It turns out those dramatic and out of nowhere “I rest my case” moments aren’t reserved for legal dramas, they happen in real life too! As these internet users have shared, courts and mediation rooms can witness some truly unbelievable moments. Individuals saying something stupid and incriminating, a crucial piece of evidence seemingly falling from the sky, or someone experiencing an incredible amount of good fortune. These instances have the power to instantly tip the scales in favor of one side over the other, and when they occur, what else can you say but…”I rest my case!”
1. Showing Off Your Stolen Goods is Never a Smart Look
My mum was a personal injury solicitor, and she was basically trying to prove that the car that hit her client and caused life-changing injuries (brain damage) belonged to X. X at first pretends not to live where he does, then the car is found abandoned and all wiped down. The trail seems to end. Then, my mum has a hunch and checks X’s Facebook profile.
He had a public profile, and his profile picture was him standing right next to the car in question. She screenshots the photo and sends it to the opposing counsel with a slightly more politely worded “Your client is a total idiot.” She’s retired now but she considers it to be one of the most satisfying moments of her career.
Needless to say, she won the case and her client got a million-pound settlement and is now living in Spain. All for the want of a simple privacy setting and a touch of common sense.
2. Social Media Strikes Again
My friend was suing a private security company for assault. He explained that one of the security guards also threatened him with a gun. The security company’s lawyer responds that my friend must be lying, as the guards do not carry guns because they are not allowed. My friend finds the Facebook profile of one of the security guards who threatened him.
His profile picture is him mean-mugging with a glock in his hand. My friend emails this to opposing counsel with a note that says “FYI.” The security company agrees to pay an out of court settlement to my friend.
3. A Dramatic Reveal
I practice immigration law. I had a woman come in and explain that she was from Canada, had been living and working in the US without permission for decades. Boyfriend beat her up to the point where she was hospitalized. She pressed charges and the boyfriend basically let her know via friends that his lawyer was going to call her credibility into question since she was an illegal immigrant.
It turns out her mom was born in the US and met the dad in college, which meant that she could gain dual citizenship via mom. We got her citizenship certificate expedited and I made her promise not to tell anyone. Sure enough, at trial, the defense attorney asks, “Isn’t it true that you are a Canadian citizen who has been working illegally in the US for decades?” To which she replies, “No. In fact, here’s my certificate of citizenship. I’m a dual Canadian and US citizen.”
She said the lawyer looked like a puppet when someone cut the strings. Boyfriend became a guest of the State for a long time.
4. Gifting a Victory to the Other Side
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 the store I’ll talk to 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.
He would do stuff like insist on taking the entire family on a vacation, or take everyone out to a fancy restaurant. Or he would show up with expensive gifts out of the blue, like new electronics or guitars. Eventually the relationship ends, but not long after we find out 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 everything he ever bought us. Every single item, from a vending machine Coke to a new sink because he broke the old one. 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, that usually when someone buys you something you pay them back. The judge then explained that no, in fact, that’s not usually how gifts work and that by his own admission there was never an expectation to pay for anything. So after his own testimony, the case was closed.
He then appealed. Again he presented his testimony first. Again, closed by his own words.
5. Facts Don’t Lie
It was a fraud trial. The prosecutor gets right to the point. This was pretty much the third question in to the defendant: “So you earn £45,000 a year, have no properties, no other 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 the defrauded entity has an accounting black hole pretty much equal to those riches.”
The defendant pretty much gave up at that point.
6. A Misplaced Identification
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: the victim. I was sitting at the defense table with the actual attorney, another law student that worked on the case with me, and the defendant. We were all in similar looking suits as a matter of unplanned coincidence.
The victim was asked to identify the person who committed the assault in court and she pointed to me and not the defendant. Our attorney asked several times if she was really pointing to me and if she was sure, and she said yes. The prosecutor was visibly upset and the trial pretty much ended there as this was a bench trial and not with a jury.
It was never discussed or admitted to, but I suspect our attorney purposefully had me there at the trial because I did have a passing resemblance of the defendant.
7. Dumb Criminals Make Dumb Choices
This wasn’t my case, but in criminal docket court one morning, the accused wore a pair of very unique custom made red cowboy boots…stolen from the house he was accused of robbing. He wore them. To court. To plead not guilty. The prosecutor was laughing.
