A career in law can be hard work. Lawyers have to deal with the unruliest of clients, constantly stay up to date with the rules of law, and endure long hours of argument in the courthouse. That being said, there come times in all of our lives when instead of lemons, life is generous enough to give us pre-made, sweet, delectable lemonade. In the case of our lucky lawyers below, the opposition was dumb enough to accidentally prove their cases for them. Hear, hear, as we divulge disorder in the court, with these stories of auspicious attorneys who happened upon dense disputants.
1. Arms Up
A witness on the stand was claiming that he had suffered injuries to his arm because of a city bus accident. The lawyer asked him to demonstrate to the jury how far he can lift up his arm after the accident. The witness makes a feeble effort of lifting his arm. Then the lawyer asks the witness to demonstrate to the jury how far he could lift up his arm before the accident. He lifts his arm much higher. The jury laughs. The case is over.
2. Semantics in the Court
I am not a lawyer, but I witnessed a pathologist win a case in court by destroying the defense’s credibility. The question was over whether or not carbon monoxide poisoning 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. So, I guess the opposing counsel screwed himself by not picking up a book.
3. The Foster Sister
My family did foster care for a few years, and we fell in love with the last girl we took in—now my younger sister. She was required to keep in regular touch with her emotionally and physically abusive birth mom, the intention being for them to eventually reunite. This woman was a nightmare come to life. Every single time they interacted, she’d spend the duration painstakingly shredding my sister’s self-confidence.
My parents worked hard to establish a strong rapport and a supportive environment, and she blossomed under their care. She’s one of the most resilient people I know. When the state tried to return her to her mom, she didn’t want to go, so my parents sued (I think? Don’t really know all the legal details) for guardianship.
This seemed like it would be an uphill battle; here we were, a family of random people trying to “steal” a kid from her rightful mom. We were really afraid that she would have to go back, and that her terrible family would systematically undo all the hard work she’d done rebuilding her self-esteem. Fortunately, her dumb mom decided to represent herself at the guardianship hearing.
I wasn’t in the room, but I heard the audio recording later on, and it’s incredible how thoroughly this woman shot herself in the foot. Some highlights: She kept trying to testify while cross-examining people, e.g., “Would it surprise you to learn that blah blah blah?” The judge called her out for this like six separate times and she just kept doing it. She would admit to various incidents of emotional torment, but then try to argue that it was all justified because her daughter was being difficult. She’d ask witnesses, for example, “And wouldn’t you be angry if your daughter did XYZ? Yes or no?”
My personal favorite and the best example of her proving our case: “It is absolutely not true that I hit my daughter with a wooden spoon! I only tried and missed. I’ll prove it, I can show you the mark it left in the doorframe.” Needless to say, we won guardianship. My sister never has to see that awful woman again unless she darn well pleases.
4. The View
I worked as an intern for a lawyer. Construction laws in France are quite strict in regard to the neighboring of historical monuments. The city was denying a permit for heavy modification of the house of our clients. They were arguing that because you could see the house from the church’s bell tower, modifications were impossible.
As support, they “kindly” linked us to a 360° picture from said bell tower. We, also kindly, pointed out that our clients’ house was, indeed, not visible from the top of the church. Building permit was greenlit the following day.
5. The Roofer
Not a lawyer but I am a former Insurance Fraud Investigator. We were at a hearing before the WCB. I had something like 18 hours of video spread over a two-week period of a claimant doing roofing work. The problem, for me, was that the video didn’t get a clear face shot. Normally what we liked to do was get in close, show the face for a positive identification, and then zoom out.
Bonus if the claimant was wearing distinctive clothing that could easily be tied to him. Because of where this guy lived, all I could do was show someone who matched his description getting out of a truck registered to him every morning. He wore a hat, he had a beard, and he had neither at the hearing.
So, the company lawyer is prepping me and basically letting me know to be on point because the claimant’s attorney is almost certainly going to challenge the fact that it is his client in the video. If the video got tossed, the case was lost. About two minutes into the hearing, the claimant’s attorney agrees to stipulate to the fact that it is his client in all of the video. All of it. Our attorney was shocked. That was pretty much the only leg he had to stand on.
The claimant attorney was incredibly smug right after this like it was no big deal. Evidently, his strategy was to show that his client wasn’t really a professional roofer since he was doing the roof the wrong way. He tried to get me to answer questions about roofing, I refused as it was beyond the scope of my work. And he just wouldn’t let it go.
After about an hour of back and forth over this the judge finally said, “Counselor, it doesn’t matter if your client is doing the work well. What matters is that he has stated, numerous times and under oath, that he cannot work. Whether he’s doing it for free, for cash, or for fun has no bearing on the fact that he’s doing roofing work while collecting compensation benefits which he was awarded because he couldn’t do roofing work.”
The guy lost and had to repay a bunch of benefits. After a few of those hearings I began formulating a list of lawyers I would never hire and ones I would absolutely want on my side.
