Legal Numbskulls

July 6, 2022 | Scott Mazza

Legal Numbskulls

From overconfident defendants trying and spectacularly failing to represent themselves, to Average Joes power-tripping after watching a little too much Law & Order, these numbskulls just couldn’t make it work inside and outside the courtroom.

1. Your Loss—Literally

I’m a lawyer. A lady didn’t pay her general contractor upwards of $20k after the job was finished because of a dozen or so minor complaints—things like he was too slow, nothing major. I told her she should pay him, and after that, we could help her with her complaints. I warned her that otherwise, he will probably be successful in getting a lien on her home.

She didn’t pay. He got a lien on her home. Heck, we then even offered to help her stash the funds in escrow pending their dispute, as this would prevent a lien in the meantime. Nope. My best guess is that she didn’t have the money and was attempting a tantrum to get out of the whole thing. It ended in a total disaster. Yes, she ended up losing her home. But that wasn’t all.

Later that fall, she showed up at my school and was demanding my information from the front office, who handled it well and I never saw her. Apparently, she blames me for what went down. I told you to pay or you’d lose your home. You didn’t pay and lost your home. This was my first internship, by the way—she was literally the first person to ever approach me in a law capacity.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

2. That’s A New One

When I was a judicial intern, I saw an arraignment where the defendant claimed the court had no power over her. Her genius reasoning? Apparently, she couldn’t be touched because she was a “sovereign citizen” who did not recognize the federal or state governments. Somehow, to her, this made it all okay. Later learned that her sole source of income was Social Security.

Lawyers Screwed factsShutterstock

3. Tech Support

I run a consumer advocacy firm. 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’ll never forget the story that he told me. 

I convinced him to tell me what happened. Turns out, he bought a computer back in the 1990s. It had just recently stopped working. But not because it was old and just stopped working. It was slow, so he picked it up, and threw it out a two-story window. And then he wanted to sue the manufacturer for breaking the warranty.

Lawyers Shared Dumbest Cases Pexels

4. Driving While Stupid

My all-time favorite is a client I had who was charged with drinking and driving. He wanted to challenge the charges on the grounds he thought he was sober, and the tests were administered improperly. Well, he appeared at his court hearings rip-roarin' inebriated. Twice. Both times, he got into his car and tried to drive away. Both times, officers promptly stopped him, administered a breathalyzer, and charged him. We didn't win that case.

Lawyers Shared Dumbest Cases Shutterstock

5. He Played Himself

I worked for the Public Defenders office and met a client for a line-up that he adamantly demanded regarding a wrongdoing with multiple witnesses. I met the client for the first time in a separate room to let him know how it would go down and what to expect. This is the kind of line-up you traditionally see on television, where there are a number of similar-looking people standing shoulder to shoulder in front of mirrored glass. They pull the people for the line-up from the inmate population.

I walk in to meet the client, and I can’t believe my eyes. He has a lump on his left lower eyelid the size of a golf ball. It was the most identifiable mark on a human's face I have ever seen. He still demanded the line-up and was identified instantly by every single witness without a shred of doubt in their mind. He still demanded a trial, and the lump was gone by the time the trial commenced.

Lawyers Shared Dumbest Cases Shutterstock

6. How Not To Save A Life

This wasn’t my own client, but my dad—and the hospital he worked at as a surgeon—was sued by a gentleman after he saved his wife's life. Details: So this patient is pregnant with something like her eighth child and miscarries. The fetus is removed, but then it all goes horrifically wrong. The patient starts bleeding uncontrollably, and the doctors are frantic around her.

At a certain point, they realize that the only option available is a hysterectomy. It was either that, or she perishes right there on the table on the table in front of them. My Dad gets called in to do the surgery, performs it successfully, hooray, at least one life was saved that day. Well, nope. Not hooray. Turns out, the patient's husband is quite devout and beyond angry that his wife can't have any more kids.

So he sued the hospital. No firm would represent him, and he ended up bringing proceedings himself. It went all the way to trial and he lost, hard.

Criminals Screwed factsShutterstock

7. Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge

My favorite misconception some people have is “If you ask an undercover officer if he is an officer, he can’t legally lie to you”. The truth is completely the opposite. Yes. Yes, he can. But that’s not all. I once had an undercover officer in on a deposition, and he had been wearing a wire for part of the investigation. He was asked if he was undercover by a co-defendant.

