Lawyer-client privilege is a powerful thing. If we did something we weren’t supposed to, we can confess everything to our lawyer, and they’ll keep it safe and secret. Well, these people apparently never got that memo, because they left out some very crucial details when it came to their court cases. Here are lawyers’ worst “You didn’t tell me THAT” moments.
1. Daddy Issues
This was one of those revelations that haunted me the very moment it came out. It was a case where my client, a mother, was trying to get a restraining order against her brother for harming her kid. The entire time, she’d been super dodgy about the kid’s father’s identity. Well, in the middle of open court, she dropped a bombshell...she confessed that the brother was her child’s father.
2. I Object
Recently, we had a deposition with an employee of my client. We brought him in as a “fact witness,” which meant he was supposed to be impartial. During the deposition, he gave a confession that made our jaws drop. He said that he had signed an agreement that would pay him a substantial bonus if the client won the case.
How can you possibly give believable factual testimony at a trial if you stand to earn a windfall? Ugh.
3. Sign Away Your Life
I had a client tell me that he had just signed a bunch of claim releases that ultimately tanked his case. This was after I had explicitly told him to let me look at all documents prior to signing. When I saw my client's signature on one of the documents right before the deposition, I just face-palmed. His signature ended up waiving away any rights he'd had to payment. Ugh.
4. Show Me The Money
The senior partner of my firm had told me to handle this particular case. My client told me an old lady he had befriended had lent him some money. Concerned about an upcoming surgery, she had then told him that if anything happened to her, he should consider the money a gift. Her signature was on a document to this effect, dated about a week before the surgery.
Well, she had passed, but from confusing circumstances I didn’t quite understand, and that my client was being really shady about. Now, her estate was suing to get the money back and my client was insisting it was a gift because of their agreement. I subpoenaed her medical records, but they were only given to me on the day of the trial. They illustrated a chilling picture.
She hadn’t had the surgery at all. She had fallen, been rushed to hospital, and passed shortly after. Although the family wasn’t sure about the terms of their agreement, my client sure was, and he had been lying through his teeth and avoiding telling me the truth just to get at a little bit of her money. Some people are just bad people.
5. That’s The Tooth
I represented a client who was suing for jaw and mouth-related injuries. I retained her regular dentist to testify as her expert witness. Two days before our impending trial, my client dropped a detail that ruined everything. She casually mentions that she will be arriving at the courthouse with her dentist because they had become romantically involved. And that wasn’t all.
They’d lived together for the past year. She had more than a year at her disposal to tell me this little bit of wonderful news. I immediately became more agreeable to a last minute pre-trial settlement.
6. In One Ear, Out The Other
I was an intern for a public defender when I was in school. I was able to practice under a limited license, as long as my supervising attorney was present. This meant I was able to do certain simple things like arraignments to gain experience. One morning, we met with this fellow before his arraignment. He told us that he was guilty and didn't want to fight the charge.
Really, he just wanted to get some help with his substance problem. My supervisor explained that this client would be an excellent candidate for the court program, and the first step to get that process going would be to plead "Not Guilty" that day, so an agreement could be worked up with the prosecutor in the weeks afterward.
I sat and watched as my supervisor explained the whole process to this guy, who seemed to understand completely. He seemed entirely cognizant at the time, and responded adequately to what the attorney was saying. Finally, my supervisor asked the guy, "Would it be OK if my Intern represented you for this? It's rather simple, all he'll say is "Not Guilty". The guy agreed and I was excited. I would come to regret this for the rest of my life.
Cut to an hour or so later. I am seated next to this guy, I enter the plea, everything is fine. Then the judge asks "Sir, do you have any questions for the court?" The guy, after having been explained the process thoroughly by advising attorney, says, "Can I just confess now?" All I could hear was the residual ringing of my ears left by a soul leaving one's body.
The judge gave me the most pitying look I've ever seen, and said "Sir, I think you need to consult with your counsel". My advising attorney then came up, tapped me on the shoulder, and said he'd handle it. Like a shamed puppy, I scurried back behind the bar. The attorney quickly conferred with the client and the plea went ahead as planned.
Later he told me to get used to that, as functional addicts tend to become experts in making people think they understand what they've been told, when they haven’t at all.
7. Nothing But A Number
A friend of mine leased a house in his name and moved in with two other friends. Everything is cool, and it's a real party house. After about six months, my friend meets a girl and decides to move in with her. When he moved out, though, he didn't change the lease and the other guys assured him they would pay the rent and look after the house. He soon found out what a huge mistake he’d made.
One by one, they all leave. Then all the new occupants have no ties to my friend, who has the lease. At some point, they stop paying rent and the agent calls and tells them they will be evicted. So they have a huge party and totally trash the place. My friend calls me and asks if I will help him clean up his old place, as the agent has phoned him now.
I agree and meet him at his old house. I had some plaster repair stuff, paint, and things to get a rental through an inspection. Well, we walked through the house and my mouth hung open. The damage was...beyond anything I had expected. I mean, there were no cupboards in the kitchen, and what was left of them was in a huge bonfire pile out in the backyard.