6. A Nice Chap
I had to go to court over a financial fiasco when I was a student. Took advice from the university legal support team who said I didn’t need a solicitor, so I went in alone. The judge didn’t like this and postponed it for another date so I could prove I’d had more counsel first. The other party’s solicitor caught me outside the court and said, “I didn’t tell you this but…” and pointed out a huge error in the financial paperwork that made it very obviously come out in my favor.
Went back to legal support, got confirmation that it was right, went to the second hearing alone and got the entire thing thrown out. The other solicitor winked at me as he left. Saved me about £9K. Nice chap.
7. The Surprise Admission
I am a lawyer who defends a state from injury claims. There was a claim where there was a dispute as to the value of a state employee’s injury. We went to trial to argue the extent of the injury. When the employee takes the stand and is under direct examination by her attorney, she is unable to answer basic questions about her name and address.
Everyone just thought it was nerves, but eventually, the dark truth came out. The employee confesses that she is a convicted felon and she took her sister’s identity to obtain the state job. Judge’s jaw hits the floor and the employee’s attorney just keeps going through his examination like nothing happened. The judge stopped him and had the court reporter read back the testimony.
The employee’s attorney was still oblivious to what happened. The judge recommended the employee drop her case and quit her job immediately. The employee’s attorney wanted to keep going, the judge then told him that his client will drop her case and quit. Case was dropped and she quit that afternoon.
8. The Circumstantial Evidence Case
I had a misdemeanor possession case I was defending. Client was driving his mom’s car. He gets pulled over for playing the stereo too loud. There are pills in the center console. In a prescription pill bottle. The bottle has his mom’s name on it. Client gets busted and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
Case is obviously rubbish but the dumbest DA I’ve ever met in my life won’t dismiss it. We go to trial. During closing arguments, the DA says, “This case is a circumstantial evidence case.” During my closing, I slap the jury instruction on the projector that says if a case is based on circumstantial evidence and there is one factual scenario that points to guilt and one that points to innocence the jury must find in favor of the defendant and acquit.
My client was acquitted.
9. Ineffective Counsel
When I first started, my firm had me on a case where the client claimed he lost due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Basically, he was saying that the old lawyer didn’t do his job. So, we prepare an argument based on not asking the right questions, not communicating, etc. We think it’s going to be a tough case, but not unwinnable.
Then we get the response to our complaint where the old lawyer argues that he was only ineffective because he didn’t have time to prepare for the case and only reviewed it the morning of the original trial. He had known about the case for months, by the way. The judge saw this and during the trial we had essentially asked, “Isn’t this the definition of ineffective counsel? Not giving enough time to your client?” The silence from his side of the court was amazing.
Needless to say, the trial didn’t last much longer than that. Thanks, opposing counsel!
10. The Boat Ticket
I’m not a lawyer, but the opposing party made it easy for us. We were tubing down a small river in rural Ohio. We had only been in the river for a quarter-mile when we get stopped by rangers doing checks on who knows what, probably for people drinking. They stop us, and after 30 minutes, tell us that we have to leave the river, and give us a ticket.
When my dad asks why, they say it is because the “boat” that my four-year-old brother is using is not licensed by the state, and that it does not have the mandatory safety equipment on board; being life jackets, med kit, and fire extinguisher. I’m on mobile so I can’t post a link, but the “boat” is something you get from a Toys R Us for your pool.
Long story short, my dad fights the ticket, and, per their request, brings the “boat” to the courtroom. He said he walked in with the “boat” folded and tucked up under his arm. The judge asked, “Is this the boat in question?” My dad said, “Yes, your honor. If you give me five minutes, I could blow it up for you.” He also went on to say that if the safety equipment was in the “boat,” that it would sink.
He won right then. The court costs were as much as just paying the ticket, but it’s the little things.
11. The Missing Contract
I’m a lawyer. Sued a trucking company for underpayment of wages. They claimed they paid by route and not by the hour (despite doing their payroll by the hour) because they had a USPS sub-contract that supposedly told them to pay by the route. Defense calls the owner of the business to the stand and questions her about the “contract” which is clearly incomplete. She explains that the company gets a new sub-contract every four years, without fail.
On cross, I flip to the first page of the contract and read the date, which is in the spring of 2011.
Q: “Did I read that correctly?” A:” Yes.” Q: “And you get a new contract every four years?” A: “Yes.” Q: “So you got a new one around the same time in 2015?” A: “Yes” Q: “And why you haven’t produced that contract today?” A: “I haven’t seen it in years. But it’s the same thing.” Q: “Where does this contract tell you to pay your drivers by the route?”
When she can’t answer, I follow up with, “And the 2015 contract that we don’t have says the same thing?” My client started working for them at the end of 2015. Their whole argument was based on a contract they couldn’t find. We won.
12. The Expert
I was an attorney for the estate of a husband defending against claims for money by the separate estate of a wife, over proceeds from the sale of a business back in 1996. Both husband and wife died in 2010, and the suit was filed early 2011, then went to trial in 2014. The wife got around 10% of the business in 1996, and the husband got the rest (he had built and operated it for 35 years prior to marriage and sold it seven years into the marriage).
The whole case hinged on whether the valuation of the business in 1996 was reasonable or not. We say, “You can’t value a business 15 years later with all the documents gone and all the main people in the business dead or missing.” They say they have enough info to show the 1996 valuation should have been higher.