His response was “Yeah, obviously, I’m here buying stuff from you guys 'cause I’m an undercover officer. I have a wire hidden under my beard and everything you complete moron”. He said it with such immense sarcasm they didn’t think twice about it and sold him a huge amount.

Nightmare Neighbors FactsShutterstock

8. No, You Are NOT The Father!

I work at a legal clinic. One day, we had a guy who was representing himself pro se against a client of our clinic. This client had a semi-public job doing promotion for a local pro sports team. Some dude did a brief fan interview with her at a game, and that lone interaction sparked a five-year stalking saga, during which she got married and had kids with someone else.

It culminated in the stalker making the following claim: He wanted a paternity test for her children because he was convinced she had paid someone to follow him, find out when he was pleasuring himself, break into his home, take his spunk, and deliver it back to her. Apparently, she had then impregnated herself with his Kleenex, and BOTH her two small children were actually his.

I’ve never seen a judge look as shocked, or as tired, as I did on the day that particular motion for paternity was denied.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

9. The One That Got Away

This one lady was sacked by a large company, and for no ordinary reason, either. They had caught her embezzling money to fund a gambling habit. They had clear evidence the embezzling had occurred, and she did not deny it. Here’s the kicker: She sued the company for $300,000 for unfair dismissal. My sister's firm represented the company against this woman.

The case was so easy that the firm gave it to my sister as her first-ever solo attempt. My sister screwed it up in the worst way possible. Not only did she lose, but the court also awarded the woman $500,000 instead of the $300,000 she asked for.  In the end, it was a good career move. The partners all knew her name and dropped in to her office, one by one, to offer their sympathy.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

10. A Loopy Loophole

Just today, a semi-retired officer told us that if you get pulled over while you’ve been drinking over the limit, just chug an open bottle in front of the officer. This guy claimed that they can't prove anything then. Obviously, I didn't have the life experience to call his bluff, and I'm sure a super expensive and super connected lawyer could get it down to open container, but I'm almost positive any lawyer worth their retainer fee could easily prove you were over the limit.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

11. I’m Here To Stay

This just happened this week. I've had some pretty rough ones, but this lady...So, I represent a landlord who is trying to evict a tenant for multiple lease violations. In the midst of these disputes, the tenant sends my clients a cease-and-desist letter for harassment. Her reasons are outrageous. She apparently didn't like that they told her she had to keep the house clean.

Another “claim” was that she refused to permit them entry to the premises for repair work, because that's harassment. She's told them on several occasions that they "have to fix" this or that, and it has to be fixed yesterday, but then has every excuse in the book why they can't do it with reasonable notice that the landlord is coming (24 hours or more).

She even went so far as to call the authorities on my client when he comes out at the prescribed period of time. Anyway, my client gets tired of the crabby lady and sends me in to read the lease to figure out how to get rid of her once and for all. Well, she's a nuisance to the neighborhood, she has officers come to the house weekly, she has a dirty house, she hasn't paid her utilities in months (the lease says it's her responsibility), etc.

I count eight violations in total, and some have multiple occasions. No problem, I tell him, I can do this. So I send her the notice that her lease is terminated and she needs to vacate by a certain date. She went down swinging. She ignores the termination letter and informs me that utilities are being cut off and I need to grant her permission to get an extension to pay the city utility bills.

I ask her when the cut-off is, because if it's past the date we told her to leave, it won't matter. The tenant proceeds to tell me she's sure that I'm “aware of the law” and statutes in my state, with my license to practice, and that she's done with my nonsense. Her water was cut off that very day. My clients, concerned that children, including a diabetic, are without water, call city to have it reconnected and put it in their name.

I inform the tenant that she will have water that night, but that this does not mean the lease is still active. I reiterate that we have terminated the lease, and she must move out. She proceeds to tell me that I'm harassing her, that I could lose my license, and that I need to stop harassing her immediately. She also insinuates that I don't understand English, or the law.

She may not be a lawyer, but she knows her rights, and I'm violating her rights, which is discrimination. I've learned only two things from this: The tenant does not, in fact, know her rights, and the tenant does not, in fact, understand my state's laws, or the English language. I filed the eviction proceedings a handful of days ago, and we're just waiting for our summons to get her to court, so we can get her out at long last.

