Miss
A guy found a rock in the middle of Melbourne that he believed came from an underground volcano, therefore he discovered the volcano and he owned the volcano. Therefore, the Melbourne city council and indeed the state government should pay him rent to live on top of his underground volcano. Fun Fact: Australia is the only continent with no active volcanoes.
49. Sole Custody Is Not In Your Stars
Staff Attorney for a judge. Not a divorce but a custody modification hearing. Ex-wife wanted sole L&P custody of the kids because the ex-husband was spending all his money on a palm reader/psychic and refused to pay child support. On cross examination, ex-wife’s attorney got him to admit that he was spending all his discretionary income on this psychic.
He said he had spent over $5,000 on “readings” and other services there. Judges frequently chime in with questions in domestic matters, so my judge asked why he was not paying support as his divorce decree required. His “explanation” was bonkers. He said i) the psychic could “read” that his children were provided for without his money and ii) he would be able to repay the ex when he takes the children to Mexico permanently to “seek great riches” there.
Which my judge read as, “My psychic told me to kidnap my kids.”
50. A Pretty Embarrassing Mix-Up
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…
51. It Hits The Fan
I worked at my local district attorney’s office as a prosecutor when I was freshly minted lawyer. We had a special setting trial on a case that had been reset too many times. The week before, it became clear that this particular case was going to finally be tried. I was ready at the State’s table waiting for defense counsel when he walks in and tells me he’s going to ask for a continuance.
I’m pretty sure I laughed, thinking that it was never going to happen. So the judge walks in angry that he has to sit through another continuance request. Meanwhile, I get the aroma of something foul in the courtroom and I can’t place where it’s coming from. The judge asks the defense attorney why he needs another continuance and the defense attorney pulls out his briefcase and opens it. Its contents almost made me vomit.
He pulls out a ziplock bag with soiled underwear inside. Turns out he defecated his pants that morning in court. He was an elderly attorney and was taking stool softeners. The continuance was granted, and in fact, the entire courtroom shut down for the day to allow maintenance time to clean and shampoo the seats he was sitting on.
52. A Speedy Trial
My stepmother took a case involving alleged workplace racism, where an African American woman was offended by a man making a joke about “African and European swallows” in response to someone’s question about swallows. According to my stepmother, she literally had to buy and play clips from a VHS copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in court to show the woman that it was just a Monty Python reference.
Luckily, the guy she accused won, and our family got to keep the VHS tape.
53. The Super Computer
I run a consumer advocacy firm, and I had a client come in and tell me that he bought a product, and the company refused to honor the warranty after the product broke. I asked for details, and he just started screaming in my face, asking if I was going to take his money or not. I decided then that I wasn’t taking him on as a client, but I wanted to know what was going on.
I convinced him to tell me what happened. His explanation made my jaw drop. Turns out, he bought a computer back in the 1990s. It had just recently stopped working. But not because it was old, oh no. It was slow, so he picked it up and threw it out of a two-story window. And then he wanted to sue the manufacturer for breaking warranty.
54. Not A Good Place To Lie About Your Priors
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, if he never sped. Ever? The driver was adamant that he never sped and never had before.
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?” He looked down, “………… speeding.” The driver had to pay medical bills for my sister.
55. A Convenient Truth
I’ve been a lawyer for 12 years. One of my clients was charged with “stealing a mobile toilet.” After we won, he told me he actually did it, and still owns it. The dingus had the thing in his backyard because he was lazy and his office was nearby. I forced him to deliver it back that night…I’m still offended that he lied to me the whole time.
56. The Revenge Of The Ex
My client let his ex-girlfriend—they weren’t married—live in his house with her new boyfriend until her child’s school year ended. Very reasonable and understanding as heck. All in the child’s interest—who is not his child, by the way. My client was rich and bought and paid for everything they needed on top of all that other generosity.
Finally, the ex and the kid move out. When we arrived at the house, there was nothing to see. She dug up half the spruce hedge with her new boyfriend. Half is hers she said, since they planted them together. They probably burned it, because we found some branches in a barrel behind the house, where there was clearly burnt something. House was cleaned out. They took even the spoons and carpets.
