Courtroom trials can take months or even years to go in front of a judge, and lawyers toil for long nights and endless days to get every piece of evidence and cross examination right. Then, in the blink of an eye, it can all unravel spectacularly. These lawyers know that horrible feeling well. Thanks to their clients' stupidity, secrets, or both, they lost their case in an instant.
1. Invasion Of Privacy
Not a lawyer, but I took my brother-in-law's landlord to small claims court (He's on SSI and I'm his conservator). We sued her for over $4,000 after she just decided she didn't like him and changed the locks on his apartment door. She also stuffed all of his belongings into trash bags and dragged them out to the curb. This was all done the day after she cashed his rent check.
It all started because she was letting herself into his apartment with no notice and was going through his stuff while he was gone. When I found out about this, I told him to let her know that was NOT okay. He did, and that's why she kicked him out. I'm very organized, and presented the judge with a folder containing photos, receipts, short videos on DVD and the sheriff call logs, as well as a concise timeline of events.
The landlord showed up with her son and countersued for the exact same amount we were suing them for. Claiming that the apartment was trashed, there were holes in the walls and they would have to repair everything before being able to rent again. During the hearing, the judge asked for evidence of the damage to the room.
The son whipped out his cell phone and showed a video panning and walking around the room. The video showed my BIL's apartment obviously still being lived in (his stuff was all still there) and no visible damage, but there were a lot of posters and things hung on the walls. When the judge looked at the video he asked, "Where is the damage?" The son replied, "You can't see it. It's behind all of the posters."
The judge frowned and looked at the video again, and then said, "Did you take this video when he was still living there at this time?" The son replied, "Yes." This was the clincher, the judge then asked, "Did you ask his permission to enter the apartment to take this video?" Silence. We were awarded the full amount. It felt so good.
2. Hit And Miss
I spent several hours zealously arguing that my client was severely disabled and couldn’t work due to a back injury. It was so bad that the poor dude couldn’t even sit in a chair throughout the entire proceedings. But then, after I rest my case, opposing counsel calls in a representative who proceeds to produce record after record of my client’s deer hunting activities.
He sat in a tree, in freezing weather, for many hours, then shot multiple deer and transported their carcasses out of the woods all on his own. Dear God.
3. Two Too Many
I was arguing for my client to be released. The judge asked him where he was going to live. “With my fiancé," he said. He spun a lovely story about how wonderful and supportive his fiancé was and they were having a baby and wanted to get out so he could take care of his soon-to-be wife and kid to support them properly.
The judge asked the courtroom, "Could the defendant's fiancé please approach the bench?" What happened next made me gasp. From opposite sides of the room, two women got up and started walking to the front. One was about four months pregnant, and the other was nearly nine. They were looking at each other with identical expressions that read, "Who are you?"
You could tell the exact moment when they realized the truth. The look on their faces just screamed, "that girl is screwing my man." The fight started before they even got to the counsel's table. Pregnant or not, these chicks were seriously trying to hurt one another. The bailiffs had to stop laughing long enough to break up the fight. My client was just as shocked.
He said, "Shoot, your Honor, I didn't think they'd both come." The judge said he was denying bail for my client's own protection.
4. Finding Myself
We arrived at my client’s deposition and were ready to discuss her employment issue. The first question was, "Please state your name." The client looked at me and said, "Can we take a break?" We did, and she pulled me out in the hall. Then she made a huge confession. She lied to me about her identity. She was apparently a serial fraudster.
She had changed identities seven times since the 90s. She apparently thought the other attorneys had somehow figured it out which was why they asked the question.
5. Family Feud
It was a special education case. The mother and school were fighting about services. We got new assessments that backed up the mother's claims. Local school didn't have the right services, so we arranged a transfer for the kid to a larger school not too far away. Good public transit route, and some extra-curriculars the kid was excited about.
She goes to enrol him in school, but comes back and says they have a problem with paperwork. Thinking the transfer information just didn't get there yet, I take a copy and head down there. What I discovered practically unhinged my jaw. No, they actually won’t enrol him because, plot twist, that’s not his real name, and she’s not his real mother.
Turns out, she was the best friend of a woman who was pregnant and about to be incarcerated for trafficking. The friend says, “Can you take my baby while I'm inside? I'll get him as soon as I'm out.” She and her husband say sure. They sign a piece of notebook paper. Seriously. Then, she ends up keeping the boy for 12 years.
You have to think, how did they manage to navigate school and medical stuff for 12 years with no custody paperwork? They'd just been using an assumed last name for the whole "family" and, like me, no one had asked. She only got caught because the school had moved to an online system that checked other databases.
Anyway, the biological mom and dad were still alive and still behind bars. Eventually, they consented to letting their son be raised by the couple that had already been his parents for so many years. It was a wild case.
6. The Doctor Is In
As a solicitor, one of the most annoying things I've had happen was, after an hour-long consultation with an older couple about changing the husband's will, the wife hands me a letter from his doctor. When I read it, I wanted to scream. It says the husband has dementia and does not have the capacity to sign medical documents. Like, you didn't think that was a good place to start?
7. You Think You Know Someone…
I was defending a lady in a simple neighbor dispute. The neighbors said she attacked them with a hose and threatened their kids. The case was pretty weak because my client was an old lady and she adamantly denied everything. Anyways, it’s just a small evidentiary hearing in front of the judge, so there was no discovery ahead of time or anything like that.
My client is on the stand, and I come to find out they have video footage of her. It was so much worse than I imagined. It showed her smearing dog poop on their house, printing out photos of their kids, and writing insults on them. Needless to say, my jaw dropped. The client then perjured herself on the stand—they play a video where it’s obviously her, but she repeats “that’s not me” over and over.
It was the most painful court moment of my life.
8. Repeat Outfitter
A friend of mine is a lawyer, and he said that of all his clients, the stupidest one he ever had was this guy. This poor lawyer had a client turn up to court in the exact same outfit that he was wearing in the burglary footage. When the CCTV tape came up in evidence, the client looked down on himself and was like, “Oooooh no.” He did not win.
9. Let It Go, Let It Go
I was on the other side, but I saw the other lawyer have one of these "WHY didn't you tell me that!?" moments. The plaintiff sued, saying the insurance company had improperly denied her property damage claim for homeowner's insurance. I don’t know what she told her lawyer, but as the examination under oath proceeded and I laid out more of the details, I saw the other lawyer go pale.
So basically, if a pipe bursts in your house and causes water damage, that’s probably going to be covered. However, there’s generally an exclusion that says you don’t get coverage if the pipe burst because you didn’t take reasonable care to keep it from freezing. This person left her upper mid-West home at the end of the summer and didn’t come back until, like, March. This is where it got very messy.
She didn’t winterize the house, didn’t shut off the water, didn’t make sure the heat was on (except for a tiny heater on the second floor), and didn’t even have anyone checking on the house. Well, the pipes froze and burst all over the house. The water utility calls her and says, “There’s a lot of water going through your meter. You might have a leak.”
She calls someone to go check on the house, but they can’t get in because the freaking door is frozen shut. Eh, screw it; they abandoned further efforts to check on the house. The water utility sent someone out and they figured out that many hundreds of thousands of gallons had gone through the meter, so they cut the water off at the main line.
She doesn’t come back until spring. Over time, there was freezing and thawing, then when the house finally warmed up, the place had molded through and through. Everything in the house was completely screwed. If I had to guess, she left out a lot of those details when she described the case to her lawyer.
10. The Whole Truth
I learned, while my client was on the stand, that she had "a little bit of a problem" AKA had been a daily user of illicit substances for years. I was shocked. This woman was stunningly gorgeous, had held the same job for over 25 years, and was a rock star mom to a kid with special needs. Unlike 90% of my clients, she was always on time, responsive, and did everything I asked.