I can’t understand why this lady thinks she’s so smart.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

12. A Little Reverse Psychology

Someone once threatened to sue me personally and the store I worked at because I thought her daughter and her friend took something from the store. Like, I heard a boy yell “Oh shoot! THEY HAVE A CAMERA”! I then came from the back to see them all booking it out the door. So yeah, I imagine that you’d probably be a little suspicious of the situation. too.

Anyone, this mother claimed that I traumatized and harassed her daughter when all I did was have mall security stop them while I asked if they took something. Apparently, this Karen had consulted some random person and they said she had a “dangerously good case”. But karma came for her in the best way. She called the authorities on me, only to have the officers end up escorting her out, all the while she threatened to sue their department too.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

13. An Iron-Clad Contract

Mexican lawyer here. I once had an argument with my dad about the ownership of an apartment that my mom kept after the divorce. "But I paid for it" he said. "That may be so, but you put it in my mom's name and legally agreed to let her keep it during the divorce proceedings. You even signed a judicial agreement that says so". "Yeah, but I paid for it".

"I understand, but that's not how property works. If you put it in her name and didn't contest it in the divorce, it's hers". "... I don't understand. If I paid for it, it's mine, that's how property works. I could have it back if I wanted". Spoilers: He could not.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

14. You Don’t Own Me

This was a case I heard about during my time around courtrooms. A girl who was 21 was coming home to visit friends. Her mom wanted her to do errands for her mom’s friends, but the girl already had plans and said she couldn’t. The mom was not having it and actually tried to sue her for stealing a family car. At the court case, the mom was about to win…until one pivotal moment.

The girl said: I am an adult, I can choose what I do with my car. Judge: Wait, the defendant is over 18? Girl: Yes, your honor. Judge: Ok then, all charges dropped. Mom: You don’t understand, she is my daughter! Judge: I know. Mom: She has to do what I say! Judge: No, she doesn’t, she is not a minor. Mom: No, she always has to do what I say!

Judge: Where did you go to law school? Mom: I didn’t, but I know about this stuff! Judge: All charges dropped, case closed.

Lawyers wish could forgetShutterstock

15. Sorry, Wrong Answer

I had a client once who was charged with theft by receiving in Arkansas, and also theft in Missouri at the same time. Yeah, busy guy. Anyway, I got him a good deal in his Arkansas case where if he would pay back what he took, the State would drop the worst charges and let him plead to a misdemeanor he was also charged with in that case.

His response: “They have to drop the theft anyway, 'cause I’m charged with theft in Missouri, and that’s double jeopardy”! Nope. Nope, it is not.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsShutterstock

16. Never Forgive, Never Forget

When I was a baby lawyer doing insurance defense, a woman was late on her premium payment and left a check with her broker right at close on a Friday. The broker just put it in a drawer because she wanted to go home. This had disastrous consequences. The woman who was supposed to be insured got into an accident the very next day.

When the complainant called the company, they told him the policy had been canceled for non-payment. That man went bonkers and tracked down the insured and busted up her car windows and harassed her before being detained. The policy information was updated Monday morning when the broker got back to the office. But by this time, the insured was so upset that she sued the company for a million dollars.

Every week that we didn’t pay, she filed an amended complaint adding a million dollars to the claim and adding whichever lawyer was unlucky enough to cross her as a defendant. By the time the case was over, I’d had to appear in court over a dozen times, the woman was asking for a literal billion dollars, and the judge said she’d rule by mail so no one had to face the insured again.

Lawyers' defenseShutterstock

17. Keep Your Mouth Shut

"I'm not sure how to get the attention of someone who owes me money. Do you think it's a good idea to make a public Facebook post where I inform the public about how they are in debt to me and refuse to pay back my money? I'm not a lawyer but I think that's the best way to get their attention". You're right, it's also the best way to be sued for defamation.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

18. Your Secret Is Safe With Me

This is a funny one from my personal life. I'm a lawyer, and my brother was selling a script to a network and hired an entertainment lawyer to go through the process. I was talking about it with my brother and asked a few questions, mostly just out of curiosity. He said, "I can't tell you, it's privileged". I had to explain to him that he can tell me, his lawyer can't.

Arguments FactsShutterstock

19. It Wasn’t Me

I did an intake at a homeless clinic where the person said his identity was stolen. I looked up the government site to file a complaint and everything. That’s when I found out the whole story. Turns out he was convicted for selling substances and represented himself in court by arguing that the government falsified his identity, and he was now looking to sue the officers, prosecutor, and judge.