57. The Good Wife
Summer of 2018, I get work regarding what seemed from the client’s description—a pretty drawn out and messy divorce case. The husband was my client, and he made it seem, very adamantly, that his soon to be ex-wife was after his every penny. Given; he appeared to have a fairly high paying job, it looked like a pretty common type of case, the city I work in has many instances of this, it has a high cost of living and a lot of well-paid working professionals in private industry.
He was a very well spoken, amicable guy in his late 50s, and truly seemed like he’d been taken by surprise and betrayed by his soon to be ex-wife. When I actually got to the case, however, I was basically floored. His wife was a working professional as well (worked in government), they’d been married for over twenty years and had two kids together, and a paid off house.
Before taxes he made almost three times what she did, not counting his stock options, and yet she’d contributed equally to their mortgage on every home they’d owned over the course of the marriage. By all accounts, despite a vast difference in income, she’d carried her weight, raised two kids, and worked full time during the entirety of the marriage.
She could have easily raked him over the coals in the divorce if it had gone to court. Instead, it seemed like she’d done everything she possibly could to not have him subjected to that. This divorce had been ongoing for five years before he hired me, and it was basically him looking a gift horse in the mouth over and over, a constant renegotiation on the contract they’d both signed initially, with him skimping on alimony and then debating on lesser terms.
He was basically given an inch and tried to take a mile, dragging it out for so long that per divorce law it had to go to court. I almost suspect he did so as a way to try and drag her through the mud, though he may have genuinely been that delusional. I consider it a win only because his ex-wife was adamant about only wanting what was somewhat fair, and for it to be over because of the strain it was having on the family.
Per the contract he owed her, there was about 50,000 in backpay, but she was content with 15,000, which was less than this guy made in a month. I did regret the “win” though, because she seemed like a very nice woman with the patience of a saint, while almost all of his anger towards her seemed to come from a wounded ego.
58. A Promise Is A Promise
Not a lawyer, but I have a pretty ridiculous and tragic story from my own family. So, my grandfather promised my cousin when he was a kid that if he ever needed help in life, he would help him. You know, pretty standard grandpa stuff. Well, my cousin went to college at the University of Virginia and after that, he wanted to go to law school.
He didn’t have enough money to attend, so he sued my grandfather on the basis that my grandfather had promised him “anything.” My grandfather didn’t want to go to court, so he just settled. It was all very sad and I haven’t seen my cousin in over five years.
59. Cover Up
I convicted a father for killing his wife. Then, years later I found out the awful truth. It turns out that the father was lying when he confessed. He was actually covering for his teenage son, who actually been the one who attacked the mother. In the years between the conviction and my discovery, the son committed suicide and the father was content to serve his time in prison.
60. The Cat’s Meow
My dad is an in-house lawyer for a major American insurance company. He once spent an entire year trying to help deny insurance benefits for a painter who had stepped off his ladder onto a cat, fallen down the stairs, and become paralyzed. The insurance company was arguing that a cat was a commonly expected occupational hazard for a painter.
As a result, they claimed he was negligent in not checking for cats before stepping down. A whole year of his life. Over whether a cat is a known occupational hazard of house painting.
61. No Lesson Learned
In one of my first cases after passing the bar exam, a young man retained me on a drunk driving charge. No one was hurt, but he totalled his car. During trial, the officer testified that my client was clearly wasted at the scene of the accident, and that my client was loudly blaming the accident on the idiot who took his car, crashed it, and then fled before law enforcement arrived.
However, according to two other witness statements, my client’s friend (the passenger) was the one blaming a mystery stranger, not my client. The officer must have confused the two men during his testimony. This discrepancy raised a reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind, so she acquitted my client. Looking back, I wish she hadn’t.
At the time, the acquittal was somewhat unexpected for me. In my personal view, my client was clearly responsible for the accident, regardless of who was blaming the mystery idiot to the officers. But I was happy my young client got off, no one was hurt, and lessons were learned. And I was quite euphoric to have won my first big case.