Opposing counsel gets a big-time expert to testify that the business sold for $45M based on a valuation, but should have sold for $70M and the husband hid $25M in real estate in the transaction. We get that testimony and then realize the 1996 valuation of the business was done by the same expert. This is the absolutely most perfect Catch-22 I have ever seen!
So now we ask, “Okay, so was your valuation wrong in 1996 or is it wrong now?” Expert says his 1996 valuation was right based on the information he had in 1996, but his valuation now is more correct. Which then bears the question “What information do you have now that you didn’t have in 1996?” Answer: “I don’t know, I don’t have my file from 1996. Nobody keeps documents that long.” And despite this lack of records, his valuation is somehow more correct now…
Judge basically said the expert was talking out of both sides of his butt and we won.
13. The Law of the Streets
When I first started practicing, I handled a custody case where my client (mom) had a problem with dad smoking around the kids. I asked him if he regularly smoked around the kids, to which he replied he only smoked pot in the house. Obviously, this raised eyebrows as it is against the law in my state. He then went into a long diatribe about how he only follows the “law of the streets” (he actually said this) and doesn’t recognize the authority of the court he was currently in front of.
Needless to say, Mom got full custody—especially after dad was busted for going to the court services officer’s house late at night and trying to kick her door in.
14. Phony Prescriptions
My public defender wife was trying a case where the defendant was accused of filing fraudulent prescriptions. Now keep in mind, PDs deal with a lot of shady characters who maintain their innocence with increasingly implausible stories as the evidence gets worse; so, you can get a bit jaded after a while, but you don’t have to believe your client’s story to represent them vigorously.
So, the prosecution has grainy surveillance video of someone who looks like the defendant getting the prescription filled and the ID used to fill it, which belongs to the defendant. Defendant maintains that someone took his ID and is using it because they look similar, but never reported the ID as stolen. My wife is skeptical that the jury will go for that, but she’s always willing to go to trial if that’s what the client wants, so preps that defense and heads into trial.
Prosecutor brings in the pharmacist who reported the prescription issue, goes through the usual routine of establishing who she is, where she works, was this the ID used that day, etc. Finally, the prosecutor asks the pharmacist if the person who attempted to fill the prescription that day is in the courtroom…
15. Complaining Counsel
My opposing counsel made some off the cuff remarks about how their client had to go to another remote office to get all the records they wanted to use against my client. That let me know the witness they were trying to use to introduce the records as evidence wasn’t actually familiar with the records or the records keeping process.
In the jurisdiction we were in, records were an exception to the hearsay rule, but you needed someone familiar with the creation and maintenance of the records to get them admitted. I attacked the witness’ qualifications to get the records admitted and ended up getting the records excluded. I then made a motion for a directed verdict on the grounds they couldn’t prove the case without the records and won.
All because the opposing counsel complained that their witnesses had to go way out of their way to get records for the court.
16. The Proud Prisoner
Not my case, but I was in the courtroom watching a trial. It was a pro se defendant who was accused of flashing a guard and pleasuring himself in front of her. As a pro se defendant, he defended himself at trial without an attorney. Prosecutor was doing well proving the case. When the female deputy was on the stand, the defendant asked her one question, “If you saw me do what you claim I did, then how big is my dong?”
The deputy responded by raising her hands and estimated about 15 inches. The guy grinned, turned to the jury, nodded, and said “Yeah, that’s right,” and sat down. Obviously, he was convicted. He was doing a 10-year prison sentence so this conviction wasn’t of much consequence, but I’ll never forget it.
17. Always Read the Fine Print
I had a hearing where the opposing party offered an “updated” contract that my client supposedly signed. Except it was a horrible copy and barely readable. Then he assured the judge that the new contract was exactly the same as the old contract, except for the party name at the top (the original contract was in his mom’s name, the new one in his name) and the date of the contract itself. He made that assurance multiple times.
After he exhausted himself saying how everything was the same, I then pointed out to the judge that half the provisions were different and that my client had never signed that form. The judge asked if we were really accusing him of forging my client’s signature, since that’s a serious accusation. I held up the guy’s prior conviction and said, “I absolutely am, your honor.”
We won. Hands down. No further argument needed.
18. Check the Footage
My dad is a lawyer. It’s happened several times that the defendant submits or provides video evidence of assault or unlawful detainment, but assumes it will go unnoticed in 50+ hours of footage. My dad watches everything. He got a multimillion-dollar settlement from a major casino after pointing out a moment that proved to be video doctoring.
There was a car one too…He had a bunch of recordings and found a spot in the recording, submitted by the other side, where they are discussing what they need to show and how they will prove it. He played the recording in court as a surprise. They had nothing to say and he won after like four days of back and forth. I believe you have to get to a point where that evidence would come up, that’s why he couldn’t start there.
My dad is awesome.
19. Tree Confusion
Ooh, I’ve got one. I was about five years old when this happened, but my parents explained it years later. There were a series of trees on the sidewalk in front of each house on the street. Although the one in front of my parent’s house was not part of our yard, the tree was owned by my parents and they were responsible for it. Some guy “tripped” over a branch and was “seriously injured”. He came after my parents for all of the money.