8. Knowing When to Stop and For How Long
A friend told me this story. He’s not a lawyer but was job shadowing or something and was in court for the day. Anyway, 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 were you really stopped 40-50 seconds and the girl was basically silent. I’m pretty sure she was found guilty.
9. Fighting a Good Fight
This is going to sound crazy, but in college, I got a ticket every day of the week for parking in my driveway. Same cop every day. My girlfriend’s car, too. It was a small apartment building, which had a blacktop parking lot along the side of the building. The police ticketed every vehicle parked in our assigned parking spots for “blocking the sidewalk.”
There was no sidewalk. It was a blacktop parking lot. I was an aspiring student of the law and knew I could argue this. Plus, I didn’t have the money to pay all these tickets. I plead not guilty, got a court date, and continued to collect the tickets. I got the cop on the stand and showed him a series of pictures and asked questions about this “invisible sidewalk.”
He contradicted himself several times and then admitted he ticketed every car he saw parked there whether it was blocking the invisible sidewalk or not. I was up there for about half an hour. For parking tickets. The judge was laughing a bit and finally asked me to approach. He asked me if he dismissed all the tickets and told the cop to stop, would I stop asking questions and leave the court. I agreed.
The next week my girlfriend went in with her stack of tickets and I tagged along. It was the same judge and the same cop. They were both looking at me. As we walked in, I said, “Watch this, baby. I’m going to make the judge dismiss the tickets.” When it was her turn to argue, I walked up with her. She said, “Your Honor, I…” Before she could finish, the judge said “Tickets are void. Next case.”
I was proud. She was baffled at the black magic I’d just sprinkled on her.
10. Spinning Wheels or Spinning Lies?
I’m not a lawyer, but 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 or 700 horsepower at the wheels. This car, inevitably, attracted the attention of the 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 and 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’s exactly what happened?” “None at all.”
To which, she finally concluded with, “Your honor, this officer is either lying or hallucinating. My car is front wheel drive.”
11. The Mister Softee Defense
I once got out of a noise violation ticket. I was driving around and had my music in my car up. Cop pulls me over, gives me a ticket for the noise violation. It wasn’t even that loud—you couldn’t really hear it from outside the vehicle, but I guess my windows were down. I go to court. My defense was, “If the ice cream man can drive around blaring that creepy music, I can listen to my radio.”
The judge tried to keep a straight face, but I got out of the ticket.
12. Justice Prevails
My mother left my dad and hooked up with this piece of crap who would beat her. She had him arrested and got a restraining order. He called her one day from the hospital and said he was jumped while riding a bike and if she didn’t take him back he would say she did it. A few months later, she is in court after he claimed his injuries were from her beating him with a frying pan.
He doesn’t show up. The judge asks his attorney where he is and the attorney asks if they can reschedule because he is temporarily indisposed. My mother chimes up, “He is probably in jail again.” The judge just straight up asks his attorney if he is in jail. The attorney responds, “Yes.” The judge immediately dismissed the case.
13. Pushing Up a Case
As a young attorney, I had stated a claim that an insurance company was dragging out a case in bad faith, in hopes that my elderly client would die before they had to pay him. I was requesting that the trial date be given priority due to my client’s advanced age. The judge was no spring chicken himself and seemed skeptical when he asked exactly how old my client was, maybe thinking that he was in his 70s and must merely seem ancient to a baby lawyer like me.
When I responded that my client was 92 years old, and that the case had already gone on for five years, the judge was visibly shocked. He immediately granted my motion for priority, completely shutting down the insurance company’s attorney’s attempt to respond. They wrote us a check for a million dollars the next week.
14. A Pretty Embarrassing Mix-Up
I was representing a woman with a severe neck injury. Opposing counsel presented a test result that showed her cervical exam was normal. I felt almost bad when I pointed out he had the wrong cervical area in mind…
15. Correctly Questioning a So-Called Expert
I was a second-year associate and handling my first trial. I represented the plaintiff. The defendant had an expert witness who had testified previously in about 40 similar cases. This expert came out to my client’s property and did a completely BS examination of the issue and his expert report was equally BS. For those of you that don’t know, expert testimony needs to meet a certain standard in order to be admissible. This guy basically took some photos and put a ruler on the ground a few times to make his “report” seem legit.