The regret? About a month after the acquittal, my young client called me at 3 am from the local detainment center saying, “It’s me again! The authorities got me again! Can you help me?” Not only did I answer no, I instantly regretted getting the earlier acquittal. My client apparently didn’t learn any lessons…
62. The Worst Of The Worst
Lawyer and dog enthusiast here. During law school, I had the opportunity to work under a special license for the public defender in my city. Like in most cities, they were grossly understaffed and overworked, so I got to do an actual misdemeanor trial. The client that I had to accept—honestly, was forced to accept—was a woman who killed two puppies by neglect.
She left them in a cage outside, in February, with no food or water, then she called animal control to get them. I couldn’t look at this person without feeling utter disgust. It did not help that she had a mustache and a dead tooth. I asked her why she waited so long to call animal control, thinking that she should’ve called before so they could have been saved.
She replied “I don’t like dogs.” I had to defend this woman as the first person I ever represented. She took a decent plea. When it was concluded, she thanked me and tried to shake my hand. I just gave her a look and left.
63. Twenty Years
I prosecuted a murder case. 21-year-old kid starts dating an older guy’s ex-girlfriend. The older guy, a real biker dude, was going all over his small town talking about how he was going to kick the kid’s butt. The older guy sends some inappropriate pictures of the ex while he’s getting rowdy at a bar, so the kid says something smart in response. Older guy comes to the kid’s house to fight him.
The kid shoots him once, and the older guy doesn’t survive. Jury didn’t buy self-defense or castle doctrine. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Twenty years. Burned up his appeals with no luck. I have a son about the kid’s age. I could totally imagine him doing the exact same things if he were in a similar situation. It’s going to haunt me forever. No doubt about it. Started thinking about other jobs the moment the verdict came back.
64. Big Hearts, Bigger Stomachs
I recently had a case settle where my client was so obviously lying it was painful. He was in a fender bender and said he was too disabled to drive, or to work at the office as a result. He then claimed that his employer fired him after he had been on disability leave for almost a year. Some really big claims. A few months after filing, we made a ruinous discovery.
He played in a national, amateur, full-contact football league and there was footage of him getting tackled, endzone dancing, and tackling during the time he claimed he was too hurt to sit at a desk. Even when I confronted him on it, he claimed he hadn’t played while he was injured—despite having a stat line and footage of him playing from games dated on days he was supposedly getting physical therapy.
We didn’t settle for as much as most of my cases, but he still walked away with like $20k. I’m happy to be a plaintiff’s attorney for the most part because my clients have typically been wronged but he was such a bald-faced liar it really made me angry.
65. Taking Its Toll
As a former employment lawyer, I defended a company in a lawsuit in which their employee had an accident, lost her left leg, and had the left side of her body covered in burn scars—with the company at fault. The case was more or less like this. This lady worked at a toll booth on a highway. Whenever she needed to go to the toilet, she’d have to close the toll and change the sign lights to red so no one would go through that toll.
Unfortunately, due to lack of maintenance, one day, the lights did not change. The results were catastrophic. As the lady was crossing the road, a car ran her over and dragged her for 10 excruciating meters. After defending this case and this horrible company, I realized that I no longer wanted to do this kind of work. I dropped everything and quit the week after.
66. Spinal Injury
I shadowed on a personal injury case. Their client was drinking in one of our guy’s bars and gets wasted, becomes abusive to staff and then storms out, falling down the stairs. This resulted in a C6 ASIA B incomplete spinal injury—a severe loss of mobility and sensation. His people sue, and we force them to accept contributory negligence and personal liability.
He gets an okay payout that covers his lawyer’s fees and immediate needs and is left disabled. Even if it was seen to be his fault it was still hard thinking that his life will never be the same just because of one rowdy night. Spinal injury care is massively expensive and the money he received wouldn’t be sufficient for his whole life.
67. Little Girl Lost
A woman wanted her daughter’s custody. We used the state preference about custody going to the mother (judge bias), her improved economic situation, and some minor garbage like the daughter’s grades and discipline problems at school to discredit the dad. Not even a month after we won, the mother calls and says she had a ”problem.”