Every door was busted off its hinges. Every room had holes you could walk through in the walls. There was no way to repair this house without gutting and rebuilding the whole inside, not to mention the damage to the yard. We wandered through the house in shock, it was completely screwed and so was my friend. We had to do something.
My friend went and spoke with his dad who has a friend who is a lawyer, who asks for a copy of the lease. We go to the agent and ask for a copy of the lease, and they tell us that the damage bill is about half the value of the house. They photocopy the lease and then give us a copy of the ID, his drive’s license, that he used when signing the lease, which proves the friend leased the place.
We go to lawyer, who looks things over and then looks at the ID. He read it and burst out laughing. He says, "You were only 17 when you signed this, you can't sign a lease document unless you are 18 or older" We go back to agent and point this out. They lose their mind BUT they can't do anything. They even had to give the bond back because they weren’t actually allowed to take it in the first place.
8. Tell It To Me Straight
I watched this unfold as the foreperson of a jury. The defendant decided to be his own lawyer. He was accused of pulling over and switching drivers in a car, all while being pursued by officers for driving without a license while on probation. Yeah, it was a lot, and this guy wasn’t very smart. This became crystal clear after one exchange.
The defendant put his buddy on the stand and asked point-blank, "Who was driving the car that day?" Buddy replied, "You mean before or after we switched drivers?" It was all I could do to keep a straight face.
9. Lucky Break
My family friend was representing someone accessed of embezzling 2 million dollars from the company she worked for. The embezzling was discovered through lavish spending, including the accused buying multiple 100K cars for family members while on a salary of 80K. The case is going OK, but there are problems with some of the evidence. And then everything took a jaw-dropping twist.
The defendant decides to hold a press conference and claim she won the money at the casino. Obviously, this kind of thing can be checked (and in this case, proven false pretty much immediately), so the lawyer asks the client to hold another press conference to say she misspoke. If she doesn’t, she’s screwed because they'll be able to tell she is lying about the source of the money.
Moreover, lying shows her knowledge of wrongdoing. So she holds another press conference and says she misspoke. Except then she adds onto her statement and says it wasn't her who won the money at the casino, but her cousin who won the money at the casino...The lawyer had to drop the client at this point. But she wasn’t finished.
To make matters worse, the 25K she paid her lawyer sat in his escrow account for a while because the money wasn’t obtained in a clean way (unsurprisingly). I don't believe he got the total sum in the end and had to go to court against his own ex-client to get something for all his work. Just a hot mess of a case from beginning to end.
10. Baring It All
I had a client who claimed her employer discriminated against her after she got into a car crash. She said her disabilities were so bad she couldn't drive or sit at her desk for any amount of time, and her company refused to accommodate her by letting her work remotely. Seemed cut and dry…until the mortifying truth came out.
Needless to say, it was embarrassing when opposing counsel told me my client played in a full-contact lingerie football league and they had telecast videos of her on YouTube playing, running, getting tackled, and dancing in the end zone…on the very date that her doctor (who lost his license) gave her a note saying she was bed-bound.
I then showed her the footage, and she continued to lie despite having a freaking stat sheet for receiving yards when she was supposedly in the hospital. Never been angrier at a client.
11. Them’s The Brakes
It was a traffic accident case, and I only met my client shortly before the trial. He came across well in our meeting and answered my questions reasonably and plausibly. Minutes before we are called into the courtroom he says, “I’ve never had much luck with these court cases...” I ask, “You’ve been in the county court before?” He replies, “Oh no, I mean with the charges.”
In giving evidence, he then proceeds to blurt out his history—unprompted—and also comes up with the following delicious exchange: Counsel: “You accept that as you were on the minor road, you did not have the right of way?” Defendant: “Well, I don’t know, I’m not a ROAD EXPERT. You’d need a road expert to answer a question like that.”
Counsel: “All I’m asking is whether you agree that a car on a minor road does not have the right of way.” Defendant: “Right of way, wrong of way, who can say? That’s what we’re here to find out! For the judge to decide.” I nearly cried. So (a) he failed to disclose to me his remarkable history of driving offences and (b) he failed to disclose his status as total moron.
12. The Right Hand Doesn’t Know What The Left Is Doing
I got to read the actual trial record when a guy who claimed total loss of the use of his right arm testified for 45 minutes straight that he had hurt his left arm. He even lifted his allegedly horrifically injured right arm above his head to demonstrate which appendage was messed up. One of his attorneys just packed up his stuff and walked out.
13. A Bad Case Of Nerves
Our client was a home health care worker for the elderly and people who can't leave their homes. One of her clients left his estate to her when he passed, which was about a year after she was hired. The surviving family was so angry about this that they sued her for undue influence, etc. From everything our client said, she just got along with her patient really well and innocently.
She quit working for her company to care for him full time, they went on small trips together, and were together every day. In contrast, the surviving family was only a great niece who lived several states away and hadn’t spoken with the deceased in a decade prior to his passing. So we thought we had a legit case of a man expressing his appreciation for the woman who cared for him in the last two years of his life. We were way off the mark.
Towards the end of the deceased’s life, he began making plans to change his will and leave his property to our client. In several produced emails, she “joked” that they should just get married and avoid the hassle. Cue the accusations that she’s a gold digger, etc. So we stress to her that they’re going to come at her from this angle and she needs to be prepared.