To date, the only high-functioning user I've met. But God, that hearing would have gone quite differently had she mentioned that to me beforehand. Most of the time we can deal with bad facts. At the very least we can give you the advice you need to hear. But there isn't much I can do with surprise facts in the middle of a trial.
11. My Hands Are Clean
The company where I worked was doing due diligence before acquiring a small tech start-up. The COO of the start-up was a well-liked guy in the company, friendly, and outgoing. Except that we had heard rumblings that the guy was rather "hands-on" with the work and with female employees. There was even a walk-away package.
It would let him keep a sizeable portion of his post-acquisition bonus because there was a young woman who worked in their sales department who had filed HR complaints against him and obtained counsel. I was at the meeting with the sleazy executive and the company's retained lawyers when they grilled him about his contacts with her.
The exec denied ever having any contact with her within the company without multiple other people present who’d said his behavior toward her in the meetings didn't raise any flags to them. The guy also emphatically denied having any contact with her outside of work. The lawyers asked the question a half-dozen different ways.
Each time the executive denied out of work contact. Later, we met with the woman and her lawyer without him. Her lawyer gave us an item that completely destroyed our case. It was a rather explicit card that came with a bouquet of flowers addressed to her from the executive. The guy had an account with a florist linked to his credit card.
The company-retained lawyers confronted him. He explained with, "But I never had contact with her. It's not like I delivered the flowers myself." Executive was terminated with cause, so he didn’t receive his walk-away package. At her request, the woman was given paid time off until after the acquisition and then moved to another one of the companies under our umbrella.
12. Father Of The Year
I was representing a man who was accused of assaulting the young daughter of his girlfriend. Extra complicating factor: This girlfriend was awkwardly married to another man. I didn't want to touch that issue. The key issue I had figure out was whether or not my client's DNA would be at the scene. He insisted he was innocent, but then a few weeks before trial, he said we had to talk.
He finally told me that his DNA, or something that seemed like a close match, might be at the scene, but not because he had attacked the girl. It turns out that the woman's other son was likely his baby—they had been having an affair for more than five years. If the boy's DNA was at the scene (which it probably would be, seeing as the scene was his house), it would point at my client. Yeah, it was a messy family situation all around.
13. It Doesn’t Make Cents
I filed for bankruptcy for a client. A few weeks later, they indicated that a creditor had continued to contact them, and had taken money out of their bank account, which is obviously a big no-no for people in bankruptcy. It was a Monday. I knew that if I wanted to file for sanctions, I just had to file the motion by Friday, so I wasn’t going to jump right into it.
It’s best practice to try to get a creditor to correct their behavior first. So I called the original payday loan store. I called the national branch. They took messages daily, but nobody was contacting me back. I asked for supervisors. Nobody was willing to talk about the situation, and I became increasingly frustrated and confused...I would find out why too late.
I’m not a yeller and I’m not particularly forceful, but even I was reaching my limit. I called my client daily to explain that it made no sense that they were being evasive, but I was working as hard as I could. On Friday, I talked to some lower-level grunt and explained that I needed a call back in an hour from a person who could clarify the situation, or the sanctions motion is being filed.
I read off my time spent on the case, which would translate into thousands of dollars in sanctions if we were successful. I finally get a manager. Then I learned the awful truth. He, very politely, tells me that they weren't trying to get an old loan back. No, my idiot client took out yet another loan after the bankruptcy was filed.
I remember completely deflating like a popped balloon. Then, when I asked my client why they did this, they had the nerve to say that they knew they were sending me on a fool's errand. They were fully aware that the loan wouldn't be included in the bankruptcy. They used me because they thought that if an attorney started bothering the lender, they'd go away and my client would be able to just keep the money. Unbelievable.
14. Got A Point
There was a kidnapping case that involved two Asian male defendants who looked the same age and looked relatively similar. The witness was on the stand to identify where the defendant who’d attacked him was seated in the courtroom. It was clear that the witness was having trouble differentiating between the two defendants.
In a moment of absolute idiocy, one defendant raised his hand and basically pointed to himself like, "I'm right here, bud." Hands down, the dumbest thing I'd ever seen. I thought his defense attorney was going to have a brain aneurysm.
15. Loose Lips Sink Ships
I had a client charged with being a felon in possession of a handgun. She had been in a car that had gotten into a shootout on the interstate. She had some crazy story for what happened, but it was obvious that it was a sketchy deal gone wrong. Either way, I took the case because the driver of her car wasn't a convicted felon, and it didn't appear that the state had investigated the other car involved.
The short of it was that she had some legitimate defenses. I had met with her multiple times, discussed her case in depth, and was preparing for trial. About two weeks from trial, she mentioned in passing that a state trooper had interviewed her on the scene, which was annoying because at this point the case was seven or eight months old.
So I look through my materials again, don't see anything about an interview, but file a motion asking for any recordings or extra paperwork. Sure enough, the prosecutor was sitting on the interview, which is shady as heck, completely unethical, and unfortunately common practice for that prosecution office. I finally get the file, and its contents nearly made me faint.
All of four minutes in, my client tells the officer that not only did she know that a weapon was in the car, but that she had been the one shooting it! That pretty much ruined every single defense I had. We had a come to Jesus talk the next day, and she took a deal where she got a minimum five-year sentence since she knew the trial would be a disaster with that interview.
16. It Comes And Goes
My father is a judge and had a case where a woman was suing for a severe back injury that she said was preventing her from working and taking care of her kids and so on. He'd seen cases like this go wrong before, but nothing compared to this. In the middle of the trial, a pen rolled off the table, and she bent over trying to reach it from her chair...
But the pen was too far, so she stood up. Then she bent over, picked it up, and walked back to her seat as if nothing was out of the ordinary. My dad was just looking at her, stunned that she had actually made this huge mistake, and she snapped at him and asked what he was staring at. My dad asked her if she was okay, and her response was that she was fine.
Her attorney leaned over and whispered something to her. Then she loudly started complaining about her back and how much her back hurt, but no one believed her.
17. Can’t Buy Me Love
This client comes to me with his new wife, complaining that he’s being sued by his ex-wife. She says that he's failed to pay a $5,000 judgment as part of their divorce decree. Judge orders us to mediation. During mediation, the ex-wife won’t budge and keeps insisting that she wants the full $5k. My client claims he doesn’t have the ability to pay it.
The new wife, in an effort to get her loving husband free from the clutches of his evil ex, offers to give up her large diamond wedding ring to the evil ex. Ex can keep it, sell, it, whatever. The client had previously told the new wife it was worth more than $5k, so it should be enough. Ex-wife agrees to accept new wife’s ring, subject to an appraisal.
Maybe you can see where this is going...Get a call two weeks later from opposing counsel, and the deal is off. “Why?” I ask. Turns out, the ring was cubic zirconium, and worth about $95. When my client met with me and I showed him the appraisal, he said, “Yeah, I knew that was going to happen.” I stared at him slack-jawed and said, “You knew?”
“Oh yeah, but what was I supposed to do, tell my wife I got her a fake ring?” I reply, “How about telling her, ‘No my love, I gave you that ring, and it is a symbol of my love for you, and that horrible witch will get it over my cold corpse. I’ll find another way to pay her,’” I said. He looked at me and says, “Yeah, that would probably have worked.”
18. High Horsepower
A woman I know received several hefty speeding fines. In my country, you can have a magistrate reduce your fines if you plead poverty. She heard about this and decided to give it a try, and she went to court and told the magistrate a sad story about not having enough money. The magistrate took the time to hear her out. He then asked her, "Madam, what type of car do you drive?" Her response sealed her fate.
She replied in a tiny voice," a Porsche."