As much as I wanted to laugh, I am a professional, so I told him the facts don't rise to a level sufficient to overcome sovereign immunity in a prosecutorial misconduct claim. In other words, no.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsPexels

20. Not Going To Take It Anymore

I’m a legal assistant. A lot of times we'll get pro se (clients defending themselves) cases that are filed in-house at the court; the clerk provides a document and a person hand-writes their claim. One person I read was suing for damages because their landlord had invaded their privacy and installed cameras in their apartment.

The roof leaked, the floor was crooked and not only that— but they were suing for a lot of money. $10 million for a bedroom issue, $10 million for the previous issues, and "$20 million because I'm mad as heck”. Sorry, but “mad as heck” is not a defense.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

21. That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

I was a jailer and used to pull double duty as a bailiff. One time, a guy swiped a pickup truck and was later captured passed out behind the wheel and parked on a sidewalk surrounded by a ludicrous amount of illicit substances and guns. His defense was jaw-dropping. First off, he elected to represent himself because he wasn't done being stupid. Then he outdid himself.

"Double Jeopardy, You can't charge me for theft, possession, or anything because I've already been convicted on all of those charges before". In short, during his jury trial he admitted to doing it but explained with a smug grin that since he had already done time for the same charges from another case before that, he could not be prosecuted for them ever again.

This is not how double jeopardy works, folks. He's been behind bars for 20 years now. If he'd taken any counsel he could've easily cut a deal for five.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsShutterstock

22. A Little Misunderstanding

I’m a paralegal. I had a client get a judgment for embezzling from a former employer to the tune of $142k. Essentially, she was promoted to office manager, given the responsibility of making the deposits daily, and started pocketing the cash. She then cooked the books at the office to show the clients’ accounts as paid. Prior to the hearing for judgment, she began to see the writing on the wall.

As she did, she said, "It shouldn't be this big of deal, it's only blown up because my former employer's husband is friends with the DA”. Yes...that's why.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

23. Watch What You Say

I saw someone on a watch collector forum try to tell people that if you want to avoid paying customs duties, then you just have to use whatever you’re trying to bring across the border in the country you bought it in. As in, "Don't worry sir, you wore that $50,000 watch for an hour before crossing the's now duty-free. Come on through".

Airport X-Ray FactsShutterstock

24. The YouTube Defense

A marketing person in my company was trying to write copy for an online ad one day. The copy she submitted plagiarized a complete poem from an author I'd never heard of. Obviously, there was no copyright release. Then she said the dumbest thing to me I’ve ever heard. She told me she knew she was covered because she gave credit to the author in the ad.

No, you idiot, what you're doing is even worse. You're openly naming the person you took from. I call this the "YouTube" defense. How many people out there start off their videos by openly admitting, "I don't own this content, I don't intend any infringement” as they then proceed to infringe copyright by posting a song they didn't write. Think about it!

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

25. Show Me The Lie, Though

The best "excuse" I heard from a client was in relation to a charge he had after drinking too much and then driving his car. The alleged reading he got was 0.258. For those who don’t know, this means the guy was absolutely plastered, 100% for sure. His instructions were to contest the charge on the sole basis that he couldn't remember what happened.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

26. Letting It All Hang Out

I had a client who was just ridiculous. He was a real estate guy who decided to get into government. Had a lot of investigations going against him, but instead of letting his lawyers do the talking, he made the biggest mistake ever. He just kept tweeting random nonsense about the cases he had ongoing. We tried to take his phone, but somehow he always got a new one.

Can’t keep his mouth shut. Somehow he hasn’t ended up behind bars yet.

Nightmare clientsPexels

27. Courtroom Betrayal

I had a client who won just shy of a seven-figure settlement in a personal injury case. She then dropped into my office to ask me to file a fee dispute against the attorney who represented her in the personal injury action. That attorney took a little over $260,000 on this case. If you're doing the math at home, this guy took a 27% fee on the type of case where 40% fees are common.

He also did a fantastic job because the woman got nearly a million dollars. Then she turned around and tried to sue him to recover any of his fees. I rejected the case out of hand and then got an ethics complaint for discriminating against her.

Private Investigators Find factsShutterstock

28. Gone, Gone Forever

This one father was in his 60s. He hadn’t been paying child support for decades and he owed more than $60k for two kids who were adults now. He was basically living at a farm in the middle of nowhere so no one could find him. He worked for cash so the money could not be garnished from anywhere. Just so careful on the time. Until the day he slipped up.