The dude showed up with a mountain of evidence. Hospital bills, psychologist testimonials, a photo montage of his slow and painful recovery, etc. Apparently, his lawyer brandished this stuff like a bat before court. My parents’ lawyer thought he had a good case. Until the first day of court, when the opposing counsel walked over with a picture and asked, “Is this your tree?”
My parents looked at the photo in disbelief. “No…That’s actually not our tree.” The opposing counsel repeated the question. It went back and forth a few times until my parents’ lawyer incredulously produced a picture of their tree, which was, even to the untrained eye, a completely different tree. At that point, the opposing counsel whirled around and started screaming at his client, “YOU SAID THAT WAS THEIR TREE!” Case summarily dismissed. My parents walked out in shock, came home, and bought me ice cream. All’s well that ends well.
20. On the Chopping Block
Plaintiff was claiming insurance money because he accidentally chopped off his fingers while cutting bamboo with a machete, and the insurance company (our client) refused to pay the insured amount. During the hearing, the plaintiff’s attorney began to demonstrate with a rolled-up sheet of paper how his client was cutting the bamboo when the accident happened.
No matter how he tried, he could not reproduce the position of the fingers with the alleged cut of the machete. The only possible match would be if the plaintiff had deliberately extended his fingers over a plain surface and hacked his own fingers. Based on this disastrous performance, the judge determined an expert opinion and later dismissed the case due to deliberate self-mutilation.
21. Lovely Landlord
My parents were being sued by their landlord, and parents had a countersuit against him. Parents were moving across country and found this house to rent. They did a walkthrough, looks great. Landlord wants first, last, security, and $1,500 because they had a dog and two cats. Fine. It was somewhere in the $8,000-9,000 range, no big deal for them.
They are set to move in on a Monday, so my mom flies in on Saturday, to do one final look over, sign the contract, and get the key. Perfect, they are now the tenants. Monday, they arrive and the house is freaking trashed. Like seriously, I can barely explain how horrible it was. The landlord has moved a bunch of his stuff into the garage, shed, and one of the bedrooms.
There’s poop in the toilet, pee on the floor, garbage laying everywhere, and used condoms. I can’t really do this justice, but my mom took pictures and videos, throughout the entire house. She calls the landlord and tells him that they are not moving in with the house in this condition. He tells her to clean the house, and he’ll buy the first tank of oil for the house (it was empty). He tells her to do it, or he’s keeping all the money for breach of contract. A lot of back and forth happens, and tons of harassing texts and phone calls from him.
Court day comes, and everyone’s ready to submit their evidence in front of the judge. Parents have photos, texts, the contract, videos. Landlord only has the contract. But his contract is different than my parents. He’s included a section that states they permit him access to the house for his storage needs, and that tenant is responsible for all on-site clean-up and maintenance after accepting the key.
The best part was that the date of the signatures on his contract was the date they moved in, not the date my mom flew in and signed. Judge tells the landlord he’s a special level of stupid, and then their final remarks were about how disrespectful the landlord was to show up in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip flops in his courtroom.
He never paid a dime, then claimed bankruptcy, and started a business under a different name. Two years later, I went to his house, let out all but 19psi from all his tires, and superglued the caps on the valve stems.
22. The Pro Se Problem
I do only civil litigation. You would think it would generally be a battle against equals; professionals versus professionals. It’s not. I face a fair amount of parties representing themselves pro se, often otherwise smart people who wouldn’t think to do their own plumbing, or operate on their own appendix, but have no qualms about appearing in court on their own behalf. Surprisingly, they don’t know what they’re doing…
One of my favorites, from a deposition: “We didn’t pay [company x’s invoices] because we heard they were going through bankruptcy.” (a) they weren’t, and (b) it wouldn’t be a valid defense to nonpayment if they had been.
23. Nice Going, Brian
Having an opponent win your case happens more often than you would think. One attorney that people continue to hire, let’s call him “Brian,” is sort of a legend. As opposing counsel four times in six years he has lost cases against my firm where he could have won. This is civil litigation but the guy has a knack for spoiling his momentum.
There are so many stories—but this is the best one. The evidence showed our client was at fault and we were asked to settle. Brian introduced a witness and voicemail to the record. We had no knowledge of these and asked to review them. Upon review, we were confused as the voicemail had nothing to do with proving their case and made the plaintiff look like a lunatic (it was full of incoherent rambling and swearing). We allowed the exhibits to be entered and they went over as we expected. We won the counterclaim.
24. Pet Chickens
Not an attorney, but I did an internship at the city’s attorney’s office one summer (which lead to not wanting to be an attorney). A man was suing the city for evicting him from a public housing development. Claims he doesn’t speak English and forced the city to hire an interpreter for the hearing. City says he was evicted because he was raising chickens in the apartment.
His attorney insists that’s absurd; no one would do that. Pushes for proof the chickens were his client’s. Judge wasn’t convinced about the proof. Everything looks like it is going well for the guy until it comes up that the chickens were given to a farm for slaughter. Guy jumps up and starts yelling, “Give me my chickens back!” in English. Judge starts laughing. Attorneys start laughing. Case is dismissed.