Then she explains the ”problem” was that her boyfriend forced himself on the girl, and after that she had the gall to ask that we pick up HIS defense. It was one of the things that made me want to quit government work.
68. Dog Days
Family law is a little different, in that you never really “win” a case per se. You may get more favorable rulings or better terms, but unless the opposing party did something mindbogglingly stupid it’s never a decisive “win” really. Although I did have a case where my client fought really hard for the dog, and then ended up turning him over to a shelter. Freaking jerk. The ex-wife received an “anonymous” tip and was able to get him back quickly.
69. Rotten To The Core
I worked in defense and represented a guy who had been driving while impaired. Long story short, he was pulled over by law enforcement after they followed him leaving a bar. At trial, I got the one of the officers to admit that during the 2.5 miles he followed my client for, he did not observe a single moving violation—no speeding, erratic driving, driving over the lines, blowing stop signs, running red lights. He didn’t even “stop suddenly” at red lights.
I also got the DRE officer to testify that the accused only spoke Spanish and they couldn’t get an interpreter officer to the roadside to explain the field sobriety exercises, which the officers documented the accused “refused to perform.” Jury came back in 15 minutes. The guy was extremely grateful, and his lovely family was very gracious in thanking me and our office. Felt good about the whole thing. Then everything went so, so wrong.
A couple months later, I’m in the county to meet with a client, and I see him in one of the pods. I find out that sometime after the trial he inappropriately touched his 8-year-old step-daughter. I think about that case a lot.
70. Archaic Jury
I worked very closely on a case where the client had brutally forced themselves on their spouse. It was clear from the beginning that the client was mentally unstable and very capable of doing this same type of thing again. We ended up winning because the victim was a young woman, her demeanor during the trial was atrocious, and the jury was all older men. Awful.
71. Doubtful Justice
I had a divorce case where I represented a wife who was livid because her husband left her for another woman. The wife reported that their young daughter made a comment about something that could be interpreted as inappropriate touching by her father, the husband. The only conceivable corroboration about the comment would have come from the daughter’s testimony.
However, the daughter was so young that her credibility would be suspect, and nobody wanted to put her through the ordeal of testifying against her father. There was no possibility of prosecuting the father, because there was no other evidence that he’d mistreated the daughter. But the wife pushed for sole custody and insisted that the father would only get supervised visitations for the next year.
We/she won. I’ll never know for sure what happened between the father and daughter, but the more I think about in retrospect, the more I doubt that justice was served.
72. Telling Tattoo
I helped a man regain visitation of his child after a year or so behind bars. I thought I was a great humanitarian. Oh, the hubris that comes from being a baby attorney! As we were having a chinwag after court, waiting for his ride, he showed me his tattoo: a giant symbol to show his dedication to the White Resistance. I’m a blue-eyed blonde, so I guess he thought I was down with the cause. I went home and threw up.
73. Phoning It In
I once represented an insurance company in an awful case. A man had a brain injury due to a car accident, and passed six months later. His family sued my client. I’ve never seen a lazier effort on behalf of a plaintiff. His firm immediately handed the case over to a junior associate. She barely did anything with it. We had settlement negotiations but they were way too high considering the lack of any medical evidence they had to link his demise to the car accident.
It probably was related, but you can’t walk into court with that argument and no evidence to support it. That seemed to be their plan. On the eve of trial, I told the other side’s lawyer to accept the settlement but she refused. I told her she would lose because I was going to get all of her “evidence” thrown out. Still, they went to trial.
The partner that was supposed to be there with her, but he didn’t show up because his dog was sick. No joke. As I predicted, all of her evidence was thrown out. The family was sobbing as the case devolved. In the end, my firm won but I didn’t feel great about it. The judge was appalled. I’m sure the firm was sued for malpractice. The young associate got fired within weeks.