19. More Money, More Problems
A colleague of mine is working a child custody case as court-appointed counsel for the mom. Mom had some of her own issues, but the child was taken after she and her boyfriend posted a video on social media of them enjoying a blunt with the kid in the room. That's child endangerment. At trial, mom takes the stand.
While she’s there, she makes some weird and unconvincing distinctions between different “blunts.” Not great, but not the end. The judge asks mom what she did for a living. Remember now, mom filled out a sworn affidavit saying she can’t afford an attorney and needs the State to pay for one, hence my colleague’s appointment.
Mom, thinking that a high income would bode well for her chances of getting her kid back (spoiler: it didn’t), says that she works part time at a fast food joint. Knew that one. She said she also worked as a “dancer.” Knew that one too. But then she drops the mic. She says that she also braids hair and does nails on the side, and that she averages about $5k a month.
Her affidavit shows she makes less than $1,200/ month. The judge was nice and didn’t charge her with perjury. He tried to give her every chance to walk those numbers back, but she refused. Based on testimony, she lost custody and child support was set based on her income claimed from the stand. I've never seen him pinch the bridge of his nose so hard or for so long.
20. The First Cut Is The Deepest
My client was badly hurt in a car accident and promised me he was never hurt in one before. HAH. Turns out, he was actually “hurt” in 44 (!!) prior accidents, all of which he filed claims for. Incidentally, I found out about my client's shady past when the mediator showed me the defense’s report. The freaking look on my client’s face when I called him out for it, wow.
21. Once Bitten, Twice Shy
I had a client who was charged with driving under the influence. I asked him whether he had any criminal history, he said no. So I started the paperwork for him for a first-time offense program that seals the record and drops the charges once completed. We get to the courthouse, talk to the DA, and find out immediately that the guy had another charge for the same offense a year prior.
Also, he was on probation from the first one still. His excuse for not telling me was the first charge was “made up,” but he pled guilty anyway. Unfortunately, I ended up representing him for both cases, did not get paid nearly enough for what I went through, but I did manage to keep him out the slammer so he could take care of his elderly mother.
22. It’s The Thought That Counts
My first ever hearing in front of a judge as an attorney was a social security disability appeal. My client had been crushed at work a few years ago, and his entire left side of his body was mangled. He also had PTSD from seeing his dad shoot himself as a kid, loads of mental health issues and physical ones as well, obviously.
Just my luck, I get the biggest jerk of a judge. It's sort of an unspoken rule that you don't interrupt someone's opening statement. You don't make objections, and you don't interrupt. Well, I get three sentences into my opening, and as I was listing his conditions, the judge screams over me: "YOU FORGOT ONE, WHAT ABOUT THE DRUG DISORDER?!”
I froze for half a second, glared at the guy, and said, "Well your honor, I didn't mention that, similar to how I didn't mention his pre-diabetes and seasonal allergies. It isn't relevant to his ability to work, as he hasn't used in several years. Additionally, he admitted that he used to cope with his mental health disorders, which he has taken much better control over since he began counseling."
I was darn proud of that response. My client won the case, so I called to tell him the good news. That’s when the other shoe dropped. His girlfriend answered and informed me he was behind bars for the next 36 months for stealing a car.
23. Daddy Issues
I had a client in a family matter for child custody. We were in court and I was going on about how being a father was the most important thing in the world to him. That's when his ex pipes up and says, “Well, he never sees his other children!” I’m sorry, other children? Please tell your lawyers all the facts. We’ve literally heard everything and really don’t care.
24. Whatever Daddy Wants, Daddy Gets
I worked in family law for a bit. One case we got was a guy who was a stay-at-home dad to six kids while his wife busted her butt. They lived, essentially, on a farm. The oldest kid was around 13 and wanted to show cows. The youngest was around two years old. The point is, these people are stupidly wholesome and all American.
Except suddenly the dad comes to us for representation. Out of nowhere, he wants a divorce and so far, representing himself, it’s gone completely sideways. His wife kicked him out of the house after claiming she would call the authorities and claim he was beating her, so he left the house immediately and now lives in a small apartment.
The guardian is skeptical that he can provide enough space in the apartment for six kids and had given his wife primary custody while he "gets his life together." Additionally, he hasn't worked for 13 years. However, he comes out saying that the mom recently left the kids at a public town event all by themselves (including the two-year-old) for a full day.
Essentially, she dropped them off, went to work, and then only picked them up after she had finished her shift, gotten dinner, and relaxed a bit. The kids were completely unsupervised. Dad is furious, says anything could have happened, and wants custody removed from her completely. We go to a hearing and meet in the judge's chambers beforehand. What comes out is NOT what our client has been telling us.
Apparently, his "sudden desire for a divorce" was not so sudden. While his wife was clocking in serious overtime, he started an online relationship with another stay-at-home parent, a mom, who also had a large amount of children. He decided he wanted to leave his wife for this other, still-married woman. He also failed to mention to us that the reason his wife threatened to call the authorities was that she discovered evidence of his cheating everywhere and lost it.
Finally, mom might have left the kids at the event all day, but dad knew about it and didn't do anything. He thought it could help his case if he didn't intervene. Opposing Counsel showed us the text messages between mom and dad, with dad telling her on the day of the event, "I can't believe you've left them there! This is going to look so bad for you!" Oh, but there was a kicker.
Dad, by the way, was still unemployed. He could have picked them up, but he didn't. He was with his lover and her kids that day. We also had messages between mom and dad where dad was attempting to emotionally manipulate mom into giving him more money. He even claimed to have pictures of their children's diaries cataloguing the "abuse" she'd put them through (i.e. eating vegetables, doing their homework) that he was going to use against her unless she paid him $X amount.
His financial issues were actually because he kept spending his half of the joint account money on his lover and her kids rather than his own, including trips, clothes, nice dinners, etc. He demanded spousal support, which, technically, he could get, but we had to tell him that if he married his girlfriend before the spousal support time was up, he would lose spousal support.
He ended up crying about how it was all so unfair. Yeah, buddy. So was walking into the bonfire of your life in front of a judge, but there we were! My position ended (it was just for the winter) before his case finished, but from what I heard from the attorney I worked for, things did not get better. I can’t say that I expected them to.
25. Do I Know You?
My favorite: The plaintiff on the other side was in court telling the judge that each of my clients, on separate occasions, impregnated her without her consent. This was already highly improbable because one of my clients was biologically female and couldn’t have impregnated her. Then, in court, in front of the judge, this plaintiff abruptly mentions that she’s never met my clients. Easiest win I ever got.
26. Burden Of Past Mistakes
I was present for a civil trial before a jury for injuries, property damage, and punitive damages because the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Before any defendant ever steps foot in the court, they should’ve been prepped repeatedly with the “standard” questions that could be used for impeachment.
He denied everything and was as clean as a whistle. And at trial, the defense counsel put him on the stand to give him an opportunity to tell the jury of his contrition for his one-time error in judgment, describe the difficult time he was going through, and otherwise show the jury he’s an upstanding member of society. It was supposed to be his saving grace.
This was to reduce punitive damages, which went well. The plaintiff cross-examined him, “Earlier, you testified that this was a one-time mistake and you’ve learned your lesson...is that correct?” The defendant confirmed. Then they left the whole room stunned. The plaintiff asked, “And yet, isn’t it true that you have already been convicted of this in another state?”
The defendant sat silently as his attorney immediately objected, but it’s properly overruled, and he must answer. He said, “yes.” “Isn’t it true that, in your prior incident, a child was a fatal victim?” You’d thought it was over since it was as if he’d stuck a fork in him and he was well done...But no, he wasn’t done.
He went for the jugular, “Do you remember the name of that little child that you hurt while you were driving while intoxicated?” ...And that is why you never, ever lie to your attorney.