Before her first deposition, we prep our client for days. She is a little out there, and her demeanor in general is rather off-putting, so we went above and beyond in prep. There was nothing we didn’t ask her a hundred different ways and times. First 10 minutes of the deposition, our client is asked about her marital history. She states she’s been married three times, which we knew. And then the real stuff came out.
She then goes on to say that SHE HAS BEEN ENGAGED 11 TIMES BUT ALWAYS BROKE IT OFF BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO SUPPORT HER LIFESTYLE. To top it all off, she states that while she’s never been charged with anything she did spend two weeks behind bars for contempt for refusing to obey a judge’s orders and hiding evidence in a previous lawsuit.
She spends the rest of the next two days alternating between arguing that she doesn’t remember basic information like her phone number and insulting opposing counsel and calling him names. Multiple times during breaks and such, we ask her what is going on, tell her to calm down, review everything we went over, to no avail.
Finally I end up in the restroom at the same time with her, and watch her pop a handful of pills for her “anxiety.” Ever watch a $4 million case go up in flames because your client is crazy? It was a rough day and that witch still owes me $10k.
14. Slipped My Mind
A client in a hearing for domestic conflict case “forgot” to tell me that maybe, just maybe she had buried a knife in her husband's hand, and that she had also forgotten that she used to threaten him in front of her neighbors, her family, her colleagues, and her pets. It was a cool and crooked time trying to defend the shamefully indefensible.
15. We Have The Receipts
I was in a visitation/child support case with my ex over our three-year-old. We had both moved on and gotten remarried. Our visitation order was for him to pick up our child from my house at 6 pm on every other Friday night. He frequently would show up at 9 pm or later, with no call ahead of time to let us know what was going on.
Sometimes, he would even show up the next day when he felt like it and expect us to not only be there but to be waiting on him. This was before cell phones were popular, but both he and I had one, so he had a means of contacting us. After one too many incidences, my husband and I set up our video camera. It was actually an ingenious plan.
We placed it where it would record our TV so they could see the evening news for a time stamp; our home phone to prove we weren't called; and our driveway to prove he never showed when he was supposed to. After six months or so of this, we head to court. He told his lawyer that he was there, on time, every visit, and we just wouldn't allow him to see his son.
The judge asked us to go to a private room with our lawyers to see if we could work things out. Once there, the other lawyer jumps on my lawyer about how her clients were lying and we were scum, etc. She calmly leaned over, picked up the first bag of tapes (out of five) and laid it on the table. She explained that it was full of tapes from the visitations he never showed for, and said that all the bags had the same.
She then asked if he would like for the judge to come in and watch the tapes with us. The lawyer asked us to leave so he could confer with my ex. He "conferred" so loudly the judge had to send someone in to quiet them down. Needless to say, we got everything we asked for.
16. The Ties That Bind
I did client intake working pro-bono in a fair housing clinic. I thought I had a really solid case based on what this current client had told us. Her landlord was calling her horrific names, a worthless piece of trash, etc. To my mind, this woman isn’t going to have to pay her current landlord any rent for a very LONG time. Still, we’ve got to go through procedures.
So I ask the question that ALWAYS has a bad answer: How long has it been since you paid rent? It had been a few months, but I can work with that. After 25 minutes of listening (a lot of venting is going on) and documenting the case, I start getting all of the final information. I ask for the landlord’s address. She lets me know it’s the same address.
I’m surprised. I ask if it’s a duplex. She says no. I ask for the landlord’s full name. Well, he has the same last name as she does. The rest of the conversation went something like this: “Is your landlord in any way related to you?” Her: “Yeah, he’s my dad.”
17. My Train Is Coming In
I do personal injury law, and I love telling people about this client. It blows my mind that a person can have so little shame about lying for money. We got a client who said that she was boarding a train and that the edge of the platform was slippery, so she slipped and their foot got wedged between the train and the platform.
She said the train started moving despite her yelling for it to stop, which caused a compound fracture of her fibula and a closed fracture of her ankle. And she was pregnant. She had surgery immediately to repair their leg and spent a few days in the hospital, racking up a $100,000 bill. A month later, we received video footage of the incident from the train station...
Our client missed the closing doors to the train by a solid 30 seconds, got upset, and full on charge-kicked the side of the moving train, the force of which absolutely shattered her lower leg and landed her in the hospital. Now, I get it. It's annoying to miss your train, and I wish my client the best and a full recovery, but Jesus H. Christ, lady.
18. Ahead Of The Game
Standing outside of the courtroom, and we were first on the docket. The matter was for a divorce order, but it had been a total nightmare up until that point. My client’s husband had been hiding out in another country, so it was a whole rigmarole. But in any case, we’re here now, and I think this is finally going to be smooth sailing. I was so, so wrong.
We’re about to walk in, and my client turns to me and says, "By the way, I think I am already divorced in [other country]. I got some papers a month ago". Our matter is called 30 seconds later. I explain to the judge that I've just been told this at the door—which, in case you don’t know, pretty much makes our divorce proceedings moot.