The partners at my firm told me it wasn’t worth trying to file a Daubert motion to strike his report/testimony because the case was low-value (under $100k) and those types of motions can be very complex, so they didn’t want to bill the client for it. I was so angry with this guy being deemed an “expert” that I came in on a weekend, on my own time, and drafted a 20-page motion to strike his testimony. I didn’t bill the client a dime.
The defendant didn’t file a response to my Daubert motion to strike. Instead, they waited until right before the expert was set to testify (he had been sitting in court racking up fees for two full days beforehand). The judge had the jury leave the room, put the expert on the stand, and allowed the defendant to do a direct examination of their expert.
The defendant’s attorney, not taking my motion seriously, had their inexperienced associate (just like me) do the examination. It was incredibly basic and didn’t respond to any of the points in my motion. I was in charge of doing his cross exam (it was my first cross exam of a witness, ever). I tore the guy, a seasoned expert witness, apart on the stand. I got his entire testimony and report struck.
They also had a second expert witness, who was pretty terrible but not quite as terrible. I also did his cross exam. Realizing that they were in serious trouble without their primary expert, and their second expert at risk of getting struck, the lead counsel for the defendant (a named partner at a well-known firm) did the direct exam for the second expert. I again did the cross. I got the second expert’s testimony struck except for one very, very tiny area. So essentially he was forced to testify with both hands tied behind his back.
It was the most gratifying moment of my legal career so far.
16. Not a Good Place to Lie About Your Priors
My sister got T-boned by a car, causing a concussion, when I was younger. Long story short, we were in court with the judge, who asked the driver if he had ever sped before. “No, your honor, I never speed” was his reply. The judge asked him a couple more times if he was sure, if he never sped. Ever? The driver was adamant that he never sped and never had before.
A few minutes later, my sister’s lawyer gave the judge some paperwork. She read it, and said to the driver, “It seems that you have some past driving violations. Can you tell me what they are for?” He looked down, “………… speeding.” The driver had to pay medical bills for my sister.
17. The Perfect Judge for the Case
I’m relatively junior so I’m hoping to beat this one day. I defend professionals and brought a motion to dismiss a case on the basis that the plaintiff could not prove my client was negligent as she had not served the required expert evidence. As opposing counsel and I waited for our motion to be heard, we were sitting in the courtroom. The judge, who I did not know and who had not read our materials, wanted to talk to the parties of a short trial which was to be heard after our motion was argued. That matter was also a professional negligence matter and the plaintiffs had no expert support.
The judge then spent 10 minutes explaining that he had practiced in professional negligence for many years and was well versed in the evidentiary requirements to prove the elements of professional negligence. In fact, he said, “I very rarely use the word impossible in this courtroom, but it is impossible for you to be successful without expert evidence.”
Our matter was then called and I reveled in explaining to the judge that he was about to hear a motion to dismiss a professional negligence case on the basis that the plaintiff had no expert evidence. I won.
18. Important Insider Information
I’m a corporate lawyer, so I don’t have cases to rest, but once opposing counsel was forcefully insisting that it was ridiculous for me to expect a certain provision in a contract we were negotiating, and I pointed out that this provision was standard in his own firm’s contract forms, as I knew from several prior transactions I’d worked on across from them. Pretty exciting stuff.
He took it in stride and said jokingly, “Well, of course it’s fine when we ask for it.”
19. A Really Dumb Plaintiff
I represented a company that was sued for breach of contract by a former independent contractor. Dude basically alleged that my client wasn’t paying him correctly in accordance with the contract. During his deposition, the plaintiff admits that he never reviewed any documents to make sure his allegations were true, never reviewed his complaint before filing it to make sure the allegations in it were true, and had no idea whether or not my client actually failed to pay him in accordance with the contract.
Basically, he tells me that he was suing my client because he didn’t think their agreement was fair, even though he agreed to the terms when he signed the contract. The kicker is that he admitted that he owed my client money. At arbitration, he tries to flip his story and starts giving testimony that is the exact opposite of his deposition, so I whip out his transcript and undermine his testimony bit by bit. Needless to say, I won that case.