27. Right At The Finish Line
The judge asked to interview the minor child in a closed courtroom with no parents. When done, my client walked in the courtroom. In one instant, he ruined his whole life. He saw the child crying and promptly insulted the judge. My client was winning and was about to have the other party's parenting time suspended right up to that point. The kid had already chosen him.
The kid said that the other party mistreated him and that he did not want to see that parent anymore. But because the good parent opened his mouth, the judge was not pleased. Other party's parenting time was suspended. My client had anger management classes ordered, fines, psych testing, and substance testing.
28. The Sins Of The Past
I was clerking for a firm and helping out with a personal injury case. The guy got rear-ended by a very wealthy doctor. He was never going to be able to work again, and he was only in his mid-30s. His life was completely ruined because the doctor was staring at her phone while merging onto a highway and going 15 MPH over the speed limit.
The case was set for trial. That's an automatic red flag, as 99% of them settle. No one wants to risk the trial. We couldn't figure out why they wanted one. We thought we would get our client around 2.2 million. The other side was offering 700k. So I'm going through the massive file trying to figure out what they have that we don't know about.
While looking at our client's medical file, I discovered the reality. He had tested positive for substances a few months after the accident. I was part of the jury selection that morning, and we had two people with doctorates, several with masters and professional licenses, and most college educated. Really not good for a guy who didn't make it through high school and was a laborer who decided to sit at home and do substances after his accident.
Ended up settling right before the trial was supposed to start. We got a little more out of them, but far below what we expected. The guy was adamant about not settling, but we talked him into it. He would've been screwed as soon as they brought that up.
29. Fake It Till You Make It
In-house attorney here, but I interned for a judge at our court of common pleas during law school. There was a case of a guy who asked two early-20s girls for a ride from the mall to a gas station. He told them he would pay them cash for the trip. During that trip, he sat in the back seat and claimed that he pulled out a pellet gun that closely resembled the real thing.
He said he had only pulled it out to show the girls, but never did anything further. That had been his testimony during all the proceedings. He willingly takes the stand, and the prosecutor is questioning him about the item and how he handled it. This dude willingly admits that he held it to the passenger’s temple, threatening to shoot her with what she believed to be a real weapon.
That jury verdict came about as fast as one could.
30. Indebted To Your Actions
My dad was suing a customer for non-payment. The judge ruled in his favor, and the guy had to pay up. Before the loser went to leave, though, he walked up to my dad and sneered, "If you think you are going to see a dime of that money you really are a moron. I will get you first.” He then stormed away. My dad worried for a second...but karma had other plans.
The guy had said the threat loud enough for the bailiff and the judge to hear. He did not make it out of the courtroom.
31. Proof In The Productivity
My client claimed to have been unfairly dismissed from her accounting job due to poor performance. The real story was much different. It turned out that she’d been running her own private accounting business, with her own clients, at her employer’s premises during working hours, using their facilities. But when they confronted her about it, it got worse.
She told them her clients would have never given her employer their business anyway. Unreal. I actually did get her a small settlement because they didn’t follow proper procedure when firing her, which was why I didn’t know about the real reason for firing her, but it was peanuts compared to what she’d get if her story was real.
32. Sweet Dreams
I used to work in-house for a fast food franchiser, and occasionally we would litigate against poor restaurant operators. Restaurants were evaluated with some frequency, and operators had a lot of opportunities to fix problems before it ever got to litigation. Almost all of our cases relied upon the testimony of an individual evaluator who'd visited the restaurant.
A week before the hearing, I call up my witness to do standard preparation. I walk him through all of the basic questions, the reports themselves, and some of the anticipated cross-examination questions. Everything goes well. Witness is confident, the reports look good, and there aren’t any curveballs in his prep during the entire time.
I even ask my tried and true safety question at the end... IS THERE ANYTHING WE HAVEN’T DISCUSSED, GOOD OR BAD, THAT YOU THINK I SHOULD KNOW? He says nope. I think I’m all set. We get into the hearing. I run through all of my evidence. All as planned. Restaurant operator gets up to cross-examine my witness. First question:
RO: Did you fall asleep in my restaurant while you were preparing this report? Witness: Yes. The restaurant owner made my client look like an addict and a fool. Thankfully, I was able to get a brief moment with my witness before redirect and I learned that actually, he had a medical issue. We still won that one but what the heck??
33. Poorly Translated
During the hearing in this road traffic accident case, it seemed like your average, clear-cut case. We quickly found out it was anything but. The defendant cut off my client when he decided to exit the motorway at the last minute, or at least that's what all the evidence we'd heard was strongly suggesting for almost the entire trial up to that point.
But then, the defendant got on the stand and said that after the accident, when my client and the defendant were on the side of the road exchanging phone numbers, my client's passenger had gone up to the defendant. The passenger told him that my client was the one at fault because she "wasn't looking." Oh but it got worse.
Seizing the opportunity, opposing counsel obviously asked the passenger about what they'd said at the scene of the crash. So, on the stand, they denied everything. They claimed that because they were Polish, they couldn't have said such a thing because they couldn't speak English. The idiot said all this...in perfect English. Our barrister just looked at me, horrified.
34. Didn’t See This One Coming
I was prosecuting a simple assault and battery. The story I get before trial is that the baby daddy shows up and punches the new boyfriend before leaving with the kid, who he had custody of. At the time, the girlfriend/baby mama tells officers yep, that’s what happened. But, in the meantime, she and the new boyfriend broke up and now she is back with baby daddy.
All of a sudden, her story has changed and she is saying it didn’t happen. She isn’t credible, so I discount her new version of events and still put the case in front of a jury, because the victim is adamant and there was an injury to his face. Defense obviously puts the girl on the stand, where it first comes out that she and the “victim” weren’t Netflix and chilling as reported to the authorities, but were actually getting high and ignoring the baby.
The baby daddy apparently knew she often did this at this location, so when he saw her car there, he went and pounded on the door, demanding their kid. She then says that the “victim” hit himself in the face to make it look like he was beat up. As she is saying this, the “victim” starts hitting himself in the head and yelling "No! no! no!"
The jury went with "Not Guilty." What a gong show.
35. Do Not Touch
During trial with the judge on a divorce matter, the wife brought up that her husband had hurt her during their marriage. The client (the husband) whispered to my mentor that this was absolutely false. And, on the stand, during his portion of testimony, my mentor asked him, "At any point in the marriage, did you lay your hands on your wife?" His answer undid everything.
"One time we were having an argument, and I held her down on the couch until she stopped arguing with me." What? My mentor said it was like she could see it happening in slow motion. All the alarm bells were going off in her head because he had never mentioned that and, apparently, to him, that action didn't count as abuse??
The judge gave the wife a lot more money as a result, and the husband was baffled. My mentor was fuming.
36. Behind Bedroom Doors
I interned at a family court and helped during hearings. There was this woman filing for custody of her children, and her lawyer was pretty confident they'd win, since in my country women getting the custody is almost an unspoken rule. In the rare cases where they don't, either they don't want it or there's a very strong reason for the children not to be with their mother.
So, as I was saying, her lawyer seemed very confident. It was practically a won case. Until her ex-husband made a chilling revelation. He mentioned in the middle of the hearing that his ex-wife was an addict and lived in a non-monogamous relationship with two other addicts. To make matters worse, the woman's parents confirmed his story.
The lawyer very obviously did not know about it and was visibly SEETHING at her client. I swear I saw her mouth to the woman, "You'll have to find a new lawyer."
37. Twiddle Dumb
My dad was working as an investigator for an insurance company. There was a guy who claimed the theft of a few items but mainly a ring. Things weren't adding up, and my dad and the insurance company’s lawyer decided to do a deposition. He showed up on the day as planned, and my dad noticed something that changed the entire case.