The judge gives me a look that is half piteous, half "are you freaking kidding me?" then reschedules the matter with instructions to confirm whether the client really was divorced elsewhere. Turns out that they were. My client proceeded to leave a bad review because we couldn't get her a divorce order…despite the fact that she was ALREADY divorced.
19. I Can Resist Everything But Temptation
This was my colleague's client, not mine, but I did see this all go down first-hand. The client was on probation for a substance related offense. Part of the probation was that she had to stay clean. She knew this. Also, it's worth contextualizing that she wasn't on something hard or anything, she just liked her joints a little stronger than usual.
The lawyer tells the client multiple times, including a few days before her next hearing date, you WILL be tested at the court house. You have to be clean for a few days at a minimum. Lady swears up and down she's clean. Hearing date comes, we're sitting around in court, it gets to her turn, and the judge asks her point blank: "Are you clean today?"
Lady: "Yes, your honor". Judge: "Okay great, the bailiff is going to take you to go get tested, sit tight". Cue the client looking visibly surprised. Regular other stuff continues in the court. Meanwhile, this lady, who is definitely NOT clean, slips out of the door and all of the way out of the courthouse. The judge is obviously furious when he realizes she ditched them.
They catch up with her by that afternoon, and now she's not only popping dirty on the test, but the judge is also angry, so he's going to throw the book at her. All she had to do was not light up for a few days. That's it. She was nearly done with her probation. Instead she went behind bars. I don’t know why she thought she could get away with it.
20. Ex Rated
Not a lawyer, but my ex-wife was one of these people. I was divorcing her for fraud. My case was solid and it was going result in a quick annulment, which can be rare. I told her everything and put all my cards on the table—there was going to be no spousal support, nothing. Well, she did the smart thing and got a lawyer for herself.
Apparently, she told her lawyer I was filing on my own, without a lawyer. That gave her lawyer the impression I was misusing the divorce opportunity and had no case. She also completely lied about the circumstances in our marriage that were leading me to file for fraud in the first place, and that—without spilling the details—it was super documented and substantial.
Well, the summons was served, and when her lawyer found out about all my ex's lies, she dropped her in a heart beat. The trial was quick, I won my case, and she got nothing. DO NOT LIE TO YOUR LAWYER.
21. A Little Off The Top
My client was a decades-long employee with a bank, and she came in to dispute a termination for cause. She confessed that in an act of desperation and at a time where we had good evidence she was under great mental stress and depression, she had “kited” a check—that is, she deposited a check she knew wouldn’t clear, then used those funds to withdraw money or write your own check.
This was the basis for her termination, but it was an arguable case. The client had immediately thereafter ensured there was enough money in the account so that the bank suffered no actual loss, and her job had no access to or connection to money. It was more for the purposes of getting access to funds early at a moment she needed them. Or so we thought.
Partway through discovery, the bank pulled out records and ATM footage that showed our client doing the same thing over a hundred times. Case didn't go so well after that.
22. Under Threat
It was a trial for a misdemeanor and threats. This can be hard to prove, and my client was adamant he did nothing. It was a simple business relationship that soured, and the alleged victim was terrible. Nonetheless, my client was alleged to have made a threat to her in a hallway, even though I had good evidence otherwise. Then, on the morning of trial, it all unraveled.
The prosecutor gives me some “late discovery.” It’s an audio of my client’s voice. HE LEFT A VOICEMAIL wondering why the victim had security at an event and was asking, “Did someone threaten to shoot her in her freaking head?” We listened to it in the hallway. He still wanted his trial. I did what I could, but yeah that was a quick guilty verdict...
23. Fake It Till You Make It
I just read about the recent disbarment of one of my law school classmates. Apparently, he told his client that they won the case. They did not win the case. In fact, the case was languishing from inaction on the part of the lawyer. Somehow, it got much worse. He then created fake documents saying they won the case, and forged the judge’s signature on the fake documents.
Then he had the audacity to bill the client for the time it took to “win” the case. Imagine the surprise of the client when another lawyer at the firm called her up and said “Remember how you paid your lawyer for a bunch of work and he said you won your case? Yeah, none of that happened.” So yeah, he got disbarred. Weird that it happened to somebody I know.
24. For Love Or Money
I wasn’t the lawyer but I was one of the witnesses. My sister-in-law was five years old when her father passed, and he left her his house. However, her nasty mother was supposed to “take care of it” until she came of age, and through sheer manipulation she handled everything until my sister-in-law was well into her mid 20s.
Fast-forward to age 25, and my sister-in-law finds out there’s a $400,000 mortgage on the house that she had no clue about—she only found out when she got the foreclosure notice. Turns out, her mother and older half brother had conspired to forge her signature and take out a mortgage that they split. It was several levels of shady: The notary was the brother’s wife and the mortgage broker was the wife’s sister.
It was a full-on conspiracy. We’re going back and forth for years, and at one point the mother and brother literally admitted to me that they did it, but that it was “18 years of rent and food for her being paid back” and all that nasty stuff. The lawsuit went on for over a year. So one day, our attorney is in the middle of accusing the mother of forging the signature.
