A court of law is a very serious place, where everything one says and does really does matter. That’s why when someone in court does something incredibly smart—or incredibly stupid for that matter—its impact is even more incredible than it would normally be. Here are 42 stories, from lawyers and others involved, about the most epic “I Rest My Case” moments ever to go down in a courtroom.
42. What a Heel!
In criminal court one morning, the accused wore a pair of very unique custom made red cowboy boots… that were stolen from the house he was accused of robbing. Yes, he wore them. To court. To plead not guilty. The prosecutor was laughing.
41. Making Paperwork Exciting
I watched a judge question a person in small claims court about a variety of things having to do with the overall lack documentation or evidence to support his claim. At the end, he proceeded to rant for a full five minutes about how this plaintiff had wasted everyone’s time, one by one ticking off the failures, and then told him that he had better hope he never appears in this courtroom again or he’d be held in contempt. The entire room was spellbound. It was better than any TV show.
40. Telling It Like It Is
Fraud trial. Prosecution gets right to the point.
Third question in to the defendant: “So you have no properties, no identifiable source of income, no inheritance, and, as far as I’m aware, have not won the lottery, yet you have foreign bank accounts with £x million and a Ferrari. It must simply be a coincidence that my client has an accounting black hole pretty much exactly equal to those riches.”
The defendant pretty much gave up on the spot.
39. Getting Into Icy Territory
I once got out of a noise violation ticket. I was driving around and had the music in my car up pretty loud. A cop pulls me over and gives me a ticket for the noise violation.
I go to court about it. My defense was, “If the ice cream man can drive around blaring that creepy music, I can listen to my radio.” The judge tried hard to keep a straight face and I got out of the ticket.
38. A Wheel-y Good Defense
A friend’s sister went to court over a moving violation. She’s an engine tuner and had built herself a beautiful first gen Mitsubishi Eclipse with 6-700 horsepower at the wheels. This car, inevitably, attracted the attention of local law enforcement, who pulled her over with no fewer than eight cruisers after some slightly aggressive acceleration around a left turn.
During cross-examination, she asked the officer who’d made the call why exactly she had been pulled over. “I heard the engine revving, and I saw you spinning the tires and sliding around the corner.”
“To be clear, officer, which tires were spinning?” “The rear tires.” “So I was spinning the rear tires, and it was the back end that swung out?” “Yes ma’am, that’s correct.” “And you’re sure that’s what you saw?” “Clear as day, ma’am. The light turned green, you stepped on the gas, and the rear tires broke loose under power.” “The rear tires broke loose under power? There’s no doubt in your mind that that’s exactly what happened?” “None at all.”
“Your honor, this officer is either lying or hallucinating. My car is front wheel drive.”
37. Easier Than You Thought
I had court last Tuesday, as we were evicting our horrible tenants. I prepared for weeks, compiling hundreds of papers showing that they were perpetually late, that we always fixed any issues in a timely manner, that they got super pissed when we told them we weren’t renewing their lease, etc. I copied every message we had ever sent to each other, made bullet points, and numbered them all for the judge to see. I typed what I wanted to say and rehearsed it. I was ready to be a lawyer and defend anything they may have said against me.
When the time finally came to testify, the judge straightforwardly asked me exactly one question: “Have the tenants paid the rent?” to which I said “No.”
And that was it! All that preparation for nothing!
36. Character Witnesses
A colleague of mine was questioning a police officer about a “consensual” encounter with a defendant. The officer claimed that he in no way intimidated the client, and that the client was free to walk away at any point.
My colleague said, “Officer, do you think based on what you said and how you acted that any person in this room, under those circumstances, would feel like they could walk away?” The officer said yes, and the full courtroom audience started laughing. I didn’t have to say more.
35. I Can’t Get No Better Result
I once watched my friend get out of a speeding ticket by sheepishly and truthfully informing the judge that he was late for a Rolling Stones concert. The judge didn’t miss a beat, just accepted the reason and dropped the ticket.
34. Dead on Arrival
A man was on trial in Denmark for having violated an entry ban to the country.
Prosecutor: “Your Honor, here he is!”
That was easy!
33. Grass Dismissed
I got a violation put against my name for land I didn’t own. It was the land next to mine, owned by the city. I got up to the stand, explained myself and presented pictures of the properties as evidence. The inspector who wrote the violation stood and called me by a name that wasn’t mine, then showed pictures of a busted up car with a bunch of weeds on it which I had never seen before. The judge raised her eyebrow and asked what address this was. He said an address that was across town from mine. I say that I have no connection to that land. She immediately removes the fines, case dismissed.
32. Back It Up There…
There is a Judge Judy episode where a high school girl is suing two boys from her school for taking her backpack and stealing various valuables out of it. The following conversation happened:
Judge Judy: And what was taken from your backpack?