He’s wearing the exact ring he'd claimed was taken. My dad slid a note to the lawyer telling him that the guy was wearing the ring. Once he passed the note, though, the guy realized what was happening and put his hands under the table to take off the ring. They asked him to stand up and, lo and behold. the ring fell to the ground.
38. Lost Work
I had an employment law gender discrimination case where the whole thing revolved around whether they had told her that her position was being terminated as a result of genuine redundancy or when she had gotten pregnant. This distinction was emphasized to the client many, many times. She strongly maintained her stance.
She said that they fired her right after she applied for maternity leave without giving a reason. We’re having a meeting with the client the evening before the hearing and going through what the defendant would say. We told her they would be claiming they told her it was redundancy and asked how she’s going to respond. Her answer made me face-palm.
She replied with absolutely no hesitation, “Oh yeah, of course, that’s exactly what they said.”
39. Shooting Yourself In The Foot
It was an immigration case. Our defense against deportation required showing “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.” We had to prove that my client’s children (who were all born in the USA and thus American citizens) would suffer if he was forced to go back to his birth country. I had reviewed the law and facts of the case with him ad nauseam. He and his wife had reviewed their testimony with me a million times.
The children’s hardship did not seem like it would be strong enough to win the case, because the parents told me that the kids were relatively healthy, doing well in school, and didn’t have any other noteworthy issues. All of the documents that they brought in supported their testimony. Then, it all unraveled in the most heartbreaking way possible.
While testifying in court, the wife admits that they have a child—who they had not mentioned before—with a rare medical condition that required trips across the state to see a specialist every few months. During a short recess so I could figure out why they hadn’t disclosed this at any point in the last three years, they confessed that a family member who “knew a lot about this stuff” told them that having a citizen child with a serious medical condition would hurt their case.
The judge denied my request for a continuance to get evidence and expert testimony for the medical issue because they had ample time to provide the evidence before and hadn’t disclosed this. Ultimately, the judge denied the application because he found that this portion of their testimony lacked credibility because they disclosed it at trial and didn't provide corroborating evidence.
40. Leaving In A Slurry
A client was caught driving intoxicated and wanted to challenge the charges on the grounds that he didn't believe he was that inebriated and the tests were done improperly. He appeared at his court hearings rip-roarin' wasted not once but twice! And then, both times, he got into his car and tried to drive away and stopped promptly.
They administered a breathalyzer and charged him. We didn't win that case.
41. Not All There In The Head
This crucial eyewitness who was supposed to be my golden ticket to winning the case had brain cancer and sometimes had trouble recalling details, dates, et cetera ever since the doctors removed the tumor. I found this out the day before trial when I asked—somewhat as a joke, somewhat as due diligence—if they ever hallucinated or forgot their own name.
42. A Steep Slope
My client had a temporary restraining order against her ex, and we went to court to get it extended (hopefully for a very, very long time). I talked strategy with my client the night before, but unbeknownst to me, she reconciled with her jerk of a baby daddy after we talked. I had three hearings that morning, and did not get a chance to talk to her until ~3 minutes beforehand.
We had the wrong judge. I knew as soon as she told me that she was going to be detained for violating the temporary order. Sure enough, they both got a week in the slammer and I had to watch their three-week-old child for a few minutes before a bailiff carted her off to God knows where. Then, they both got fired for missing a week of work.
They couldn't get the kid out of the system. Evicted, homeless, the whole nine yards. All she had to do was tell me they got back together. All she had to do.
43. Playing The Long Game
I had a client charged with shooting and paralyzing a victim. He was ID’d by a woman in the house who knew him, but the witness was potentially biased. My client says he wants to fight the case. I stressed the importance of being honest and that everything is confidential. He again said he was not at the scene, very adamantly at this point.
I told him we could get cell phone records to confirm that his phone was not at the scene at the time of the shooting. And if we could show that it was active (meaning he was using it) it could help cement his alibi. I also said, “But if you were at the scene, we should drag this out so the DA can’t get your cell phone records.” Client says to speed things up and get the records, he has nothing to hide. I found out the truth the hard way.
So...several months and a lot of work later...the cell phone records literally show him at the freaking scene at the time of the shooting. It also leads to more evidence that more directly links him to the entire mess. The records also managed to implicate his friend as being involved too. It took the case from being borderline to a slam dunk for the DA.
I share the details of the cell phone data with my client. He has no reaction, and offers no explanation for his prior statement that he wasn't at the scene. I explain that the DA does not yet have this information, so we should try and accept a deal now before the DA finds out, because he will most likely revoke the current offer when he does.
Client insists on a jury trial. Oh, but it got so much worse. I explain that it's his call whether we go to trial or not—I'm here to offer advice, and he's free to reject that advice. But I think it's a really bad idea because the DA will get the information before trial. When he does, the offer is going to skyrocket. The client continues to insist on a trial.
My final words are: "That's your call. But commit to your decision. If you reject the current offer, then try and plea later, the offer is going to go through the roof. If you want to plea, do it now." You guessed it. The jury is literally walking into the courtroom and I hear this, "Pshhhhh. Psssst." I look over and ask him what's up.
He says, "I know you said not to do this, but I want a deal." He pled. Because of his shenanigans, his offer increased by roughly 300 percent. He would already be out if he took the original offer. As it stands, he has well over a decade left behind bars.
44. Hands Off
My friend was representing a guy with a lengthy record. This guy took an A/C unit and threw it at his girlfriend. My buddy got him a plea deal for one year of probation without any time served. The judge was all ready to accept the deal. When he asked if he had anything to say, this defendant said he did want to say something. He never should have opened his mouth.
“Yea. I don’t know why they charging me. I never touched her. I just threw an A/C at her. This is garbage.” The judge rescinded the plea deal because of the defendant’s attitude and lack of remorse. He went to trial and was locked up for a year. Such an idiot.
45. Harmless Fun
Once I was representing a dude pro bono who was suing officers for beating him up after they had detained him. He had led them on a high-speed chase through the suburbs, which was already not great, but the rule of law should apply to everyone, and the officers are not allowed to beat you after you’ve been restrained.
So a tough case, but whatever, you’re the lawyer, you do what you can. In one of our first meetings with him, we’re going over the night of the alleged offense. I asked if he had had anything to drink, and he admitted that he had a drink or two around 8pm. The chase was at 2 am, and as you should know, booze leaves the system at a rate of roughly one drink per hour.
So we were probably fine there, and if anything, it was nice to have a client who wasn’t pretending everything was perfect. We move on and talk about the rest of the night. Then as we’re wrapping up, our freaking summer intern of all people goes, “Did you do any other substances that night besides drinks?” The question had a disturbing answer.
The client’s immediately like, “Oh, right, yeah, some weed and some, y'know, harder stuff.” Dude! You didn’t think that was relevant when we were talking about a couple of beers? The lesson I took there was that the ones who are the most charming are the ones you have to press the most.
46. Drive Me Crazy
I worked on a simple speeding case: 70 MPH in a 55. No big deal. If she did a driving improvement course, the court would usually dismiss or reduce punishment since her driving record was okay. When I showed up for her, it backfired on me horribly. My idiot client had actually been driving 70 up an unplowed snow lane to get around all of the other cars.
The other cars were traveling in the lane that’d been plowed and driving too slowly. The officer said he'd already cut her a break by not writing the ticket for reckless driving, and the judge politely agreed he didn't feel comfortable reducing it under those circumstances. When I called her after to confirm, she did.
She claimed she'd forgotten to mention it. I would have told her in advance that hiring us was a waste of money, not to mention the hassle of taking an 8-hour class, and she should’ve probably gone ahead and pay this one. I do that all the time during consults; give my honest assessment if the case is even worth doing.