74. Cashing Out
I settled a personal injury case for a guy and he was set to get about $5,000. He was behind bars at the time. I held the money for a couple months and when he got out, he came by to get the money without delay. The next day, the authorities came around and asked if I knew him. I explained that I did. I was told he passed that night of an overdose and the only thing found on him was my card, some substances he had not yet used, and a needle.
75. Caught Red-Booted
This wasn’t my case, but in docket court one morning, the accused wore a pair of very unique custom made red cowboy boots…taken from the house he was accused of robbing. He wore them. To court. To plead not guilty. The prosecutor was laughing.
76. Saw Situation
When my uncle was a young personal injury lawyer and had to take all the cases assigned to him, he had a client who was drinking with his neighbors on someone’s front porch. It was a spontaneous get together and he got quite toasted. The client starts talking about his amazing new portable saw he just bought. He brings it out to demonstrate, propping up a board against the porch stair and his thigh. He proceeds to cut himself so badly that his genitals were hanging on by a thread.
So, my relative has this guy in to chat, and he says he wants to sue the whole world: the maker of the saw, the store that sold it and the neighbor whose porch he was on. He unexpectedly drops his pants right then and there to show the damage. He refused to accept any blame for it. And I always thought lawyers had boring jobs.
77. The Self-Fulfilling Defense
Currently studying law. One of my tutors told me about a case he had while working for the state, where the defendant tried to claim that being an orphan had given him severe PTSD and mental illness and he was unfit to stand trial for what he had done. Unfortunately, he was on trial for murdering his parents, so it didn’t really fly.
78. The Power Of Money
We settled a case for several million dollars for a girl’s father, who passed. The mother, who was divorced from the father, tried every way possible to get the money, but it was placed into a blocked account until the girl turned 18 years old. The DAY she turned 18, mom told her they were going to transfer the money to a “better account.”
Mom transferred it to her own account and fled the country WITHOUT the daughter. Screwed her own kid over for money, and essentially made her kid an orphan. Money does horrible things to people.
79. Sleight Of Hand
As a public defender, I defended a grown man accused of taking magic cards from Wal-Mart. There was an hour-long security video meticulously showing, from dozens of angles, that he was picking up sets of cards, unwrapping them, and discarding the wrappers around the store. He insisted that he was innocent, and we actually went to a jury trial instead of securing a plea deal. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
It took the jury just eight minutes to convict him, and the judge laid into my client, telling him that he was the worst thief he had ever seen. The best part? At one point in the trial, I had to spend no fewer than 45 minutes explaining to the judge what Magic Cards even are. He couldn’t understand why anyone would need more than one deck.
80. The Other Shoe Drops
I worked in a big firm, and we had a potential client who once needed to access something on a high shelf when she was at work. Instead of using the step that was provided, she took it upon herself to take her shoes off, then stand on her chair to reach the shelf. She forgot about her own shoes on the way down and tripped over them. She then tried to blame her employers. That’s not how it works, love.
81. A White Lie
I used to work in matrimonial law, which is the worst practice area of them all. You see fairly reasonable, reasonably good people reduced to the worst of themselves in every aspect. They’re emotionally distraught, seeking vengeance, have wounded pride, etc. This one guy was an executive at a big company in NYC. He was faithful (supposedly) to his first wife of 40 years, cared for her through sickness, and then her passing.
He had a grown son. He then became addicted to strip clubs—he spent something like $10-20k a month at them—and met a girl there who he eventually impregnated and then married, with pre-nup. She had two kids with him; he reduced his club spending to $50k a year. Apparently, she suspected him of being unfaithful with one of her co-workers, so she filed for divorce.
She claimed he was an unfit parent, and he claimed the same. The guy was not attractive, though he kept himself well-groomed. He was also in his 70s! I don’t understand, maybe he was just a dollar sign to the woman. In any case, one day while discussing his pre-nup, we had to ask: “Did you cheat on her?” because that would nullify the pre-nup.
“No,” He says. We respond, “Come on. We need to know all the information before we can proceed.” We needle him for an HOUR on this…and then he says, “Well yeah, the one time.” That was it. By the way, his wife wanted to break the pre-nup—which afforded her $7-10k a month for child care needs alone—and make him pay upwards of $25k/month to her. Glad to be out of that practice area.