He then came into an inheritance, which was deposited in his bank account and promptly confiscated by Family Maintenance. He came to us because he wanted it back.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

29. Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed

My brother's a lawyer. His client took a backhoe and dug up a standalone ATM. He then scooped it onto a flatbed truck. Then, and only then, he noticed a security camera nearby filming everything. So what did he do? He got some black spray paint out of his truck, went up two inches away (really nice view of his face), and sprayed the camera lens.

He insisted on pleading not guilty.

Nightmare clientsShutetrstock

30. His Own Worst Enemy

We once had a client skip bail and run. I looked him up on Facebook and he had posted a photo of the bond paperwork and a bunch of 20-dollar bills. The post read something like " Man, screw the law AND my bondsman!! Nobody can tell me what to do”! What he didn't realize was that the only reason we bonded him in the first place was that we were going to represent him.

We withdrew on the bond and the case. In the Motion to Withdraw we quoted his Facebook post and attached a copy of it as Exhibit "A" when we filed it.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsShutterstock

31. Don’t Like The Cut Of Their Jib

I represent condo and homeowners’ associations. One of my condo association clients wanted to evict some tenants. When I asked why, his answer stunned me. He wanted to do it because they were fat. I am not even joking. Now, the law does, in some cases, allow the association to evict non-owner tenants. This is very fact-specific, however, and hard to do.

I spent a long time trying to elicit from my client exactly what these tenants were doing that warranted eviction. Client: "Well, they're just disgusting people! They are fat”! Me: (exasperated) "You can't evict someone because they're fat”! We did not end up filing suit.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

32. Probably For The Best

My dad was a patent and trademark attorney about 10 years ago and worked for a pharmaceutical company. Hilariously enough, the owner of the company adopted the slogan “Just Do It”, somehow not knowing that the trademark belonged to Nike. When the owner found out that the trademark belonged to one of the biggest companies in the world, rather than change the slogan and avoid a lawsuit, he CALLS UP NIKE and expresses how funny he thinks it is that they have the same slogan.

My dad got them to settle the case and the catchphrase was later changed.

Dumbest Of The DumbShutterstock

33. Gotcha There

I once handled a case where the client who was defending themselves made the argument that the District Court's ruling held no weight because the DC judge was a woman and "only men can be judges”. Biggest. Eyeroll. Ever.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsShutterstock

34. Not Their Circus, Not Their Monkeys

This woman lived on a large riverfront block and had a jetty for a boat. One day, her large tree fell over in a storm and landed mostly in the water, making it difficult to moor her boat. She wanted to sue the government for not taking away her fallen tree.

Criminals Screwed factsShutterstock

35. The Proud Owner Of Nothing

I worked in-house for a famous character company with a large fanbase. Because of their profile, a few crazies a year call in. A guy once called in claiming that we pilfered characters that he created and demanded to be compensated. I calmly asked him to provide more details so I can determine whether this has any merit to it and decide any next steps.

He states he designed the characters himself and gave it to the well-known actual creator when he was a kid, and the creator then pawned them off as his own. I asked him when he was born, and it’s a good 20 years after these characters were actually created. I ask him to explain this issue, and he pivots and says he also created some other well-known famous characters and brands.

Characters and brands that are not owned by my company. I kindly ask that if he wants to pursue anything to send us something in writing and hang up. I figured if he wasn’t going to do some really basic research on his own claims, he wasn’t going to spend any time writing it up. Never heard from him again, as it turned out. I love being right.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

36. Leave It To The Professionals

I work for a courier service and while we don't specialize in courtroom work, we still get quite a lot of requests of that kind. The best are the kooks trying to do pro se work. Non-lawyers trying to represent themselves are 99.9% of the time completely insane, believe me on this one. One time I referred a pro se kook to a different lawyer service and 20 minutes later got a call from that service laughing and telling me to not send them any more crazies.

Hey people, if you are working with the law, get a lawyer.

Lawyers' Shocking Cases factsShutterstock

37. Street Smarts And Book Smarts Don’t Mix

A tale from back in my public defender days: Sovereign citizens—those people who say they don’t believe in the law so aren’t subject to it, basically—are a special kind of stupid. Percentage-wise, I don’t know how many of them are true believers and how many think they’ve just found some clever loophole or another. At any rate, they were always the most interesting clients.