47. Slippery When Got
I was actually on the jury. A guy was suing a business, said he got injured, and couldn't work for three years. He was shopping at this big grocery store chain and slipped in some water in front of the freezer. His wife recorded a video of him in the water, and she said the water wasn't showing up and to try splashing. But then the real truth came out.
The defense council asked him if his inability to work could be from the two previous knee injuries he'd had, which they knew about because his previous lawyer had requested his medical records. They went, “Sir, isn't it true that you spent 18 of those months behind bars for an armed incident?” It wasn't long before his case got dismissed.
48. Location, Location, Location
Years ago, I had a client charged with public intoxication. It's a minor infraction, but he was on probation so he needed to fight it. He told me he was very intoxicated that night but had made it to the lobby of his brother's apartment and was waiting for him to come down to get him upstairs. I took the story and ran.
I brought photos of the apartment complex and the bylaws to court. My goal was to prove that the lobby was secured to guests and residents only, which would arguably take the intoxication out from being "in public." There’s no formal discovery for minor infractions in my state. There was no real option for a plea deal.
Wanting to ambush the officer with my argument, I did not discuss the case with him and went to trial. The wheels came off almost immediately. The officer testified that he encountered my client at an apartment building on the other side of the city. He was not even in the lobby of this other building and outside in some phone booth.
I was whispering to my client about this, and he slumped over and said something to the effect of, "Sorry, I meant to go to my brother's apartment. Maybe that's why he couldn't find me? And he sounded angry on the phone?" Cross examination wasn’t fruitful. It was basically, "Officer, are you really sure that happened?”
“Did it happen where you think it did and not at another apartment lobby?" My closing argument was he wasn't very wasted, which also didn’t get us anywhere. In the end, there was a fast guilty finding, a minor fine, wasted ink and paper from making useless exhibits, and light sanctions later on the probation violation.
49. Stash No More
This divorce client came into my lobby one morning, panicked. She starts screaming about how the money was missing. What money? I asked her. Apparently, her and her soon-to-be-ex didn't believe in banks, as they kept a suitcase with close to $100k in a safe in their bedroom closet. One morning, she saw the safe was open and the money was all gone.
Y'all have no idea how hard it is to trace and prove the existence of that much money in loose 100s, 50s, and 20s. It cost her several grand in fees alone for how much work went into finding it. If she had just told us about it in the first place, we could have placed it into a trust account pending the divorce.
50. Truth Will Set You Free
I had a typical appointment with the Immigration Committee in order to grant my client his residence permit. He was marrying a woman in my country with my country's nationality, which is a legitimate reason to be granted a residence permit. It was a typical procedure. At least that's what I thought it was going to be. I was so wrong.
The Committee, bored, wanted it to be over, and us too. They asked him the typical and boring questions like how they met, where they live, etc. At one point, they asked him if he was married before, and he said, "Yes, back in my home country, and I am still married actually, never got a divorce." I was like, wait what did he just say?
I was stunned. Double marriage is forbidden in my country. And he never bothered to mention this detail to me neither to the other lawyer when we asked him. He later told me he said the truth because he was afraid to lie in front of a Committee. The honest but stupid man. I got paid in full but had to find another way.
51. Pixel Proof
I worked for a defense attorney who did a lot of federal work. One case was with this guy charged with trafficking minors. We interviewed him when he was behind bars, and he swore up and down he had nothing to do with this and that he didn’t even know the girls. A month later, heaps of evidence from the US attorney’s office came in.
It’s pages of Snapchat messages and texts between him and these girls, video confessions of every co-defendant and victim saying our guy was the ring-leader, proof of him checking in/out of different motel rooms, etc. We showed him the evidence. He claimed that his co-defendants were conspiring against him and kept denying, denying, denying.
He wanted to go to trial, but we repeatedly told him that would not be wise due to the amount of evidence against him. He ended up requesting to appoint a new attorney claiming that we were “ineffective.” To this day, my old boss and I enjoy reminiscing about how difficult this client was when we catch up on the phone.
52. Burn Baby Burn
I work in medical malpractice defense. Once I had a obstetrician/gynecologist who severely burned a patient during a procedure. When I met with the doctor, he lied to me throughout the representation (over 16 months), saying he had no idea how it happened. But no matter what he said, a woman came into his office without a burn, and after the procedure, the woman left with a burn the size of a dinner plate.
There's no way this doctor didn't know what had happened. To make his story even more suspicious, the area of the burn was exactly where he was operating on. It wasn't until I brought up the idea of a settlement, because this was obviously not a case that we could win, did he say, "Oh maybe I do know what happened."
We ultimately settled that case, which is considered a favorable outcome considering the potential high monetary verdict. Sometimes I think this doctor really ought to have lost that case and their license. Eventually, it was discovered that the lamp used to illuminate the site of the procedure emitted a ton of heat, enough to cause serious burns.
53. This Mistake Goes All The Way To The Top
During the trial, the co-suspect's attorney declared that there should've been a suspect line-up during the investigation, especially since the suspects were brought into the station when the victim was still there. It would have been so easy to make the victim take a look and point out who hurt her. At this point, my client turns to me and says that there had been a line-up and that the victim had identified the co-suspect, not himself.
My client goes on to say that this line-up occurred about 30 minutes after the alleged offense. Nothing in the file suggests it happened, though. We do trials based on written statements by officers, and they are hardly ever in court to testify. So I mention what my client said in my closing arguments. Suddenly, the prosecutor's mouth drops and she becomes pale.
The hearing is suspended for further investigations. A couple of weeks later, officers are testifying in shame that they forgot to finish the report on the line-up, and the judge threw out the case for irreparable harm to the trial.
54. Got It
I had a "brilliant" gentleman on probation for narcotics trafficking, and he wasn't allowed to have a cellphone. He went in for a substance test with his probation officer, and it all went topsy turvy. First, his cell rang in his pocket. The probation man went to take the phone from his pocket...and also pulled out a huge baggie of substances. He lost his case in an instant.
55. Pleasure Doing Business With You
The other lawyer in my case filed a document with a pretty big mistake on it. Basically, they confused two very similar motions and mixed them up, with this mistake making their file useless. So I go out of my way to be a nice lawyer and let them know they made a mistake. They told me, in nice lawyer talk, to just screw off and leave them alone.
I go out of my way again to say, in nice lawyer talk, that if this stupid motion goes to a hearing, I will be quite cross and will ask for attorney’s fees. In lawyer culture, this is considered a jerk move. Fast forward to the hearing. After the insurance attorney finishes their impersonation of a competent attorney, I explain the basic defect to the judge.
I also explain that I told opposing counsel the following—what’s wrong, how to fix it, and that I will be asking for fees. Then I asked for fees. After that, a few things happened quickly. First, the judge asks the idiot if my explanation was accurate. He says no, so I reach into my briefcase and grab an email from me to the lawyer.
He immediately objects. In a pre-trial hearing. Like a freaking idiot. The judge ignores him and reads the email. He then rules against him and awards me the fees. The jerk lawyer has the nerve to say I should have mentioned the email sooner.
56. Black Sheep Blues
My father was handling a case for his friend’s family all about a property that this friend and his brothers and sister inherited. Horrible mess as you can imagine, and they were a deeply conflicted family. A few years on, in one of the court hearings, one brother mentioned a name that had never appeared during the entire lawsuit.
Turns out, there was one more brother that they all decided to not mention, because he was "the black sheep" of the family. Because they hadn't mentioned him, years of exhausting work went down the drain. From what I understand, my father—who was doing it all for free, because he wanted to help his buddy—got into a huge argument with this friend. They never spoke to each other again, and the guy had to find a new lawyer.