20. When Your Client Lets You Down
I was on the losing end of this one. I was representing a pro bono defendant who was attempting to regain custody of her children. The Family Division attorney was laying out his case to the judge for why my client wasn’t ready, and his final point was that my client had refused emotional counseling to avoid violent fits of rage that she had inflicted on her children.
On cue, my client jumps up screaming a stream of really vile obscenities at the judge. I just caught the opposing attorney’s smirk of satisfaction as I got up to usher my client out of the courtroom.
21. Never a Bright Idea to Assume
Opposing counsel decided that I had coached my witness, gave him lines to repeat, and that he was lying. Short version is that he asked the witness if he spoke to me before he testified. Witness said he had. Attorney looked like he thought he had me. Attorney asked the witness what I told him, what instructions I gave him. Witness looked him dead in the eye and said, “First thing he told me was to tell the truth no matter what. He said the lawyer is never the one who goes to jail, that he isn’t going to jail for me, and if I lie, I’m on my own.” Attorney looked like someone took the air out of him. Everyone in the courtroom simultaneously looked at me.
Only time I’ve smirked or laughed in court. I wanted to put my feet up on the table like I was Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, hands behind my head, and say, “I’m done with this guy.”
22. Tell Your Lawyer Everything
I was on the losing end of this one. I represented a guy who had bought a company and the company failed spectacularly within months due to a number of reasons I could attribute to the seller. They had clearly lied about the company’s finances to induce him to buy. I was suing to rescind the deal, have your crappy company back and give my guy his money back.
I laid out my huge case and thought I had it in the bag, and then opposing counsel asked my guy, “Isn’t it true that you listed this business for sale a month ago?” “Yes.” “And you did sell it correct? You signed a purchase and sale?” “Yes but he never finished paying me, he has more payments to make. I’ll just give his money back when you guys give me my money back.”
My idiot client had me suing over a company that he had legally sold. The idiot never told me. Game over on the spot.
23. We Need to Talk About Kevin
I do mostly solicitor work so if I’m doing my job right I don’t get a whole lot of these type of moments. That being said, I had a long-time client who was being sued and I got to shut down the guy suing him in a very satisfying way. So my client had hired a guy, we will call Kevin, as basically the right-hand man for his company.
The employment contract wasn’t done yet, but they had an agreement that Kevin would work six weeks at a lower wage and then sign the contract and get the agreed upon wage. So the guy works decently for five weeks and then is given the contract to sign. He comes back to the owner (my client) and says that he has some small changes he would like to make.
When the owner gets the contract back he finds that the “small changes” involve removing the “Duties and Responsibilities” section (basically the job description) and the non-compete/confidentiality clause. Not only that, but he has written in a higher salary than agreed and added a bunch of new benefits for himself.
Obviously, my client tells him that he can either sign the contract as it was originally laid out or he can find himself another job. He takes the latter option. But he starts a lawsuit against the owner, wanting to be paid for the six weeks he was supposed to work (which had already been paid), two weeks in lieu of notice, and FIVE weeks vacation pay.
I got the enjoyable job of telling Kevin, in front of a judge, that he was not entitled to anything under the employment legislation and the only way he could get any of that would be if he had signed the contract. Judge dismissed the case and awarded costs to the defendant, but not before giving Kevin a lecture on wasting the court’s time.
24. Not Wise to Keep Committing the Same Infraction That Got You in Trouble
I represented a man in a slip and fall case in a national chain that grills chicken. The restaurant is not supposed to clean the grills until after they close because it is a huge sloppy mess that involves using a garden hose after applying chemicals to remove all of the grease. The close down process can take up to two to three hours that involve packing up the food for the next day, scrubbing the grills, mopping, etc.
Even though the corporation knew this, they refused to pay more than one hour worth of wages after closing time. Thus, the shift managers and cooks decided that they would start the closing process two hours before closing while there were still customers in the restaurant. This is really dangerous as employees delivering food can track the greasy water into the lobby where the customers were.