Girl: My phone, my money, my headphones…
Boy 1: No, they weren’t.
Judge Judy: Excuse me?
Boy 1: There weren’t any headphones in the backpack!
31. Status Update: You Lose
I was representing a plaintiff in a hit and run case. Despite me preparing her for several hours the previous day, this client was an absolutely terrible witness for her own case. She couldn’t even identify the street she was crossing when she was hit by the car.
The “gotcha” moment came during cross-examination. The defense counsel pulls out a picture of my client dressed up and ready to hit the club, which was posted to Facebook the day after the alleged accident. I, thinking quickly, object because the timestamp refers to when it was posted, not when it was taken. So the defense counsel shows the picture to my client and asks her when the picture was taken. Sure enough, she confirms that it was taken the day after the accident—i.e. when she was supposedly in unbearable pain.
30. Ink Master
“Mr. Defendant (local gang boss), you stated that you are not and never have been in a gang.”
“Do you have any tattoos?”
“Yeah, I have a tiger on my calf and one on my chest that says GD 4 Life?”
“What does GD stand for?
“Gangster Disciple. . . err, I mean, umm. . .”
“No further questions, you honor.”
29. What If That Was a Lie?
At my first jury trial, I’m cross-examining the alleged victim, and in answering my question she says, “Oh yeah, I lie all the time!” Needless to say, I won that trial.
28. His Own Worst Enemy
For a while, my mother dated a man who really liked to act like a big shot. He was a guy that claimed to know a guy wherever you went. Any time you wanted something, he would say “Oh wait, let’s go to store x instead; I’ll talk to Bob the owner and get you a deal!”
Nearly every time he did, the owner seemed like he wasn’t entirely sure who this guy was.
Eventually the relationship ended. Soon after, we find out that he’s taking us to court because we owe him money.
Court date comes, he presents his case first. He goes through a huge itemized list of every item he ever bought us. Every single item, from a vending machine coke to a new sink. Even a birthday cake bought for the youngest child. Once he’s done, the judge asks if there was an agreement to be paid back for any of that.
He says it was just an understanding.
The judge asks specifically if he ever said he wanted to be paid back. He says no, but usually when someone buys you something you pay them back. The judge then explained that no, that’s not usually how gifts work, and that by his own admission there was never an expectation to pay for anything.
So thanks to his own testimony, the case was closed.
27. Don’t Be Chicken
Never ask a question in court to which you don’t know the answer.
One prosecutor suggested to my client that the canned goods he had burgled were to be used to trade for drugs. I, thinking that the idea was ludicrous, asked my client whether he has ever traded food for drugs. He replied that he once exchanged a frozen chicken for heroin. Needless to say, I didn’t win that one.
26. Double Agent
My firm just had a case where a guy embezzled, and then SUED us.
He had done it by moving money to his company and calling it intercompany loans.
His expert witness, who was a CPA, was asked about the one document they had produced, and she said “as you can see, this document shows that the plaintiff owes your company $650k.”
We had no questions and rested right there.
He should probably have gotten his CPA on the same page with him.
25. I Know You Are But What Am I?
Opposing counsel was a nightmare. Everything was late, his work was extremely subpar, and so forth. At one point, I caught him mixing up his facts and called him out. His response was to hum and haw and accuse me of lying. I won.
24. Driving While Modern
I have a buddy who is a DUI attorney. In the state he practiced in, being in the car with the keys in the ignition, even if the engine isn’t running, is considered a DUI if you’re intoxicated.
A client came in and told his story to my buddy. The buddy goes to the DA after discovery and says “Don’t take this to trial!” The DA replies “Yeah, right.”
In court, he gets the State Trooper who made the arrest up on the stand. The Trooper says under oath “I saw with my own two eyes that the keys were in the ignition.”
Buddy gives the cop several tries to walk it back. Then has it read into the record that the car was a Prius. It didn’t use a key.
BOOM. Instant dismissal and the cop got into some trouble.
23. Domestic Stupidity
I used to be a domestic violence advocate, and helped victims get protective orders against their abusers.
At one hearing, my client told her story of abuse—him hitting her after an argument. The judge asked him, “So, did you hit her?” He says, and I quote, “Now Judge, it was just a little lovetap, you know how it is.”
The judge blinked twice, stunned, slammed his gavel, and granted her petition.
22. A Bench Player
I practice mostly criminal defense. Fairly recently, I had a client who, after pleading guilty to a theft charge, contested the amount of restitution owed. Essentially, the client said “I stole some stuff, but I didn’t steal all of that stuff!”
The victim had to come to court to prove the value of the things he alleged were stolen. Some of those things (that my client denied having touched, much less stolen) were rare and valuable coins. To support his claim, he brought a statement purporting to be from a local coin dealer with the type of coin listed and its value.