82. A Very Particular Craving
The client wanted to sue because there were no strawberries in her fruit salad when she bought it from a supermarket. Thankfully, my secretary was able to screen the call. She asked if the package said it had strawberries, and the response was, “No, but I thought it would have.” I don’t know how these people manage to make it through life.
83. Suffering For His Art
Back when I was doing appeals, I had to argue that the rap lyrics my client wrote while sitting behind bars awaiting extradition to face murder charges were inadmissible for First Amendment reasons. The guy had written a fairly detailed song essentially describing him performing the act he was ultimately convicted of, all while he was waiting to be tried for it.
I don’t know what he was thinking. I made a “but this is art!” argument, which was actually kind of cool because I did a lot of interesting research and it’s a hot-button topic these days. Regardless, I lost.
84. Same Difference
To this day this case amazes me. As a first-year associate, I was given a terrible insurance case where my client received a flu shot and thereafter felt pain in his shoulder. He went to another doctor who performed an MRI and determined that he had a torn rotator cuff. Even though these things were almost certainly not related, my job was to argue that the shot caused the rotator cuff tear.
Even so, our doctor witness somehow connected the two and the case paid out. Being the bottom of the totem pole, I had no choice but to take the case—which was handed down by a partner. But at the same time, it just overwhelmingly made me feel like the worst stereotyped attorney. I hated having to walk into court with such a corrupt argument. I could feel my reputation being destroyed in real time.
85. Living In Sin
My client in a divorce had OCD which manifested primarily financially, so he made his ex-wife’s life a penny-pinching nightmare. Examples: he was obsessed with avoiding unnecessary driving (wear and tear on the car, gas expenses), so he cut the whole family’s hair at home and never let them eat at a restaurant or go to the movies.
But here’s the weirdest part of them all: he kept one toilet paper roll on him at all times, and you had to get one square from him before you could go to the bathroom. He never gave more than one square. Wife finally got fed up and left him when 1) he gave her bangs during an in-home haircut and 2) their daughter was so traumatized by the toilet paper thing they couldn’t potty train her.
Also: he HATED paying his divorce lawyer bill. He was also an old-fashioned mega-Catholic who considered divorce a deadly sin. He viewed my whole job as an unnecessary (and sinful) expense.
86. Sure Bud, I Believe You
I’m a law librarian in a big law school. This was years ago, before the Internet. A man used to call the reference desk all the time with odd questions about currency and laws related to it. He claims he is an author and is writing a book about how aliens are going to come to Earth and take over by manipulating our currency system.
He has all kinds of questions about the money. Shows up in person one day, and looks like something out of central casting: Odd fitting green suit, grey hair that is wild and looks like it has not been combed since Nixon was in power, glasses, and an agitated demeanor. I spent an entire afternoon explaining why there is no information on how to make fake money.
87. The Oldest Trick In The Book
I’m currently representing a sweet old lady on a case. I’ll be sparse with the details in case anyone figures out who I am. Long story short, this lady’s neighbor convinces her that her house is basically unsellable, that her house requires all sorts of repairs, the repairs to the house would bankrupt her, and that she should just sell the house. To him.
He shows up at her house the next day with documents to sign. She has no idea what’s going on. Doesn’t read anything (actually has an eye condition) and signs everything. When she finally sees a lawyer to close the deal, he says you can’t do this. You see, the price of the transaction was about 36% of what the house is actually worth and there weren’t any repairs that needed to be done that would justify the price.
Not kidding, it was stuff like fixing a faucet in the bathroom. Also, she didn’t understand that she would have nowhere to live afterward. Old lady thought she could just stay in the house for the rest of her life. To make matters worse, she’s living off a modest pension and the other side is suing for the house and everything she’s got.
They’re essentially trying to get her to cave because her fees are getting exorbitant. I hate people—but this guy is a special kind of evil. If it went to trial, she’d to have to spend a lot of money. Money she doesn’t have. She has an eye condition (uveitis), but it isn’t bad enough to qualify as a defence. At the time, she was driving.