57. Jogging His Memory
My client was suing her former workplace for harassment (her boss was a real creep). As part of research, I called up the manager and asked about the accusations against the company, only for him to deny knowing anything about the case. He denied even knowing my client at all. I held three separate interviews with him and his staff, and they all said nothing happened that day.
We prepared a defense. At the manager's deposition, the first freaking question from the plaintiff's attorney asked was "Do you recognize my client?” "Oh yeah...now that I see her I remember..."
58. Keeping Your Private Life Private
My client failed to mention that he'd had a threesome with his ex-wife and her boyfriend two weeks before divorce proceedings. We didn't learn this until the ex was on the stand. Such a fun surprise.
59. A Turn Of Events
I work for insurance defense. One of my first cases, I was completing discovery with a very young client who was barely 18. She claimed the city bus rear-ended her when she was slowing to make a turn. Then the driver got out of the bus, yelling at her and screaming curses. We submitted these responses believing them to be true.
Months later, we learn that she'd taken us for a ride. There is actually a video camera on the city bus (of course). It shows her trying to make an unlawful U-turn and ramming her vehicle into the side of the bus. Then SHE got out of the car and started screaming at the bus driver, who stayed silent in his bus. The video also caught her texting while driving. Not the smartest person I've met.
60. All Fired Up
I was defending a tenant from eviction. The client kept saying she was being evicted because the authorities were called after her ex showed up. That's actually discrimination, leaving the landlord liable if that was the reason. But the landlord's attorney says they're evicting for another reason, not the ex thing. He then asks whether the tenant told us what she did.
I go back and ask if there is anything she hasn't told us. "Well, maybe it’s the fire I started in the laundry room. I was really out of it and the security footage looks bad." This is about five minutes before the judge calls the case from the bench. Woof.
61. What You Don’t Know…
In law school, I had an internship at a defense contractor. Most of my work related to disagreements with government auditors regarding whether expenses were appropriately charged to government contracts. One of the issues was how much of the cost of the executive jet could be charged. After a lot of research, arguments, and negotiation, I succeeded in getting the expenses allowed.
After reporting my success, my supervisor congratulated me and proceeded to inform me that the executives would be pleased because a second executive jet had already been purchased and had yet to be disclosed to the auditor. I felt very used. The info was very intentionally kept from me until after the successful first round of negotiations with the auditor.
I did not seek employment there after the end of my internship.
62. Lights Out
I recently had a case where I sued an electrical contractor on behalf of my client. My client said that they had paid the guy to replace a fuse box, only for the contractor to leave them with half their lights not working. What they didn't tell me is that they had an illegally installed secondary box doglegged off the first box that was controlling those lights.
He had to disconnect that box because it presented a massive danger and code violation. Then they didn't want to pay him to correct the second box.
My cousin was the moron client. He and his second wife are divorcing and she wants full custody of the kids, no visitation, just lots of child support. He’s willing to allow a 50-50 split (at first) and finds an attorney for the case. They’re going over everything when he casually mentions how the mom gives the kids sleeping pills literally every night so they'll pass out and she can go out to the bars while my cousin works the night shift.
My cousin thought this was his way to beat her in the custody battle. He was unbelievably wrong. The attorney had to explain that, no, you can’t tell this to the judge or that you’ve known she’s been doing this for years. You’ll both lose the kids and they’ll go to state custody. Both of them are petty incompetent and, as you can imagine, we don’t interact with that side of the family much.
64. The Tables Have Turned
A friend of mine who is a lawyer once told me about a guy who tried claiming that a lady side-swiped his car when she tried changing lanes without checking her blind spot. Turns out, the other driver had a dashcam, which showed that the guy was driving aggressively and was the one who was at fault. The case was thrown out and the guy had charges pressed against him.
65. A No Good, Very Bad Day
Back in the early 2000s, I had a client had a no-contact order with his ex-girlfriend. He got a call, but the person hung up, so he dialled *69. It was her. She then called the authorities, saying he had violated the no-contact order. We show up to court and I think I have a pretty good argument on his side. Two officers then walk up to me while my client is in the bathroom. They look at my client's name on my case folder and nod to each other. I don't have a good feeling about this.
When my client comes back, they detain him on an outstanding warrant. I get a continuance for his case. His car gets impounded in the garage. I can't get him transported from behind bars to face his violation. The public defender takes over his cases. I moved away shortly after that, but that was a very bad day for my client. I stopped putting names on my case files after that so no prosecutor or officer would be tempted to look through them.
66. Looking Dapper
Somebody broke into my house and took some suits and all my neckties. I had a big collection of about a hundred. The thief left fingerprints on a plastic box where I kept spare change. Three months later, the thief was caught in the act while at another house in the same neighborhood by the same detectives on my case.
They took the guy’s fingerprints, which matched the ones from my house. At the thief’s arraignment, I saw him stroll in wearing my suit and my tie. I told the district attorney, who said there was really no way to prove it. Except I knew what he didn't. The tie was a one of kind street map of San Francisco, and I had documentation to show it.
The district attorney’s eyes widened, and he informed the judge. The judge has the thief placed under arrest again for possession of stolen property. The thief’s lawyer was dumbfounded. It was a nice end to a rough situation!
67. What Are Friends For?
My client asked a friendly company to forge documents. A whistle blower told the corruption investigations board. It destroyed my client's credibility for the whole claim, even where there were good grounds. It ended up in a whole, full-blown investigation.
68. Going Underground
This couple has been divorced for years. The ex wife approaches me, stating that her husband doesn't want to cooperate in selling their house so they can truly separate. Both ex-wife and ex-husband are still living in the same house that they have lived in for almost 20 years. They are both foreigners but have had residency permits in the US for over 20 years. Divorce judgment is from a US court too.
I ask the wife a ton of questions. I notice that their registration papers already mention separate addresses. I ask which one is for the house that she wants to sell. None of them. Their house is in another country. They hadn't lived at their registered addresses for decades. She looked at me like this was fine but...no. Their divorce court had no jurisdiction, their divorce judgment appears null and void, and not updating your residency status is against the law.
I have no idea how these people lived their lives for almost 20 years.
69. Blind Spot
My client accidentally drove into a pole and decided to try to make the city pay for the car repairs. He said that the street had terrible lights at night and argued that a lack of street lights caused him to hit the wire pole. But the report showed a much different story. It turns out that the authorities found this driver in the driver's seat, pants down, with explicit content playing on the phone. It wasn't difficult to figure out who was negligent at that point.
70. Water Under The Bridge
I was doing a complicated environmental permit case for a client. The permit was granted at the city level, but the neighbors, who were not too thrilled about our client's large business being next door, appealed it. They have a ton of remarks, but the only issues that really remain are that the plans are a tad bit vague, and they don't want to deal with the noise.
To clear up some final questions, the state did a planned on-site visit. My firm was not notified of this visit, and as such, we were not present. The client handled it himself with his architect. It all went way, way wrong. They called us the next day to inform us of the following: During the visit, the state personnel had noticed that the sewage and plumbing system didn’t really appear the way it was drawn, so they asked client to clarify where their dirty water went.
The client and the architect supposedly responded with, “Oh, that just gets collected and drained down to the little stream at the back of the lot.” The client wanted to know if that was bad. Spoiler alert: Yes, yes it was. There was no fixing it, either. This was a company with potential environmental issues due to fluid leakage from machines and car park, so they had a ton of rules to follow on how to deal with dirty and used water.
They'd drawn most of these in their plans and were assumed to have all of this installed and working for the 20-something years that they had already been running their business on that site. According to their past permits, they needed to have those things. Announcing in the middle of an appeal procedure that instead of a finely tuned sewage and waste management infrastructure, you just have one big pipe chucking your water in a small stream at the back of your lot is bad.