I knew nothing about coins, but I knew the judge knew a lot about coins, having collected them for years. The DA asks his questions. I muddle through my questions. Then the judge said he had some questions, and verbally ripped this guy’s list to shreds. Stuff like, “You expect me to believe that such and such coin in such and such condition is worth $250 when I can go online right now and find the same coin for $36?”
I just sat back and enjoyed the show.
21. That Settles It!
I was at a hearing arguing that my client was wrongfully terminated because the employer failed to abide by the proper procedures. During the hearing, a witness for the employer tried to offer documents that were fraudulently altered in order to make it look like the proper procedure was followed. I noticed the alteration and was preparing to point it out when the opposing counsel realized what was going on, rushed that witness out of the room, and after a quick adjournment, offered my client a large settlement.
20. Too Much Caffeine
I was on a jury.
The defendant attempted to rob a tip jar from a barista, and the barista fought back. He ran, and she tossed the empty jar towards him.
The defendant now claims that he was hit on the head and injured by the metal tip jar.
Even though we’d already watched the video, and I already caught this detail, the prosecutor asked to play the video of the robbery again. And then she says “How could the barista have hit him in the front of the head, when she was throwing it from behind? And he’s wearing a HAT.”
She was so annoyed she had to point that out, and I almost laughed.
19. A Guy Without an Alibi
I present the case of Fred—the town drunk. It went like this:
Judge: Fred, the charges here say you were arrested Saturday night in town drunk. How do you plead?
Fred: I don’t know…
Judge: What do you mean Fred? Were you in town Saturday night or not?
Fred: Well, that’s what I don’t know. I have no idea where I was Saturday night, but if I WAS in town, then I damn sure was drunk!
18. Maybe They Just Had a Question!
Two guys were being tried for robbing a gas station. A customer who saw the robbery was now on the witness stand. The prosecutor asked him to describe what he saw. He said that he saw two guys robbing the store and then running out, when one of them bumped into him. Then the prosecutor looked at the two perps and said “Are those two men in the courtroom today?”
At which point, the two idiots raised their hands.
17. Good Timing!
Denmark’s constitution states that you are to appear before a judge within 24 hours of your arrest—no exceptions! One guy happened to have gotten arrested right before Christmas, when the judge was off. It did not take long to get the case dismissed the next day on these grounds.
16. Drugged Up Charges
There was a deposition of a witness and a room full of attorneys. The witness is asked if he knows or has spoken with any of the attorneys in the room before the deposition. Witness responds that he knows Attorney X because sometimes they go to the same parties and snort drugs together. Needless to say, Attorney X had an immediate meltdown. A good transcript to keep!
15. Gentle On My Spine
The defendant said “I mean, I did stab her… But it was a gentle stabbing, I didn’t think it would actually hurt her!”
That one didn’t last too much longer…
14. One Hell of a Loophole
I once got stopped by a cop for a “fix it” ticket. Basically, you have to fix a broken tail-light and get a cop to sign the ticket, or pay the fine.
That night, my car was totaled by a drunk driver who ran off the road and hit it at a high speed.
Can’t fix a tail light if you don’t have the car anymore!
So I wound up going in on my court date to contest the ticket. I said “sorry, I couldn’t get the light fixed and don’t think I should have to pay.” The judge gives me this look like “what’s your excuse”—so I hand over the police report papers and briefly explain about the wreck.
I didn’t have to pay.
13. Correcting the Record
In this case, I was the idiot that screwed myself. I had two charges in two different courts. I accepted the first plea which almost always carries probation, but my plea didn’t have that condition.
When it came time to accept the second plea, the prosecutor didn’t include probation because she assumed my first charge put me on probation. She said as much to the judge and I, being a big dummy, corrected her. My lawyer grabbed my shoulder and, I kid you not, said “don’t listen to her, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about!!”
12. A Love-Hate Relationship
My client was accused of not leaving this woman alone when she wanted no contact with him. He swore that they were dating, and she’d call the police when she got mad. She swore she wanted nothing to do with him. She had a photo on her phone of him sitting on her porch, to prove that he’d come around without her consent. I asked permission from the judge to look at the photos before and after to get context. Lo and behold, she had hundreds of photos of him. Eating dinner with her, sitting on her couch—even wearing her undergarments. It was a glorious moment.
11. Raise a Little Hell
A lawyer I used to know was in court on a work injury case. The judge asked his client “Just what is the nature of your injury?”
His client replied “I can’t raise my arm anymore,” while absentmindedly raising her arm up to show just how high she couldn’t raise it.