She’s a terrible witness. Her evidence is all over the place. When she was examined (deposed for you Americans) she denies being taken advantage of. Not great for our position. In Ontario, where I practice, contracts for the purchase of real estate don’t have to be notarized. Thankfully though, we literally just settled this afternoon, so my client can live in peace. In a little more debt than before, but nothing that will bankrupt her.
88. Message Received
I remember a guy called me and wanted to take action against the Post Office. He had received a letter from them saying that they would no longer deliver packages to him, as he was never “appropriately” dressed when he opened the door to accept them. I remember being nervous about asking him to elaborate…so I didn’t.
89. Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth
I interned at a law office, and this client came in to consult with my boss. They owned a horse farm in the country, and their sister had ridden one of the horses off the farm and into swampy, bogish territory off the beaten path. This client was utterly set on suing the sister for “decreasing the value of her horse” and wanted to sue her for $500 of damaged goods. Just….$500.
My boss just kind of sat there and stared at her. Being the good guy he is, he told her, “Miss, it’s going to cost you more than $500 in fees, you’d be better off doing this in small claims court. But I wouldn’t recommend that either, as the judge will likely throw out the case.” The client was vehement on suing her sister in court with an attorney to “Teach her a lesson that she can’t just ride off on other people’s horses without permission.”
My boss told her there was no way in good faith that he could assist with this lawsuit.
90. Pot, Meet Kettle
I’m a defense social worker. I had a client who ran three red lights on a very busy street, knocked over an officer, drove up on the sidewalk, and was finally dragged out of his car in a parking lot. He wanted us to refer him to a civil attorney to sue the city because an officer was too rough with him during his arrest. I mean, I get it. They were probably rough with him. But good luck with that lawsuit.
91. Doctor’s Defense
I work in medical malpractice defense. Once I had an obstetrician who burned a patient during a procedure. For the next 16 months, whenever I met with the doctor, he lied to me, saying he had no idea how it happened. But the patient came in without a burn, and after the procedure, the patient left with a burn exactly where the doctor had been operating.
There’s no way this doctor didn’t know what had happened. It wasn’t until I brought up settlement, because by that point, I knew we weren’t going to win, that he finally admitted, “Oh maybe I do know what happened.” We ultimately settled that case, but sometimes I think this doctor really ought to have lost both the lawsuit and their license.
92. Creative Uncommon
I was working in a firm and got a call from reception advising that someone had arrived and needed some intellectual property advice. I arrived at reception to find a clearly disturbed woman with a persistent facial twitch and a small, wheeled suitcase. I took her to a conference room to discuss, making sure I kept a good line of sight to reception.
She put the suitcase on the table and opened it to reveal a stack of thousands of handwritten pages and one half of a pair of scissors. She explained that she had written a manuscript about how the city council gave her schizophrenia and hepatitis, aliens took her pets, and that it was all part of a bigger conspiracy involving the army and the Illuminati.
She was worried that our local newspaper was going to take her thoughts and publish her manuscript without her consent, and wanted to register the copyright in her manuscript. We then had a perfectly rational and reasonable discussion about copyright laws. I explained that in our jurisdiction, she didn’t need to register it and that she had rights as an author automatically on the creation of the work.
I told her the most useful thing she could do is ensure she had evidence of her creative work, and that she should send a digital copy to herself and a friend, and also leave a copy with a friend. That way if it was published without her consent, she could prove it was her work. We spoke for nearly an hour, she thanked me and then left.
She got free advice, and I didn’t get punctured with a scissor. I hope she found the help she needs.
93. Physical Rehab
A guy lost his wife and children in a car accident. He wanted to exercise to get his emotions and mental health back in check. The doctor wrote him recommendations for exercise equipment and he submitted the expenses for the same to his insurer. My client (the insurer) wanted this fought tooth and nail because exercise equipment was only covered for physical rehab and technically, the man was not physically injured.
I do not practice in this area anymore.