25. A Very Normal Thought Process
Not a lawyer, but was taken to court once. A guy had taken my family to court, basically because he had been dating my mother, and things ended. So, he then takes us to small claims court with an itemized list of everything he’d ever bought the entire family. Every cheeseburger, every Kit Kat. He even billed for things he did, like house repairs. Some of the repairs were terrible, and he ruined other things. He tried to unclog the sink and ended up destroying the main drain pipe for the house.
Now, he had bought some more expensive things as well. No one asked him to, but he was one of the types that loved to show how much money he had and would always talk about his “connections” and would name drop someone any time we went anywhere. When he takes us to court with his full itemized list, the judge asks him to go first and present his testimony.
He basically says “While I was with them, I bought all this stuff. I took them to dinner all the time and all this, but it was under the idea that it would be paid back by them.” Judge: “You bought a child a birthday cake with the idea it would be paid back? Did you ever say that these things were loans and not gifts?”
Him: “Well no, but I shouldn’t need to, that’s the normal way people think.” Judge: “Well, that’s not the way I’d think, case dismissed.”
26. The Pillars of Hercules
Not opposing counsel, but the plaintiff himself. I was trying a case in DeKalb County, Georgia, against a guy who claimed he had slipped and fallen in a Kroger store, late at night while they were waxing the floors. He claimed the only signage anywhere near where he fell was a single yellow caution sign more than 85 feet away.
We had a surveillance video and it indeed showed him passing by the sign as he entered the aisle. However, arguably, the sign didn’t really indicate what was going on, since it wasn’t apparent the aisle was being waxed and it was quite a distance from where he fell. On the stand, at the end of the first day of trial, I was cross-examining him about the signage and he made a comment in which he referred to passing the “signs” (plural).
It is very unusual to learn a new fact at trial after typically two years or so of depositions and discovery. I stopped where I had been going with my questions and asked him about the “signs” and he admitted he had taken pictures of them and had them at his house. Well, this is a clear discovery violation since he’s required to turn over all pictures, not just some, and we had clearly asked for them. However, when I went after the guy for concealing evidence the judge chewed my rear end for getting into a discovery dispute in front of the jury (I still think she was wrong), and I got him to agree that he would produce the images the next day. We adjourned day one of trial.
The next morning, he showed up with the pictures and it turned out he had walked directly between two caution signs, set up on either side of the aisle like the pillars of Hercules. There was no ambiguity whatsoever about his notice after that and the jury gave him zero dollars.
27. A Wasted Effort
Not a lawyer, but I went to court. There was a traffic light out, and officers EVERYWHERE handing out tickets. I get one for “rolling through a red light,” though I had stopped. I stated it was possible the officer just didn’t SEE me stop and asked if any other officers were witnesses. Officer replied, “Every cop in our department was there handing out tickets.”
The judge said, “None of you thought to direct traffic? Seems like you handed out enough tickets that you recognized the downed light was a problem…dismissed.” The judge dismissed every one of the tickets that were contested in the room from that day. One cop wasted half the force’s night, I hope he never lives it down.
28. Time Confusion
Not a lawyer, but I represented myself against an employer who terminated me. I spent hours upon hours, day after day, preparing for this case. I printed out e-mails, recorded telephone calls, mountains of evidence. I wore my best suit and, nervous as all heck, showed up ready to plead my case. When I get there, my former employer opens with, “We terminated (my name) for truancy. He was supposed to report to work after his doctor’s appointment, but did not show up until 3 PM.”
There’s an awkward silence. The judge says, “But in your written statement, you claim he didn’t report to work until 12PM. In the timecard you presented to me, it shows that he reported to work at 10:30 AM.” More silence. I won.
29. A Brazilian Confession
I was suing the state for damages in an operation by the state authorities (here in Brazil called Polícia Militar), but there was hardly any proof. All the witnesses were too intimidated by the Polícia Militar to talk, and there were no images or audio. I advised the guy that his chances were slim to none, but, since I was working with the public defender’s office, I couldn’t deny the case just because there was little proof. So, I did the complaint anyway (here in Brazil called an action, or Ação) and we went on.
In the Brazilian justice system, the writing part is way more important than the hearings and the talking part, so, when you defend yourself from a suit, you make a piece in writing, called contestation (contestação), and there you must present all your defensive arguments. You cannot present new ones later unless you can prove that it couldn’t be obtained or be known earlier.
So, when the state presented its contestation, it didn’t have anything but a single paragraph saying that the cop was not under orders (despite being in uniform and in a state vehicle) when he committed the illicit behavior. Basically, they confessed to the brutality, and gave us the case.
30. Blame the Drugs
Not lawyer, but still fits. Had to do an emergency detention order on this lady (mental health) because she said after we left, she was going to kill herself. There was a revolver on her nightstand. We secure the weapon, let her get ready and all that. Time to put her in the car and she starts going bat-poop crazy. Yelling, cursing, actively resisting.