One of them was a young gent who decided to represent another buddy of his to spin his nonsense to the judge. There was just one problem. Unfortunately, the fellow who would become my client was a regular defendant in that same courtroom—and everyone there knew he wasn’t a lawyer. When he was detained—which is to say immediately—the judge was not swayed by his argument that he was “acting of counsel” rather than “practicing law without a license”.

The operating a motor vehicle charge which would follow was only semi-related.

Lawyers one detailShutterstock

38. Leveling The Playing Field

I’m a lawyer. I’ve had a few clients who have wanted us to “pressure” or “strongarm” the other side into doing something or they would come forward with damning evidence. But they don’t understand a crucial detail. Depending on the circumstances, their game plan often amounts to extortion or blackmail, and despite what TV seems to think, that’s very dangerous.

You’d think people would be more understanding when you say you won’t break the law for them, but I guess not!

Lawyers' dumbest clientsShutterstock

39. Do You Know Who I Am?

I had a non-lawyer (I am a lawyer) try to tell me that testimony was not reliable evidence and that a judge could not rely upon it in making a factual determination. This was in the context of a small claims case I was helping my client prepare for. It was my client's word against the opposing party's, plus some photographs he was planning on introducing.

I told the opposing party that "I'll guess we'll see what the judge does”. Spoiler: The judge found my client's testimony much more compelling and ruled in his favor.

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

40. A Swing And A Miss

My favorite misconception I come across as a lawyer is people offering advice for home invasions. According to many, you could shoot and even fatally harm anyone who comes in uninvited to your come. Absolutely not the case, because self-defense by definition requires "reasonable force". It's more lenient in some states and even more lenient in rural areas, but it's just irresponsible to spread this kind of misinformation.

For anyone thinking anything along the lines of "Nuh-uh, you can always use lethal force if _____" or "Nuh-uh, in THIS state—”, no, that's not what the law says. Anywhere. Reasonable force is an intentionally vague concept, and it's always interpreted case-by-case. Just because the defendant felt threatened doesn't mean a majority of the jury in his case would, even if this is usually the case.

Stand your ground laws, castle doctrine...they exist to support the defensive use of force, but you're always bound by reasonable force. And oftentimes, reasonable force can be lethal, but the judge and jury are the people who will decide whether or not you were justified. A group of people who may not share your same views put themselves in your shoes and decide if you did the right thing.

The jury decides. Not you. Not your sheriff. Not your martial arts instructor. If you're on trial for the use of force for self-defense, you absolutely shouldn't feel smug about it. The law has an unpleasant habit of surprising everyone. Stop making blanket statements about the law. If the law was black and white, we wouldn't need attorneys at all.

Lawsuits factsShutterstock

41. Here Doesn’t Come The Bride

I'm a lawyer in the US, and for some reason people who aren’t lawyers who I know are obsessed with common-law marriage. I see people all the time in real life warning other people about how "You've lived with her for more than X years, you're common-law married so you have to take that into account”! or "Well, we've been living in the same apartment together for X years, so we're common-law married now".

Common law marriage is only a thing that can be done in a small handful of US states now, and there are requirements to it. For one, you have to hold yourself out as being married, live together, present yourselves to the world as being married, etc. You're not going to wake up one day and accidentally be "common-law married” if you don’t want.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

42. An Interesting Theory

This random guy at the deli today told me, “I’m not a lawyer but I know for a fact my baby mama ain’t gonna get a dime of this child support money”! I asked him why he thought that, and he said it was because this woman owed back taxes with the IRS and they were going to garnish the child support payments to pay it off. All I responded with was “Wow, that’s new”!

Supernatural encountersShutterstock

43. A Photo Finish

My dad is a lawyer. One time, he had a client who was on trial for being a felon in possession of weapons, possession of stolen property, burglary, and distribution of narcotics. Really just a whole shebang of issues. This guy also had multiple pictures of himself on Facebook holding guns, cash, and had videos of himself breaking into someone's house.

Some of the other footage was even worse, but suffice it to say: Dude was screwed. His reaction was deranged. Despite my dad basically telling the genius he was going to go behind bars either way, and to plead out for a reduced sentence, the dude still pleaded not guilty. We still occasionally joke that the guy clearly wasn't competent to stand trial by virtue of being so dumb.