The mother keeps responding in an annoyed, condescending matter. Eventually, the lawyer asks her some other question about the signature and she blurts out, “That’s not my signature, that’s my son’s!” Our attorney, their attorney, the bank’s attorney, the judge, and the entire court all collectively gasped. Case closed.
25. Repeat Offender
This was a good while back when I began my career as a public defender. When you get assigned to a case, you get a file that generally consists of the officer report and any witness statements that may have been taken. Because the State has a duty to disclose evidence to the accused's counsel, if they know of the existence of video surveillance, generally the DA would stamp in the report "KS/WP,” or “Known surveillance/will provide.
So I get a routine destruction of property case where my client is accused of destroying a computer monitor. The officer’s account of the case was simply "Surveillance reviewed. Client taken into custody," stamped with the red KS/WP. Client called and sounded much more reasonable then she would turn out to be. She calmly explained it was a wrong place, wrong time issue.
She said she was passing through and tripped to hit the computer at a receptionist desk. So we schedule an initial meeting for Friday. Friday comes around, and about ten minutes prior to the client’s arrival, a runner from the DA's office delivers the CD with the video. Being a bit busy at the time, I figured I'd watch it with the client when she arrived.
She arrives and again, seems just fine. I mention that we have the surveillance and could go ahead and review it, and she pleasantly agrees. Her and her reasonably well-dressed husband come in, joke a bit about how awkward this all is, and sit down across from me. I turn the monitor around so we can watch what happened. I didn’t know what was coming.
In the five minutes of surveillance provided, the first four minutes were a mundane scene of a receptionist answering phones with a pair of double doors behind her. I fast forward. Then, cue the music. I watched my client kick open a pair of double doors, screaming at whatever was on the other side. She leaves. The comes back in, screaming again, and re-enters the double doors.
Then I see security guards gently escorting her out, as she is screaming at them. Security stops at the double doors. My client goes over to the reception desk and leans over the counter to...you guessed it...grab the computer monitor, take it over her head, and bring it smashing to the ground. She then gives the finger to security and leaves.
We watch the next 30 seconds in stunned silence, and the tape goes black. Now, I knew enough to watch my client’s reaction during this, and she was a goddarned statue. Didn't move. Stared at the screen with the smile of a psycho. Then she turned to me and said "So, what are you gonna do about this?" I didn't know what to say, and I just kind of stared at her".
Well, uh, probably work on a plea deal. Hopefully you pay them and get a couple of hour—" "I didn't do it". "Well, yes you did. I just watched it". She stands up and, without breaking eye contact, grabs my computer monitor, lifts it up, and smashes it on the ground. She picks up her purse and walks out. Her husband follows, but turns to me in my doorway and gives me the finger, shaking his head in a "for shame" kind of way. I did not take the case.
26. A Woman Scorned
I was fresh out of law school and took a job to save the world. It was my second court appearance, ever. My client had gotten a protective order against her horrible boyfriend, which included a requirement that he not call her or come within a certain distance of her. He'd been calling her, so we took him back to court to enforce the protective order.
What she had neglected to mention to me was that he had been calling her because she had taken a baseball bat to his car while it was parked outside of his work and left a note taped to the steering wheel that said something to the effect that if she ever saw him out with "that witch” again, it wouldn't just be his car she came after with a baseball bat.
It's been 20 years. I now do commercial law. I will be a lifeless body before I will ever voluntarily touch another domestic matter.
27. Lightning Strikes Twice
I’m a public defender. I was doing an assault case with a twist—the victim claimed that the very unique assault incident happened twice, identically, two days in a row. During questioning, she was adamant that things happened this way twice—Yes, she said, it sounds crazy, but it happened, yes she was so scared of him, etc. She sounds pretty believable, and I'm starting to get worried for my client.
My cross examination comes, and I start asking questions to set her up for an impeachment. Finally I ask her, “Are we supposed to believe that these unbelievable, made-up sounding things happened to you not once, but twice?” This is when the case took a huge turn. She then quietly says, “yes,” and something made me push with, “Yes, what?”
“Yes, I made it up.” This admission put me in such a shock that I didn't even know what to say. I asked a few more questions and sat down. The DA futilely attempted to redirect the question as if I had intimidated her. My client walked, but I never again had a victim admit that they were making things up on stand. I still don’t know what changed her mind.
28. Behind Closed Doors
This was my first murder trial as a prosecutor. A husband had started beating his wife, the victim, one day because she was getting ready to go to work without making his dinner first. It escalated and turned fatal. On the stand, the victim’s sister is describing how the victim told the sister to go to work, even though the victim usually got a ride to the same workplace with her sister.
That day, however, she decided to stay home. The sister talked about this with me at least three times and with the authorities at least once. So when I asked her why did the victim not want a ride that day, I expected her to say “Because her husband [the attacker] wanted her to stay home.” What she really said made my blood run cold.
She blurted, “I don’t know. Maybe she was having an affair with the auto mechanic.” I had interviewed a dozen witnesses. No one ever mentioned an affair. I wasn’t even thinking of that as a motive for the husband—no one was. The husband actually got convicted of a lesser punishment because the jury thought the affair justified the attack more.
Seriously, that’s what one female juror told me after the trial. He still got 30 years, but darn. That shook me up.