10. Fancy Seeing You Here!
During my divorce, my ex was on the stand lying her behind off about how she was totally not using drugs or having an affair with our underaged child present in the home. Her lover was outside because my attorney subpoenaed him and he HAD to be there. My attorney grilled him and what he said contradicted what my ex was saying at least a dozen times. Then my attorney put her back on the stand and made her admit to every single lie she had told the judge. I was awarded primary custody of our child, the house, and child support. Also, her druggie boyfriend is not allowed within 500 yards of the child at any time. Pretty epic if you ask me!
9. Bailed In
I sat in the public gallery at a bail hearing for a man accused of heinous crimes against a very, very young female relative. The judge started laying out the conditions of bail and one of them was to surrender his passport. Man turned to his attorney and said, loudly, “But you said I could fly back to my home country tonight…”
The judge stopped himself, and revoked the man’s bail.
8. Time On Her Hands
A friend was job shadowing a lawyer and was in court for the day. One of the cases was a girl contesting a stop sign violation. The prosecutor asked how long she was stopped at the stop sign and the girl responds 40-50 seconds. The prosecutor asks her to look at the clock in the courtroom and proceeds to stay silent for the next 30 seconds, which is a really long time. Once the 30 seconds is up, the prosecutor looks back at her and says “So were you really stopped 40-50 seconds?”
The girl was basically silent. I’m pretty sure she was found guilty.
7. A Weighty Defense
There was an episode of a British courtroom show where a woman was suing a man for selling her a mobility scooter that didn’t do the mileage specified. The man denied the accusation.
They brought a “scooter expert” in. The judge asked him if there was anything he could think of that would cause this scooter to not perform as described. He basically just said “she’s very fat.” The man won the case.
6. Holier Than Thou
I was called to testify in an assault case when I was a high school teenager. I had witnessed an altercation between two kids where one had been sucker-punched by another, resulting in a broken orbital bone. I was asked to testify about whether the kid who was assaulted instigated the fight in any way. I stated that the attack was basically unprovoked, as a group of us had just been hanging out on school grounds when the attack occurred.
After I testified, the lawyer for the defense got up and asked a few questions.
L: “What were you doing hanging out on school grounds during the summer?”
Me: “We were hanging around catching up with friends because I hadn’t seen a lot of them over the last several months.”
L: “Why is that?”
Me: “I’ve been away from home for school the last nine months.”
L: “Were you in some kind of detention facility?”
Me: “No, it’s a college preparatory seminary. I’m studying to be a priest.”
L: “No further questions.”
5. Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
I was in an accident a few years ago. The guy who hit me got a ticket for an unsafe left turn, and I got a ticket because I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt.
In the section on the ticket, the cop inadvertently wrote “Did wear seatbelt while operating the motor vehicle” instead of “did not.”
When I got to court, the judge asked how I wanted to plead. I asked the judge if I could clarify something first, and he said “Sure”. I stated that “The ticket says I did wear my seatbelt while operating my motor vehicle. If that’s the case, I want to plead guilty.”
The judge looks down at the ticket, looks back at me, and says “Case dismissed! Have a good day!”
4. 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!”
3. Mistaken Identity
When I was in law school, I clerked for a criminal defense legal clinic. We had an assault and battery case where there was only one witness to the crime, which was 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. 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 right then and there, as this was a bench trial and not with a jury. It was never discussed or admitted to, but I suspect that our attorney purposefully had me there at the trial because of my passing resemblance to the defendant.
2. Don’t Stop Believing
My dad is out of state on business driving through some no-name town when he goes through an intersection. Suddenly, a cop pulls him over and tickets him—stating that he ran a stop sign. My dad insisted that there was not any stop sign, but the cop did not listen. Pissed, he went back to the intersection and saw that there was indeed a stop sign hidden behind a tree and twisted in the wrong direction!
Even more pissed, he went into a convenience store and bought a disposable camera. The clerk laughed because he saw what happened and knew what was up.
Luckily, my dad had to be back there in a few weeks for work. The cop assumed that someone with out of state plates would just pay the ticket, and was shocked when my dad turned up in court, calmly presented his evidence to the judge, and strolled out in five minutes scot-free.
1. A Boneheaded Play
I sat in on a personal injury case where the plaintiff broke their leg in an accident and had a doctor on the stand as an expert. The woman’s lawyer begins questioning the doctor about his experience with leg injuries (he was a well known orthopedic surgeon in the area).
She asks if he’s ever treated a tibula fracture. He simply answers “no.” So, she starts grilling him with questions about the tibula.
After about six or seven questions, she asks “how did you get a medical license if you’ve never treated a tibula fracture?” She launches into a huge rant trying to discredit his credentials, to which he simply responds “there is no bone called the tibula.”
The lawyer became beet red and everyone in the room tried their best to keep from laughing, including the judge.