Lawyers' dumbest clientsShutterstock

44. Yellow Fringe Flag Theory

Yellow Fringe Flag theory. Ever heard of this one? Well, you’re going to want to sit down for this one. One day, I had a defendant demand that I use this “yellow fringe flag theory” in their defense. No. It is a warped, bizarre melange of admiralty law, constitutional law, army regulations, and some other junk that can be summarized in one stupid sentence.

"If the courtroom flag has yellow fringe on it, you are not constitutional [because you are now in a military court without justification for martial law], and therefore, you have to let me walk". Yes, really, that is the basis for this cult (and totally wrong) defense that many people are starting to pick up on. By the way, most courts where I am at have yellow fringe on their flags as a common design theme.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

45. Barely Holding It Together

One of my clients was told by someone on the staff of the nursing home where her mother lives that if an Enduring Power of Attorney (basically a power of attorney made in contemplation of future mental incapacity that unlike most powers of attorney does not become invalid if the donor becomes incapacitated) is voided if the original staples that held the pages together are removed.

I can see a tiny grain of truth to this in that if the validity of the document was contested the fact that it had been taken apart and stapled together again might be some evidence to support that. But there is no way that evidence alone would determine the issue. And don't even get me started about people who use the term "hearsay" but don't know what it means. This has become an epidemic.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

46. Nothing To See Here

I’m a lawyer who works in copyright law. This is one of my favorites: “I’m not infringing on the patent, I got it from Google Images, which is in the creative commons”. Sadly, have heard this defense more than once. And yes, when they say “patent” they are usually infringing either a trademark or a copyright. Usually, it’s people in the graphics/design department of a company.

Also, fonts are a big one: “Do we have a license for that font”? “Of course, I downloaded it from, why”?

Legal Numbskulls factsShutterstock

47. Thinking Outside The Box

I worked in family law in California for like two years before deciding I would be much, much happier if I changed career paths. In California, the obligation to pay spousal support (alimony) ends when the recipient begins cohabitation with a new romantic partner. This one guy came into our offices one day. To be fair, he was positively getting screwed by sending half his monthly payments in as alimony.

He told us he was aware of the rule about cohabitation and wanted me to argue his “point” in court. What was his point? You see, his ex was a narcissist. She was in love with, and had begun cohabitation, with herself. Her presence in her apartment should count the same as if there were a romantic partner there. He was bordering on begging me to take his money. I refused.

Lawyers Face-Palm factsShutterstock

48. The Proof Is In The Pudding

A woman wanted me to sue her previous lawyer for charging her a lot of money but producing almost no work to justify his fees. She gave me what she told me was the lawyer's total work product. When I read it, I almost burst out laughing. It was just a page printed off the internet for where she said she was charged thousands of dollars for advice.

She had already brought a claim via my jurisdiction's disciplinary body for lawyers—she had lost and wanted to bring an appeal. The judgment kept referring to documents that I hadn't seen. I pushed her to give me everything and she then came in with multiple files full of immaculate work that totally justified the fees she was fighting. We told her to get lost but she spent a lot of my time before we realized she was full of hot air.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

49. A Signature Defense

A friend of mine who is a lawyer was in the middle of a case where a guy was accused of graffiti vandalism, among a bunch of other things. He rolls up to the court to plead “not guilty”, and the conversation with the judge went like this: Judge: "Sir, did you make this graffiti"? Defendant: "No, I did not”. Judge: "But it has your signature at the end, isn’t it”?

Defendant: "Yes, an artist has to sign his work”! Case closed, thanks to that man’s brilliant legal mind.

Instantly Ended a Case factsShutterstock

50. How The Mighty Fall

This happened many years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. This jerk of a former judge owned a company that owed my employer (I was controller) a bunch of money. He signed a "security agreement" for their receivables, meaning we could collect the company's receivables to recover our debt. The only problem was that one of his employees was a friend of my boss.

This guy brought in a copy of exactly the same agreement, but with ANOTHER company, dated a month before. Now, being a CPA candidate, I was studying business law, and I also didn’t let details like that escape my notice. I said, “Well, this looks like fraud, and we can sue him for the entire company”. My boss calls our attorney (who hated this judge with a passion) and related the situation.

Yep, they are goners. We went to court, got summary judgment (the judge just laughed at the crooked judge) and we owned the company. It was fun.

Legal Numbskulls factsPexels

Sources: ,

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.