On one fateful day, two hours before closing, one of the cooks was cleaning the grills and using the hose to wash them down. This slurry is so slick that the cook has to wear a plastic smock and slip resistant shoes for the process. While he was waiting for the chemicals to remove the grease, which takes about 15 minutes, the cook goes into the lobby, tracking this stuff into a hallway, to wipe down some tables.
My client walks out of the restroom and slips in the greasy water. He hits his head so hard that it causes a subdural hematoma, which requires surgery to relieve the swelling and blood from the brain. Go figure, the video system wasn’t working that day. In any case, right after that, the cook was fired and the corporation claimed that they could not locate him during litigation.
I did some research and found a relative of the cook, which eventually led to me finding him. He admitted that he was cleaning the grill, but denied that he was the one that tracked the greasy water into the lobby, as did all of the other employees. The corporation during the entire three-week trial testified that cleaning before closing was against their policy and it NEVER happens. Thus, it had to be anything else that caused my client to fall.
I was talking to the cook before trial because we were going to call him as a witness. He was angry that they fired him. I asked, “Do you think they are still cleaning before closing because they are denying that they do?” He told me, “Absolutely.” On the first day of trial, I sent my investigator to the restaurant at the time my client was injured, which was two hours before closing, to record video on his cell phone whether they were cleaning or not.
Well, guess what, they had the hose out and everything. I absolutely could not believe that they would continue to do this at the restaurant at issue in the case. I told my investigator to go back up there when there was a different shift manager and cook to see if they were doing the same thing. Unsurprisingly, they were.
At the end of the trial, the defense put on their general manager for the region. He swore up and down that this never happens. He was their last witness. We get up and say, “Judge we need a sidebar.” In the judge’s chambers, we revealed the videos to the other side. The attorney for the corporation was freaking out. The judge let it in for rebuttal.
The last thing the jury saw before going into deliberations was five minutes of video with audio of the hose as they were cleaning the grills two hours before closing. We completely wiped out their entire defense in a three-week trial with that video. Needless to say, we prevailed. I should add, using sub rosa video against a defendant like this is very rare. They usually stop doing what they are not supposed to be doing during the trial. I guess the restaurant didn’t get the memo.
25. A Clever Motion
When I was in law school, I had to argue a case for an exam. I was the last in my class to go so there wasn’t anyone arguing against me. I opened with a motion to dismiss since opposing had failed to show. The judge grading me chuckled and said, “touché counsel.” I still had to go forward, but we got off on the right foot and I ended up with an A.
26. Curb Appeal
I had one where I pretty much knew the jury was on my side by the end. I had prepared my closing statement the night before so I was ready to go. There was a break where the jury was out before receiving their instructions. I noticed that the opposing counsel was writing his closing statement during that break and would likely continue while the judge was reading the jury instructions.
His table was a mess—papers and books everywhere. He was frantically scribbling on a notepad and shuffling through papers, adding things up in a phone calculator, etc. I decided to clear everything off of my table and put it out of sight. When the jury came back in, I just sat there with nothing but a brand new, clean yellow legal pad and a pen.
Opposing counsel was still scribbling and shuffling and his table was still a mess. I sat back and crossed my legs and pressed my fingertips together and listened while the judge read the instructions to the jury. I like to think that made a good final impression on the jury. They came back with a verdict fully in my favor.
27. Well, That Was Easy
When the guy being sued admitted, without being asked, that he wasn’t qualified to install an air-conditioner. He was being sued for defectively installing an air conditioner.
28. Seeing is Believing
I’m an attorney in Southern California. My client was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance. Officer is going through the usual signs and symptoms. Cop testifies that both of client’s eyes were red and bloodshot. Testifies that both pupils were dilated and moved slightly to exposure of light. In my opening, I had hinted that the officer will testify to some falsehoods.
The client gets up on the stand and pops one of his eyes out. My client had a fake eye that could obviously not be bloodshot or have pupil dilation. He was found not guilty.
29. Putting On the Charm Offensive
I once had an appeal where the precedent, all from other circuit courts, was very bad for me. The circuit court I was arguing in front of had a decision that was very good for me, but it was “unpublished” (meaning that it was not precedential). My goal was to convince the court to follow its unpublished decision, not the decisions of the other circuits.