29. We Were On A Break
I was being prosecuted for domestic battery after being accused by my ex wife. She forgot to mention one crucial thing to her lawyer. When the “incident” happened, it was her attempting to damage my car by smashing big rocks on the hood and windshield because I told her we were done. When that failed, she threw white paint on my car.
Moreover, the reason I was divorcing her was because she was cheating. So she testifies that I beat her and threw paint on my own car in an attempt to frame her. She also claimed I had slammed her leg in a doorframe, but really she tried to kick me and I caught her leg. She pulled back and her leg swung into the doorframe.
So the prosecution had pictures to document her injuries. They were shots from the sides, front, and back. It was all minor stuff since I was trying to wrestle away a darn ice scraper from her. But one detail from the photos did her in. They showed her hands COMPLETELY covered in white paint. This is from when she scooped up the paint with her hands and flung it on my car.
Well, that definitely made her look bad. I also had her lawyer grill me about why the fighting started. My lawyer advised me to not talk about it, so I wasn't sure what to say. I told her attorney that I was advised not to talk about it, but I just said we had an argument that escalated. The lawyer kept pressing and, seeing as this was my first time ever in a court setting, I blurted out that we were arguing over her cheating.
Long story short, I was acquitted and divorced her.
30. Bigger Man On Campus
I work as staff at a firm that specializes in civil litigation, so I often wind up being the kid with the folders and documents helping the boss-man out during trials. We do most of the debt and collections defense in the city, and typically send whichever attorney has a free morning to Friday docket to volunteer with helping clients facing Summary Judgment while unrepresented.
Our senior partner is a pretty well known debt defense expert in the US, and tends to spend time on the high falootin' class action or state Supreme Court and other big, high-paying matters. Still, sometimes he likes to show up to the Friday docket “for sport.” Keeps his brain sharp or whatever. Whenever he goes, people don’t know what hit them.
I remember one time, this collection agency's attorney showed up and started making declarations, disrespecting clerks, and generally making a jerk of himself at the docket in front of the judge. I can recite the exact interaction when Mr. Senior Partner entered the room with a client he'd volunteered for: "Oh, hi [Senior Partner], didn't know you were on this case!"
Mr. Senior Partner: "Yeah. Just thought I'd pop on by and take this case". Joe Shmoe Attorney: "Oh, sure. Let me check something really quick".. This attorney, after roll call, with the judge present, in front of the entire docket, walks slowly to the door…then runs. Literally runs out of the courtroom. Bolts. Flees. Scrams.
I don't know which was harder not to laugh at. The shocked expression on the judge's face and his awkward silence, or that this guy went the wrong way and sprinted back past the door like Homer Simpson. He then went straight to his car in the parking lot outside—visible to all from the window—and drove off. I later got to serve him personally with a pretty serious lawsuit, which felt great.
31. Me And My Big Mouth
My best friend experienced this nonsense while doing her internship at the court. Here in Austria, we have two different types of claims for damages: breaking a contract and breaking a law. So if you want to claim damages, you must prove that the other person broke a contract or broke a law, which resulted in damages for you.
The case: Icy day here in Austria. A woman enters a shop, slips on the stairs, and hurts her ankle. There is no law that you have to permanently remove the ice from the entrance stairs, BUT having safe access to a shop is one of the contractual duties of a business owner, so the woman sues the shop for her broken ankle. To be honest, she wouldn’t have gotten a lot of money for it, maybe $2,000 tops.
Civil courts here in Austria very much have an interest in solving these cases by getting an agreement among the parties. So the business owner (a clothes shop) offers her something like $500 in vouchers to settle all this. To this the woman just replies: "What should I do with these? I NEVER buy anything at this shop anyway.” And this was the exact moment she lost the case.
She just said she never intended to buy anything there, so there is no possible contract, and therefore no damages from the shop owner. She left the courtroom with nothing but the bills for both lawyers.
32. Good Riddance
My ex-boyfriend asked his father's solicitor to write me a letter regarding the "inadvisability" of my contacting him after "hassling him at his father's house" and "endangering his job by making him homeless," yadda yadda. Veiled threats at the end of a bad break-up, basically. So I called the lawyer and explained the whole, sordid story.
The last time I'd seen him was when I'd dropped all his clothes off at his father's house…the evening after I caught him cheating on me in my home, with my friend. I then threw him out, even though he had been living with me for 18 months and owed me rent and bills for a year of that time, plus quite a lot of money from the three years before that which he never quite remembered to pay back.
The guy is a leech; always has been, still is. Oh, I also mentioned that he had lost his job three months earlier and hadn’t told his parents; that I had no particular desire to ever see him again; and that he still had my keys. There was a moment of silence, and then she said, "You won't be surprised to hear that he told me none of that".
I got a large check from his father and my keys in the post a week later. I imagine his father was not particularly pleased to have to pay me or the lawyer’s fees, as the next I heard (via friends), he was 60 miles away living with his mother instead.
33. On The Record
I was a junior associate observing the deposition of a high-powered person in the entertainment industry. The attorney deposing him asked him to read part of a contract into the record, and the witness became combative and refused to do so. After refusing repeated requests to read the document into the record, the astonishing truth came out.