94. No Rest For The Wicked
I was representing the government at a social benefits tribunal. The applicant was an autistic man who was struggling to make ends meet, but was trying his absolute best to contribute everything he could to society. He had a job where his manager was very accommodating and was a very sympathetic person. He just wanted the extra cash to make his life a little easier for himself.
Sadly, he didn’t qualify for the benefit, but I think he deserved it. My closing argument was that no matter how much we empathized with this man, no matter how deserving we thought he was, he simply didn’t qualify and the tribunal had to apply the law. He was unsuccessful, and when I left the building to head back to my office, he was just sitting outside on the curb crying. That image has stuck with me for a few years. Pretty heartbreaking.
That was the lowest point in my career and I have moved on. It’s really important to remember that mental health in my line of work is a very real issue that is hurting people. There aren’t sufficient supports in place to help people like me and many others who find themselves in positions like this.
95. Jesus Walks
I had a potential client come in and say that he wanted to sue his uncle for murder. Setting aside the fact that you can’t sue someone for “murder,” I asked him whom did his uncle murder. He replied “Me.” I turned the case down.
96. I Haven’t Got You, Babe
I used to work in “baby daddy” court as a caseworker. This guy kept telling me, the mother of the child, and anyone who would listen that the baby was NOT his. When they went before the judge, the judge confirmed through DNA testing that he wasn’t the dad. Dude turned around and ripped off his jacket. His undershirt said “NOT THE FATHER!”
97. I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
This was unbelievable. My co-worker’s girlfriend filed for divorce a few weeks ago. That’s right, girlfriend. They aren’t married, and common-law doesn’t apply in my state. They lived together for five years. She has a job. She isn’t on the mortgage. And she left him a few months ago. There are no kids involved. They were never engaged.
In the “divorce,” she wants him to leave his house and she wants to be the one to move back in. She also wants him to pay her $2,800 a month for some reason. I referred him to my divorce attorney, and now that attorney is probably going to represent him. The chick is nuts. She has already tried to get a restraining order against him that was dismissed.
98. Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold
The wife cheated on her husband during his frequent travels for work. She was the one who filed for divorce, and she got to keep the house. Months elapse and the husband is still furious, rightfully so, but has no recourse. Then he has an epiphany: “I wonder if she changed the password to the Nest Thermostat?” She did not.
For the next year, he continues to mess with the thermostat. In the middle of summer when they’re sleeping in HIS bed, he turns the heat on to 90 degrees at 3 AM. Middle of winter? Time to shut off the heat and hope the pipes freeze. Away on vacation? Turn the air conditioning down to 55 and let it run 24/7 for a nice surprise bill when they get home.
99. Restraining Order Backfire
A wife filed for a restraining order because she wanted the house during her divorce. The husband has a good job, like $200k per year. The employer finds out about the restraining order and fires the husband. He was a very specialized employee, so the only job he can find close to the house and his daughter is $50k. Ooh boy, did this not go well.
The house gets foreclosed. Child support is set at less than $500 per month. The wife has to get a job as a waitress.
100. Conflict Of Interest
My parents are both attorneys. Most recently, their crazy neighbor asked my dad to serve as his attorney in a slip and fall suit…against my parents. He had come over unannounced and uninvited at 6AM on a snowy morning and fell down our driveway. My dad was the one who helped him up and called the ambulance on his behalf.
The next day, crazy neighbor dropped off documents in my parents’ mailbox for my dad to look over to see if he had a case…against my dad. And this is why I hate people.
101. Doing His Duty
This girl spent almost the entire case berating the guy she claimed was the father of her baby, having people analyze genetic similarities between the child and the “father,” and going on about how this was all ridiculous because she hadn’t been with anybody else in years. The judge finally looked over at the guy and asked him if he had anything to say in his defense since he had just been standing there quietly while taking this verbal assault from his ex-girlfriend.
He motioned to show that he had a folder of paperwork. The bailiff took it up to the judge, who looked it over and then immediately dismissed the case in the guy’s favor. It is then explained that he had been actively deployed by the military for the past four years, and wasn’t even in the country at the time that the baby was conceived.