During my argument, I cited the unpublished decision. One of the judges interrupts me and asks, “But wasn’t that decision unpublished?” I answered, “Yes, but it was well-reasoned.” He replied with a self-effacing quip, “I was on the panel for that decision, so it couldn’t have been that well-reasoned.” The audience laughed a bit.
I answered quickly, “In that case, your honor, it was at least well-written!” The audience (and all the judges) burst into laughter. I ended up winning in a published decision, which turned the old unpublished decision into binding precedent! A bit of humor can go a long way in the courtroom. Especially when you’re flattering the judges.
30. A Tough Look For My Guy
I’m not a lawyer, but I was in traffic court one time and saw a lawyer straight-up murder a cop with words. The cop had previously testified that the weather on the night of the traffic stop was heavy rain and winds so strong that the defendant could only open his window three inches, and that the car had stopped on an area with very little shoulder, forcing the cop to approach from the passenger side, not the driver side. The cop had then testified that he smelled a strong smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath.
When the defense lawyer got up, he repeated what the cop had said almost verbatim and asked how he could have possibly smelled alcohol on the breath of someone on the other side of the car, through a three inch crack in the window, on a night with pouring rain and strong winds. The cop sort of opened and shut his mouth a few times, squirmed around in his seat, and said, “That’s just what I always write in my log, to remind me that it was a DUI stop.”
The judge threw the case out. No motion to dismiss needed. Then he took a break and called the traffic prosecutor and the cop into his office. I’m guessing it wasn’t for a nice spot of tea and some scones.
31. An Incredible Plot Twist
My client just needed to not lose her housing, I was trying to get her on one-year probation (but would agree to two) instead of termination. On the day of the hearing, I had six summer associates come with me, each carrying huge binders. When my hearing was about to begin, I had them all bring them in and set them in front of me.
The opposing lawyer was a very overworked NYC housing attorney who had budgeted an hour that day for my hearing. She instantly goes, “What is this?” I told her it was my arguments. She said she didn’t have the time. I started off on a two-minute opening I had prepared. then grabbed one of the binders and she was like. “Let me stop you there. What do you want?” I said three months probation, she countered with a year, ended up agreeing on six months.
The binders were all empty.
32. Not a Good Idea to Say Something Dumb Over the Radio
My client and his wife were woken up one night because people were trying to break into his house. He fired two warning shots as his wife called 911. The neighbor also called 911. When the police got the neighbor’s call that there were shots fired, the police sergeant radioed the other officers and said, “He’s going to jail tonight,” referring to my client.
So obviously, even with signs of someone trying to break in and his wife calling 911 for help, the officers arrest my client for endangering his wife by shooting inside the house (nowhere near her). It gets to a jury trial and I start to go off on the police sergeant about why she would say that before an investigation and before she even had any idea what happened.
The sergeant had no idea how to respond and literally just sat there staring at me for a solid two minutes before saying anything. Even the bailiffs were audibly laughing.
33. Remember, Remember the Fifth of May
It was a lawsuit against the owner of a Mexican restaurant for not paying his employees and keeping the waiters’ tips. He was just a terrible all-around guy. He created these fake handwritten schedules and payroll records going back years to try and prove that his employees didn’t work but a few hours each week and were paid for what they did work. It was difficult to prove they were fakes, but we managed to trap him during his deposition.
I made the guy go through random bits of his work schedule and asked him to confirm they were correct. We did a random week in February, March, April…then we got to May. “So here in early May, you had two servers working every night, one hostess, one bartender, and two cooks?” “Yes.” “And that didn’t fluctuate. You didn’t have a need for extra staff on, say, weekend nights?”
“No. It was very steady no matter the day.” “What about on this Wednesday? How much staff did you need?” “Just the two servers, my hostess, the bartender, and two cooks. The same as every other night.” “And if you would indulge me, what date are we looking at?” “May 5th.” “Okay. So it’s your testimony under oath that you had the same staffing needs on May the 5th as you did on May 4th and May 6th.” “Yeah.”
Opposing counsel’s head begins to hang while shaking. “So you are comfortable telling the judge you didn’t do extra business on May 5th.” “Yeah. Or June 17th or whatever date you pick. It was always steady.” “You have no problem walking into court and telling the judge and the jury, under oath, that your Mexican restaurant didn’t need any extra help on May 5th. That these schedules and payroll records you’ve produced are 100% accurate. For Cinco de Mayo? You are totally comfortable with doing that?”