The witness threw the document on the table and, exasperated, and said, “I can’t read.” From then on, the attorney read the documents into the record.
34. Case Dismissed
This caused the judge to lose his mind, and for the whole pre-trail to be tossed and restarted from scratch. I was in the jury pool waiting for the jury to be picked when we had a fire alarm go off. We all went outside, as you do. Well, apparently one of the jurors talked to the defendant accidentally because of the confusion about leaving the building.
We came back the next day and started the whole process over again, when suddenly a sidebar is called. Turns out the defendant mentioned to his lawyer that the guy who was added to the jury at that point was the one he talked to outside during the fire alarm. Judge flips out, both on the fact that the juror talked to the defendant during the mess, and that they didn’t just dismiss us outright that day when the fire alarm happened, since we had not actually started picking anyone due to the fire alarm.
After ranting and raving and watching buckets of saliva leave the judge’s mouth and hit both lawyers, he comes back, calmly apologizes to all of us, and tells us we are dismissed.
35. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
I had a guy at work who had a brain aneurism and survived it, and developed what can only be described as a split personality. He was warned by HR almost a dozen times for swearing at staff and sending personal texts containing horrible messages, but they couldn't do anything because he could claim work stress caused it, which is most likely true.
Lawyers got involved after a while because it was getting out of hand. People were crying in the office and demanding he get taken away from them, or threatening that they wouldn't come in until he was gone as they didn't feel safe around him. He then sent an email from his own personal address to a colleague's company email address. Its contents did him in.
He started by saying he couldn't believe she betrayed him after all this time and didn't back him up knowing his condition. They'd been good friends for quite a few years and she did support him at work. But then he said he should have slept with her back in the day as she's clearly such a loose woman and he knows where she lives, so maybe he'll pop round one night and make it happen even if she didn't want it.
The lawyers took one look after she handed that email in and went, "Yeah you can fire him now". He was gone within about 48 hours.
36. Conflict Of Interest
The most fun trial ever. It wasn’t my client, because I was the prosecutor, and it was actually the defense witness. There was this very convoluted theft case where the repairman at a construction site was taking vehicles, doing unauthorized repairs, then putting liens on the vehicles when the owners didn’t pay—as they obviously wouldn’t.
When the female lawyer who was part of his company showed up to court, one of my witnesses said, “What’s his girlfriend doing here?” I said, “Excuse me?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s his girlfriend.” Sure enough, on direct examination, she mentioned nothing about being his girlfriend. She was just his civil attorney, according to her.
I absolutely destroyed her on cross and she lost all credibility. I even had a Law & Order moment where I practically screamed, “AND YOU DIDN'T THINK IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR THESE 12 CITIZENS TO KNOW YOU WERE THE DEFENDANT’S GIRLFRIEND IN ORDER FOR THEM TO DECIDE IF YOU WERE TELLING THE TRUTH?!” I got objected to, it was sustained, I said, “Withdrawn,” and sat down.
37. Busy Man
I was in court to testify on a case. The accused is pleading guilty and the judge tells him to describe the incident. After the defendant gives a detailed confession, the judge glances at the paperwork and says: "Mr. So and So, that's not what you are accused of". The guy groans and says "Oh, that's the other county". Just incredible.
38. Do It For The Gram
My favorite one involved a plaintiff suing the city (who was my client) because she fell over an uneven sidewalk. It was a flimsy claim from the start, but she could potentially show that the city was negligent in maintaining the sidewalk. But then in depositions when she was asked to tell the jury what happened, her response destroyed her credibility.
She said she had a video camera up to her face—one of the big ones from back in the day—and was videoing her surroundings. So that’s why she didn’t see the sidewalk was uneven and that’s why she fell. Her lawyer literally didn’t even finish the deposition, he just dismissed the case right there. Yep, lady, that’s not negligence on the city’s part.
39. My Own Worst Enemy
An attorney I sometimes work with told me that her client in a murder case fired her right before closing arguments and did them himself. You are allowed to represent yourself, which was his last ditch effort as the trial was not looking good for him. He then looked the jury right in the eye and said, “If I did do it, it’s because she was on her period and crazy.” Needless to say, the mostly female jury deliberated for mere minutes before finding this guy guilty of all charges.
40. Your Reputation Precedes You
My father used to be a public defender and was defending a man against the charge of arson. As a witness was testifying that he saw the defendant at the scene of an enormous fire, the defendant stands up and shouts “You think you can snitch on Louis the Torch?!” He had not mentioned this nickname previously...
41. No Fly Zone
I worked as a lawyer for an airline. I found out completely by accident one day that they were using me to set up an exclusivity contract with one airline provider, all while using ANOTHER lawyer to set up yet another exclusivity contract with another provider. Basically, it was super super illegal, and they never wanted us to find out about each other.
I am not going to get disbarred so you can make a little extra money. Quit on the spot.
42. Oh, That Old Thing
I was interning at a firm as administrative support. One day, I had to bring over a file. When I saw the names on the paper, my heart skipped a beat. They were the names of the parents of a classmate of mine, and it seemed that they were going through divorce procedures. I spoke to him in private about this to offer him some comfort and just be a good friend.