We get her under control and start going to the hospital. At one point, she got out of the cuffs (my fault for leaving them too loose, though she did have weird wrists as her forearm was bigger than her hands and wrists) and started banging on the glass. Pulled over to get her back under control. She starts begging us to shoot her. Get her down to the hospital and she swears at a couple of the nurses. Yelling and screaming the whole time.
Alright, well because of the circumstances, I seized the weapon, believing wholeheartedly she was going to off herself as soon as she got out. Down here, we have to have a hearing before a judge to take actual ownership of the weapon instead of temporary custody. Hearing comes around. Just her, myself, and the judge.
Basically, the judge asks me what happened, so I just read off my report which included all the language and things she said. Her response? That the pills the doctors gave her at the hospital made her that way. The pills they gave her…after this all went down. The judge was like, uh no. We got the order to destroy the pistol.
31. A Beautiful Trial
Opposing counsel introduced a HIGHLY RELEVANT and bloody crucial piece of evidence during the cross-examination itself. We were really frustrated, and we had every right to argue that this was a deliberate suppression of relevant documents during discovery, but rather than object to its admissibility, we asked for our lunch break to commence earlier so we could take instructions from our client as to how to proceed.
Which turned out to be a darn excellent course of action. The document prima facie looked supportive of the Defendants’ case, but it actually in substance was pretty bad for them. We basically came back from the lunch break to rub the Defendants’ witness face in it, and the witness was so shaken, he broke (for lack of a better word to describe how he couldn’t carry on his rubbish) and completely admitted to his negligence on the stand.
He admitted as well that he copied the expert’s opinion, instead of giving his own independent evidence. It was a beautiful trial.
32. The Witness
I’m a lawyer, but this was from my time as a law clerk. Tattoo artist, around 40 years old, gets charged assaulting of an employee. The victim is 17 years old, very fragile, and barely able to sit in the same room as the defendant. She stares at the table the entire time and you are barely able to hear her speak. She does not elaborate much on details, but basically, he forced himself on her after closing the shop for the day.
The defendant’s story is that the employee came onto him and that the incident was consensual. The defense calls a witness, another employee at the same shop, to basically tell everyone what a standup guy the defendant was. If I were to guess, I think the court was undecided, but maybe leaning on a not guilty verdict up until this point.
The defense witness takes the stand, starts telling a story of how the defendant, while doing a tattoo on her, tried to hold her down and kiss her, but had to stop because someone else came into the shop. Game over. Perp got convicted, a week later he declared that he was satisfied with the penalty and chose not to appeal.
33. The Note
A guy I used to work with was going through a messy divorce (about 20 years ago now). His soon-to-be-ex-wife was a psycho and her father was a psychologist, so he was pulling all of the strings. They even had my co-worker apprehended at work one day. The divorce case took years (one young son involved) and at every turn, my friend lost because of something the father filed or another string he pulled.
In the end, they were in court and it was very apparent that my friend was going to lose custody and all visitation rights. Every plea he entered was squashed and he was mentally broken. The judge asked the ex-wife if she had anything else to add and she said she had a written statement that she wanted the judge to read.
The bailiff took the paper from her and handed it to the judge, who unfolded it and read it. When he read that note, his eyes almost popped out of his head. He stopped for a minute and asked her if she was certain she wanted this note added to the case and she said yes. The judge turned to my friend and said (paraphrasing): “Mr. X, all these years and all these claims that I ruled against you…the court profusely apologizes. I did not believe you but now I do. Ruling in your favor (bangs the gavel). I grant you full legal and physical custody of your minor child, bailiff please handcuff miss X.”
My buddy was stunned that he won and happy at the same time. He later found out that the note said, “Give me my son or I’ll freaking kill you.”
34. A Similar Argument
Actual lawyer here, and this one was especially sweet. I was involved in an ownership/control dispute of a Venezuelan company. While we had no doubt who controlled the company, opposing counsel had created enough smoke to create just enough doubt for our federal judge to order us to file a declaratory action.
After a few months, we received the equivalent of a declaratory order from the high courts in Venezuela basically saying our client was in control of the company. We had the order translated and certified and drafted a motion explaining to the court how these orders from Venezuela work and how they are in effect the highest law of the land, which meant, the case should be over and our client was in control.
Opposing counsel drafted an almost identical motion, BUT, they had not received a copy of the newest order. In other words, opposing counsel agreed with our position that these orders from Venezuela would definitively prove who controlled the company but attached the older order. We prevailed in the declaratory action and the judge referenced the fact both sides had the same argument in the final order.
35. Call in the Surveyors
Not a lawyer (I know!) but my parents were in a lawsuit where this happened. They owned a business, and on either side of it were businesses as well. Their neighbor to the left sued us, claiming that we had been using their property without paying them or without permission. That we were essentially trying to adverse-possess it.
We got a surveyor to come in and the surveyor said that not only were we using all of our property, but we had been paying rent to them on about 20 feet that was also our property. Obviously, they weren’t happy, so they got their own surveyor…who gave us 50 feet. We won the lawsuit. Now their little patch of property has a rusty fence all around it with KEEP OUT signs everywhere. It’s about 20×10 feet.