“Yeah, I… Oh.” The case settled within a week.
34. Caught Him Red-Fingerprinted
Back when I was a prosecutor, I had a defendant object that I couldn’t compel him to give a fingerprint sample for comparison. It’s how we proved prior convictions. Our expert would fingerprint the defendant outside the presence of the jury and in the presence of the jury compare fingerprints to the ones included on old judgments.
This is 101% BS because fingerprints aren’t testimony and can be compelled. But the judge for the day was actually buying the argument. So I stood up, told the judge I was applying for a search warrant and asked to be sworn in. She swore me in, I applied for a warrant, and she wrote out a warrant return for his fingerprints. No longer with a valid objection, the defendant was fingerprinted and, surprise surprise, his four prior felonies were indeed his. He’s serving life now.
His crime? Two weeks after getting out of prison, he bought some coke. Which he then mainlined. Which he then drove on. And while driving, ran a stop sign. When an officer tried to pull him over, he fled. And threw his coke and needles out the window, into a residential neighborhood. Where he crashed his car, into a house. When the officer got out to check on him, he tried to run the officer over.
The officer shot him in the chest, and then performed life-saving first aid until the paramedics could get there.
35. What are the Odds
When I was around 16, I worked as a test shopper, so I’d end up in court sometimes to testify that someone had sold me cigarettes. There was one time where a man was claiming he had sold me cigarettes because the compliance officers never tried to properly train him as a store owner. The officers told him they tried to call him several times, and he was being incredibly difficult to get a hold of. The officers even had a ridiculous amount of notes that described all the times they tried to contact him.
When they pointed out all this to him, his defense turned into, “I don’t own a phone, so it was up to them to try something else to train me.” With absolutely perfect timing, his phone started audibly ringing in his pocket—the second he finished saying he didn’t own one. Our side’s lawyer is now a judge, and she still says that was one of the most perfectly timed things that’s ever happened to her
36. Major Facepalm
My mom is a lawyer and was representing a black woman who was accused of stealing. My mother is also black and this is how it went down.
Plaintiff’s lawyer: “Please point out the accused.”
Officer: points at my mom
Mom: “I’m the lawyer, officer.”
Judge: dismisses case.
37. Sound Legal Advice
I once litigated a case against a party who chose to represent himself…and I managed to have objections sustained against every single question he asked my client on cross-examination. When the other party realized he wasn’t even going to be heard in this dispute that he had no doubt been thinking over and preparing for years, he just stood there in the well and actually wept.
Don’t try to represent yourself, kids. Lawyers’ knowledge on a lot of matters may be pretty superficial—but we know how proceedings in court go.
38. Incredible Gamesmanship
Two high school kids spend their day pissing each other off so they decide to drive to a fast food restaurant to fight. They park, get out, immediately approach, and swing. Kid A connects the first blow squarely and solidity across Kid B and instantly drops him. The whole fight was one punch with a total elapsed time of a few seconds. The restaurant is sued for failure to protect its patrons.
The case is weak. Unfortunately, Kid B hit the pavement hard and had severe brain damage. Attempts were made to settle, but they were after millions. We knew walking in they had two former employees testifying about large crowds building up after school. The plaintiff attorney aimed to prove the restaurant had a reasonable expectation of trouble and should have had armed guards in the parking lot.
At best, their witnesses wildly exaggerating to the point of perjury. Their credibility was shaky in being highly disgruntled for being fired. We had a list of witnesses ready to refute their claims. At trial, the plaintiff attorney presented first. He spent a long time building up the bad blood between the kids, the serious damages of Kid B, and his potential earning capacity.
A lot of foundation work to build sympathy for his client. We break for lunch on day two, after which it would be the defense presentation. As we were talking through where we were and how we should proceed, we realized the restaurant was not really mentioned at all. Plaintiff held back his “star” witnesses to rebut the defense presentation the restaurant was safe. So when we reconvened, we say, “The defense rests your honor.”