He told me that everything was already fixed and they were back to living together, they just forgot to inform their lawyers. When my next day at that office came, I asked about that case. Turns out, they had a court date scheduled for later that week. After I told my boss what the son told me, his face went totally blank for a moment.
He decided to make a phone call to his client. Seems they were already living back together for a couple of months and thought it wasn't necessary to inform the lawyer for some reason. They were told if they were privy to this bit of information, it could have saved them quite a bit of money in the process for expenses. The lawyer in question was thankful, though, that at least I had told him before court date came up.
43. The Whole Truth
I represented a father who was requesting more parenting time in a custody deal. Part of my “pitch” as a lawyer is that I will work with my clients as we go to testify. We have a big prep session like they see on TV, and I’m going to correct their responses as we go, so they should talk how they would testify. This works great for most clients, and they usually change how they speak to their co-parent and change how they think and act.
So I tell this father that his final hearing is set for a certain day and will go for three hours. I tell him it’s the mom’s petition, so she goes first. I say he should answer questions like we talk. If you can say yes or no, just answer yes or no. Basically prepping him for the process. Immediately on the stand, his dirty laundry comes out.
Turns out, he is an alcoholic—which is news to me. He still got more parenting time, but afterward when I chewed him out, he claimed I didn’t tell him he would have to “testify.” Lesson learned: Always use the word “testify,” don’t just explain the process.
44. Good On Your Toes
I was working on a major case that was full of these finicky but crucial details. This case was like five years long and there was LOTS OF IMPORTANT information we had to read whenever we had to talk with the clients, or the judge, etc. One Friday, my boss comes and tells me that we should have a meeting relating to the last part of the acquisition.
He said that I should lead that meeting without him and that all the other lawyers were participating. I said ok, I'll do it, then went to have my lunch in a "kitchen room" the office had. 15 minutes later, I hear someone calling me. As I stand up before responding, the door opens and my boss says: "I almost forgot. The meeting starts in 20 minutes.”
I felt my entire spine going cold. For the next couple minutes I could barely breathe. But then I thought, “My boss himself treated his major case like this, so what can I do?" Thank God it all went well.
45. Can’t Buy Me Wins
I got text messages from my client's mom the day of trial, after the trial had already begun. The victim was offering to forget about the broken jaw my client gave him if the family coughed up some cash. This was obviously a huge no-no, and it allowed me to get a “not guilty” verdict even though my client was completely guilty.
46. Slow Your Roll
I was the victim in a court case after a traffic incident. I was on my motorcycle and had a verbal altercation with a car driver who flicked ashes out his window and right into my face. He then attempted to run me over with his car. There were three witnesses to this, plus a court expert on acceleration. The guy claimed he was doing 60km/hr and I braked suddenly in front of him.
What happened was I was going increasingly faster to get away from him, and he rammed me when I was doing 100km/hr around a corner. All the witnesses backed this up. As soon as his lawyer heard that there were four people saying what happened, he was speechless and asked to speak to his client. It took him a couple more minutes to plead guilty.
47. It’s The Little Things
Defense counsel asked my personal injury client—a tall, 50ish, leather-vest-wearing biker—to describe the worst part of the neck injury he suffered when a car crashed into his motorcycle. My client’s response made my jaw drop. My client calmly replied, “The worst part? That I can’t go down on a woman as well as I used to.”
After a long pause, counsel asked him to repeat the answer. My client did. He wasn’t faking. He seemed genuinely sad. It was the first time I’d heard about that from him. It was heartfelt, unusual, and interesting, on a number of levels.
48. Opposites Attract
My grandfather was a lawyer for a big oil company. They ordered a whole bunch of steel pipe for a new pipeline, but when the construction workers tried to work on it, they found it was somehow magnetized. The pipe was so magnetic, their blowtorch flames didn't go straight, so they were having a really hard time welding the pipe sections together.
My grandfather tried to sue the pipe manufacturer—and this is where the sticky “detail” came up. The company just said that nothing in the original contract specified the pipe couldn't be magnetic. So the lawsuit fell through, and from then on, they had to specify in every contract that the metal not be magnetic.
49. Bait And Switch
This guy claimed that his company fired him because of their issues about his race. Obviously a huge no-no, and it actually turned out to be true. They were overtly horrible and anti-Asian…but that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was, as we found out, the client kept coming to work after he'd been let go and threatening his ex-boss with a firearm…in a funeral home.
50. Rebutting In
I had a client who, despite being a large man, had been domestically mistreated by his much smaller wife throughout their marriage. After the divorce, she turned her anger on their son. He ran away one day to live with his dad, and we filed to restrict his ex's parenting time and ask for a permanent modification to the custody agreement.
At the permanent hearing, she denied hurting the child or my client in front of the child, said she never threatened anyone ever, and that she never made disparaging remarks about my client in front of their son, either. But there was one big thing she didn’t know and couldn’t tell her attorney. My client had recorded multiple instances of her doing all of these things.
So I called my client back up for rebuttal right after her testimony and played an audio recording of her screaming at my client, threatening to break his face in, and calling him a loser, all while the child could be heard in the background begging her to stop. I looked over at the other attorney and she had her face in her hands. We won.