Not a lawyer, but I work with lots. We deal with car accidents, and this particular girl was claiming severe whiplash and lower back injuries from a minor rear-end accident. Some of her injuries were legitimate, but she was claiming that her life was ruined and she was unable to function in society. She worked as a physical therapy aide studying to become a PT, so she knew just what to say. But she didn’t know what not to post on Facebook.
She claimed she was in constant pain after the accident and couldn’t go to the gym. The day after the accident, there’s a pic of her lifting weights with the hashtag “accident can’t hold me back.” She claimed a month of lost wages, but there she is in a patient “graduation” (from treatment) photo on her work’s website the week after the accident.
She missed 0 days of work. She claimed that she couldn’t travel anymore and guess who had photos of Vegas strippers all over her Instagram for her sister’s 21st birthday? She asked for $200k, and she got $9k for the legitimate injuries in mediation, as the mediator laughed at her Facebook feed.
37. A Case of Two Smiths
Not a lawyer, but a relative of a retired prosecutor. Relative was working misdemeanor criminal court. Cases get called in alphabetical order, and two women named Catherine Smith and Kathryn Smith were scheduled to have their hearings before the judge (not their actual names, but you get the point). Both had similar crimes, but slightly different.
So, the bailiff announces the next case to the courtroom: “Catherine Smith, for one count of possession of illegal substances with the intention to sell, and one count of prostitution.” So, Kathryn Smith stands up and indignantly cries, “Whoa, whoa, just WAIT a second. Where the heck did the prostitution charge come from? I may sell dope, but I am NOT a prostitute!”
Easiest dealing case my relative ever prosecuted.
38. On a Silver Platter
A while back I was prosecuting a questionable discharge of hazardous substances at a “recycling” facility. Specifically, the charge was for improper storage and disposal of CRT glass, which contains lead, cadmium, and a few other hazardous substances. To demonstrate that the owner had no idea that he was receiving CRT glass, the defense attorney introduced shipping manifests that lacked the term “CRT,” “monitors,” or any other word that indicated that material.
A close inspection of the manifests, however, indicated that the defense attorney had just CTRL+F-ed the documents for certain keywords, because what the manifests also demonstrated was that this facility, as well as two additional facilities owned by the defendant, had been accepting asbestos, hexavalent chromium, and various other hazardous substances that the facility was not authorized to take.
That attorney literally handed us the case on a silver platter.
39. The Slimy Attorney
I represented a client who was defrauded into purchasing a bad business. The defendant was not willing to settle and all settlement talks eventually halted. Also, the defendant’s attorney was pretty slimy and told me they didn’t have a lot of the records I was requesting because her computer “crashed” and had to be formatted.
The defendant got a new attorney a year into the case and her new attorney told me about all of these records his client had, several of which proved my case and were supposedly destroyed in the computer crash. His client was clearly not happy. A settlement was reached shortly after.
40. A Pointless Case
Had a trial where the basic elements of the claim against my client amounted to 1) That he attacked the opposing party, and 2) That she was in threat of future attacks. All nonsense, but that’s what they needed to show. We get to trial and the opposing party (who was supposed to be unrepresented) shows up with five lawyers, two advocates, and two interpreters.
But this is a family law issue and these lawyers are from a business law firm. I’m curious where this will go. They put on a case that never once mentions any attack or threat of future attacks and end by proving that she had secretly moved to another town prior to filing the motion (meaning that he couldn’t pose a threat to her because he didn’t know where she was).
I just pointed out to the judge that there was no need for me to put on a case.
41. The Unknown Danger
School lawyer here. Had a student claim she aggravated an injury at school because the teacher hadn’t followed the doctor’s orders. When the doctor got on the stand, he testified that a few weeks after filling out the school form (which we had), he’d spoken to the mom on the phone and ordered some changes to the student’s routine.
Then mom testified that she’d emailed this new info to the teacher, except we had all the emails, and none of them said anything about the doctor. Mom backtracked and said she must have forgotten because she’d been busy at work. And then, at closing argument, the family’s attorney explained to the jury that schools are subject to a heightened standard (willful and wanton, not negligence), and so it was their job to determine whether the school had disregarded a “known danger.”
Naturally, we argued that the school couldn’t well disregard a “known” danger if no one had ever told them about the new routine in the first place. The jury agreed.
42. Lesson Learned
Not a lawyer. My wife got hit by a drunk-driving teenager years ago. The teen’s parents have lots of money and are friends with the officers so they get it hidden that their daughter had been drinking all night (she couldn’t even stand up, according to some nurses who lived across the street and responded right away). Their insurance refuses to pay without evidence.
Wife tells lawyer to take it to court. In deposition, the teenager freely admits she was drinking, says it totally changed her life, she couldn’t believe she almost killed someone, she’s never touched a drop since and is really sorry for all of this that her parents have done. Insurance company lawyer looks at wife’s lawyer and says, “We will give you a call tomorrow.”