The plaintiff attorney fell out of his chair. He begins frantically shuffling papers on his table and was stammering. The judge says, “I take it you will need a few minutes for your close?” After that break, the plaintiff’s attorney gave one of the worst closing remarks I’ve ever heard. The jury’s verdict: Kid B 10% at fault. Kid A 90% at fault. Restaurant 0%.
39. Weird Flex, But Okay
We were in mediation on a case and were close to settling, but we were just far enough apart that it looked like it wasn’t going to resolve. The mediator comes in and tells me the Vice President of the company I’d dealt with all this time, who was this like 270-pound burly guy who my associate swears resembled pro wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow, says he will arm wrestle me for the difference.
So essentially if he wins, we take his final number, if I win, he pays ours. The mediator, who is a character, says it’s crazy but I should just do it! Then my client jumps in and says he wants to see this too and he doesn’t care about the money. Now, I am 6’0 and 185 pounds, so I was going to have a severe weight disadvantage, but I have always been weirdly good at arm wrestling.
So I say, screw it, tell him it’s on if he’s serious. Mediator leaves, I put on some DMX and start bouncing around a bit to get worked up like a fighter about to enter a ring. Go into the room, we agree we are doing this, shake hands and get set up. The mediator is bouncing off the walls and we have my client and two other attorneys watching.
Mediator says “Go” and I just lock my arm and absorb this guy’s initial push, then feel his arm give slightly when he realizes he isn’t moving me and then I just go full force and had him down so fast my associate initially thought I lost. We shook hands again and went back to our caucus room, and my client was ecstatic that I not only did that for him, but I won too! The mediator came in still giddy saying it was the craziest thing he’s seen in his career as a mediator.
He then said the guy is red-faced and frantically texting because he thinks he didn’t have authority to pay that much and did not contemplate actually losing. However, sure enough and true to his word, minutes later we had the signed agreement. Then we went out for some drinks to celebrate, and within a day I became a legend in the office.
40. It Hits the Fan
I worked at my local district attorney’s office as a prosecutor when I was freshly minted lawyer. We had a special setting trial on a case that had been reset too many times. The week before, it became clear that this particular case was going to finally be tried. I was ready at the State’s table waiting for defense counsel when he walks in and tells me he’s going to ask for a continuance.
I’m pretty sure I laughed, thinking that it was never going to happen. So the judge walks in angry that he has to sit through another continuance request. Meanwhile, I get the aroma of something foul in the courtroom and I can’t place where it’s coming from. The judge asks the defense attorney why he needs another continuance and the defense attorney pulls out his briefcase, opens it, and pulls out a ziplock bag with soiled underwear inside.
Turns out he defecated his pants that morning in court. He was an elderly attorney and was taking stool softeners. The continuance was granted, and in fact, the entire courtroom shut down for the day to allow maintenance time to clean and shampoo the seats he was sitting on. I have no idea what ended up happening in that case, I never tried it, maybe another prosecutor did, but this was one of my more memorable “I rest my case” stories that I’ve seen a lawyer pull off.
41. A Crucial Clerical Error
I was in an accident a few years ago. It was definitely the other guy’s fault. He 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 motor vehicle.” When I got to court, the judge asked how I wanted to plead.
I asked the judge if I could ask a question first, and he said sure. I stated, “The ticket says I did wear my seatbelt while operating my motor vehicle, and if that’s the case, I want to plead guilty.” The judge looks down at the ticket, and looks back at me and says, “Case dismissed! Have a good day.”
42. 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.
43. That Escalated Quickly
The complaining witness accused my client of harassment/stalking. My client claimed they were dating, but whenever she got mad at him, she’d call the police and say he was harassing her. On the stand, she testified that she’d never dated him, never invited him into her home, wanted nothing to do with him. She presented a photo on her phone of him sitting on her porch to prove that he had come to her property.
I asked the judge permission to look at the photos before and after the porch photo for context. Girl had dozens of photos of the guy, who was clearly her boyfriend. I showed her one such picture: This is Mr. So-and-so, right? (yes) In this photo, he’s on a bed? (yes) The bed is yours? (yes) The bed is in your bedroom? (yes) You took this photo of him? (yes) He’s smiling in the photo? (yes) And in this photo, he’s wearing your brassiere? (yes)
No further questions, your honor.