43. The K-9 Testimony
My wife is a court clerk. She told me a story a court clerk friend of hers told her. DA has a shaky case at best against a defendant. Authorities were trying to pin a possession charge on a guy with literally zero evidence. The report read that a certain amount of illicit substances was found and recovered in the defendant’s car, but the evidence was “lost.” Guy maintains his innocence and has no priors.
The defense attorney is destroying the officers on the stand for inconsistencies between their accounts and poor documentation on the official report. The prosecution’s ace in the hole was a part of the report that read something to the effect that the K-9 detected substances in the car. Rather than saying something like the K-9 alerted the officers to the presence of illicit substances, it left the defense attorney no choice but to call the K-9 to the stand to confirm its testimony. DA drops the case.
44. The Finger Thing Means Taxes!
Yes! I used to videotape depositions many years ago. Client was suing an insurance company for two years back wages after an injury. Conversation went like this: Insurance Lawyer: “It says you’re asking for $120,000 for two years back pay.” Client: “Yup. $60k per year” IL: “Well, we have your previous tax returns, those are only $30k per year.” Clients Lawyer: “I’d advise you to…” Client: “I know. I only put that on my tax form. I actually make much more.”
The insurance lawyer very calmly asked to go off the record. He said, “Well, your client just admitted a crime on video. This case is pretty much done. Now, and I don’t want to put you out, but I need to figure out whether or not I’m legally compelled to tell the judge or IRS about this. We’ll be in touch.”
45. Lost in Translation
Did work experience at a trial where the victim flat-out stated that the defendant was innocent. Turns out she’s pretty bad at English, so when she gave her account it appeared that the defendant had committed a crime. They then gave her a witness statement to sign, and she couldn’t read it so she just signed it anyway. This all came out at testimony whilst the prosecution lawyer desperately tried to get her to rephrase what she said.
Funnily enough, the trial wasn’t immediately thrown out so they brought more “witnesses” in to testify, all backing up the wrong account of what happened.
46. Blowing the Case
A barrister friend told me about a case observation she witnessed during her training. A guy was up for relations with a minor and he adamantly insisted to his lawyer that his defense was that he had never even seen the girl, yet alone met her. This, despite witnesses in the bar and incriminating CCTV footage showing someone who looked like him leaving the bar and going to HIS car in the car park.
When he was questioned, he steadfastly stuck to his story. When the questioning ended, there was a pause and he yelled at the judge, “There was no way I could have known she wasn’t 16 when she sucked me off.” Literally, blowing his whole case.
47. Tactical Errors
Arguing a case on a voter recount in front of a judge. Judge says, “I’m going with X.” That’s in my favor, so I shut up. Opposing counsel, in arguing a different point later, suddenly goes back to the earlier point and belabors it. Client (also a lawyer) says to me, “Don’t say anything.” I whisper back, “Don’t worry—wasn’t planning to.”
Judge begins rubbing his nose and looking irritated. After a few minutes, cuts off opposing counsel, saying “I already ruled on this point.” “Mr. Smith [me], anything to add?” I replied in the negative, and won my motion. Would it have come out differently? I don’t know. Did opposing counsel make it easier for me? Absolutely.
48. Invasion of Privacy
Not a lawyer, but I took my brother-in-law’s landlord to small claims court (He’s on SSI and I’m his conservator). We sued her for over $4,000 after she just decided she didn’t like him and changed the locks on his apartment door. She also stuffed all of his belongings into trash bags and dragged them out to the curb. This was all done the day after she cashed his rent check.
It all started because she was letting herself into his apartment with no notice and was going through his stuff while he was gone. When I found out about this, I told him to let her know that was NOT okay. He did, and that’s why she kicked him out. I’m very organized, and presented the judge with a folder containing photos, receipts, short videos on DVD and the sheriff call logs, as well as a concise timeline of events.
The landlord showed up with her son and countersued for the exact same amount we were suing them for. Claiming that the apartment was trashed, there were holes in the walls and they would have to repair everything before being able to rent again. During the hearing, the judge asked for evidence of the damage to the room.
The son whipped out his cell phone and showed a video panning and walking around the room. The video showed my BIL’s apartment obviously still being lived in (his stuff was all still there) and no visible damage, but there were a lot of posters and things hung on the walls. When the judge looked at the video he asked, “Where is the damage?” The son replied, “You can’t see it. It’s behind all of the posters.”
The judge frowned and looked at the video again, and then said, “Did you take this video when he was still living there at this time?” The son replied, “Yes.” This was the clincher, the judge then asked, “Did you ask his permission to enter the apartment to take this video?” Silence. We were awarded the full amount.
49. The Over-Qualified Witness
My father is a physician and occasionally serves as an expert witness in some cases involving insurance payouts for car wrecks. He had just spent some time explaining all of the different forces involved in the accident and how that could translate to years of back problems (his specialty). He was quite technical in his explanation and the opposing attorney thought that my dad was overreaching his expertise and was talking more as an engineer rather than a doctor.
So, he asked him if he was an engineer. My dad responded that yes, he was in fact an engineer, as he had a bachelor’s in engineering from before he went to med school. It apparently didn’t completely resolve the case, but the attorney did have to backtrack quite a bit and it really strengthened the patient’s case that the insurance company should continue paying for treatment