We had to explain to the client that no, we can’t fix this and yes, you should have told us about this from the start.
71. Thanks For Joining!
A defendant stood there calmly and quietly while the judge was reading his charges and bond information. When the judge asked if the defendant had any questions, the defendant gave the judge the finger, swore, threw down the microphone, and walked away. The old judge had an amazing reply up his sleeve. He said, “I'll let you know when my fan club meets.”
72. Big Little Lies
I was working on a file for a non-EU company participating in a public tender within the EU. To summarize in a nutshell: when a government agency needs to build something like a building or a bridge, they have to organise what is called a "tender procedure" to weed out the charlatans and to enter into a contract with the most advantageous tenderer.
Such a procedure is organised according to strict rules, and a lot of things are public to ensure equal opportunities for every company. Serious stuff. One of the conditions to be eligible for such a tender is that your company and its directors have not been found guilty of certain offences, as that suggests that you are untrustworthy.
If you had such an issue in the past, you can fess up and try to argue this risk has been eliminated thanks to a "self-cleaning" procedure—getting rid of the bad apples in your company, basically. Our client assured us that they never had any such issues, were never convicted, yadda yadda. Just one of the many steps in a procurement procedure.
Years later, when the construction was well underway, it turned out they had lied—Big time. The directors in their home country had been found guilty for bribery of government officials. The contracting authority got rightfully spooked and argued our client wilfully lied when tendering for the contract. The consequence is that...you were never eligible in the first place and retroactively, the tender should be annulled to restart the procedure.
When asking our client what the heck happened and why they didn't tell us so we could have tried to argue the self-cleaning exemption, they said that they didn't think it seemed relevant, as it was widely known in newspapers (in the language of their home country...) so they assumed they didn't have to tell the authorities.
And besides, many CEOs in their home country get convicted of stuff like that and pardoned when the opposition party gets re-elected, so what's the big deal? Literal millions of dollars and several years of thousands of people's energy down the drain...Because they lied on a form...
73. Miss Spoke
I saw a trial of a lady who was there for a hit and run and for being under the influence. The judge assigned a lawyer for her since she was so shaken up that she’d quit her job. The judge asked the prosecuting attorney for details on the case. Out of nowhere, the defendant made a shocking confession, out loud, in front of the whole room.
"You mean the car I hit while I was intoxicated?" The judge stopped her. He took his glasses off and told her, "Everything is recorded in this courtroom. I told you not to talk to anyone about your case except the attorney that I assigned for you." You could tell he was ready to walk out of the room with the level of stupidity this lady showed.
74. Settling For Less
A person was involved in a motorcycle accident. They sustained legitimate but not serious injuries, CCTV showed the incident, and they were very much not at fault. However, they decided that this was their big payday. They claimed they could barely walk, had PTSD, serious back trouble, would never work again, the whole nine yards. But they forgot one thing.
They neglected to tell their lawyer they had been working a manual labour job, riding motorcycles, and even bungee jumping. All of which we caught on video, or, even stupider, the client themselves documented on social media. This did not get the multi-million pound settlement payment they expected. It was a fun phone call after we sent the tape full of evidence.
75. Quick Chatter
I'm a public defender in an area where there’s a lot of substance use. This means that I have many clients who forget to mention that they got to prison still high and used their phone call to chat with their accomplice or whatever and not only confess to what happened, but also brainstorm whatever version of events I need to defend them. There's just one problem with this: Those calls are recorded.
76. Wrong Direction
Woman A had hit Woman B in the head with a heavy pint at a bar, and Woman B got pretty serious injuries. The defense claimed that Woman A had not hit anybody with the pint but instead had just thrown the pint into a random direction, and it happened to hit Woman B in the head. In this version of events, the injuries were an accident and not battery.
The prosecution used CCTV tape from the bar to show at the trial. The high definition tape clearly showed as Woman A walked behind Woman B and smashed the pint on her head so hard that the glass shattered on impact. I looked at the defense lawyer, and his mouth was just agape. The prosecutor noticed this too and went, "thrown, eh?"
The defense lawyer told the judge that due to technical difficulties; he couldn't get the CCTV tape open on his computer when he was reviewing the evidence. Woman A was found guilty. So yeah, I was completely dumbfounded.
77. Type O
My parents spent most of my childhood embroiled in a messy divorce. One of their biggest arguments was about my parentage. My mom claimed that my dad said that I wasn’t his child and refused to engage with him until he admitted he was wrong. My dad refused to admit he was wrong and refused to engage without an apology. Years later, the ridiculous truth came out.
Much later, I learned that those years spent arguing were all down to a typo on a court document which had my birthdate off by 10 years meaning after my dad had a vasectomy. Neither had mentioned it to their attorneys as they thought pointless fighting in court for 5+ years was preferable to simply changing one number.
78. Back Of My Mind
This one defendant was taken into custody on a warrant and transported behind bars. After booking him, the officer returned to his vehicle and found a baggie of substances sitting right in the middle of the backseat. The defendant was charged with possession. At trial, the officer explained that he routinely searched his vehicle.
Apparently, he would do this before his shift started and after transporting somebody in the back. The defense attorney tried to poke holes in the story, but his testimony was remarkably consistent. The officer was fastidious about checking his vehicle. The appearance of the substances coincided with the defendant being in the vehicle.
Then, as the defense attorney was running out of questions, he threw out the question, “Was there anyone else in the backseat of the vehicle?” It was a Hail Mary...and it worked. Even when there are multiple detainments, officers tend not to transport more than one person at a time if they can help it. So there was no reason to believe this. Except...
The defense attorney and prosecutor were stunned when the answer was, "yes." The defendant was with his girlfriend when he was taken in, and the officer graciously agreed to drive her to her apartment before taking her boyfriend to the slamme. This wasn’t included in the report. The officer hadn’t even told the prosecutor.
We felt a pause as this fact sunk in. Since someone was also in the back, there was more than enough reasonable doubt. Proofs were concluded, and the prosecutor threw out a half-hearted closing. The not-guilty verdict was a given. Because of this case, I learned to never assume a fact no matter how obvious it may seem.
79. Land, No!
A client signed a sworn affidavit stating he’d been running a truck park business for over 10 years on a piece of land. After 10 years, the use was immune from law intervention. The Council checked Google maps and saw immediately that he lied. He’d only run the business for seven years. He had submitted a false sworn affidavit.
80. The Dotted Line
My dad represented a guy in a civil case. There was a forged signature in question, and his client said he had not forged it. My dad was very clear in explaining that admitting he'd actually forged it to him would not land him behind bars. You know, because of lawyer-client privilege. It would just allow my dad to give him a better defense.
But the guy insisted that he was innocent so my dad built the case on that foundation. Of course, it later came out that, yes, in fact, his client did forge the signature.
81. Sudden Change In Plans
The defendant failed to appear. His attorney couldn't reach him. Nobody knew where he was. We waited there for about half an hour until the judge got tired of it and moved ahead with the docket. We found out later that the defendant had decided to rob a 7/11 the night before and was sitting in a cell two counties over.
82. Sticking It Out
I met a client in prison for a line-up that he’d adamantly demanded regarding an incident with multiple witnesses. I met the client the first time in a separate room to let him know how it would go down and what to expect. They pulled people from the population, but despite their best efforts, the population was small.
I went to meet the client who had a stye on his left lower eyelid the size of a golf ball. It was the most identifiable mark on a human's face that I’ve seen. He still wanted the line-up and every single witness identified him instantly without a shred of doubt. He still demanded a trial. Unsurprisingly, we did not win the case.
83. Seeking The Truth
We were seeking, among other things, a freezing order for over $30 million assets that were at risk of being dissipated. We needed to get a foreign judgment for the debt to be recognized and enforced. Our client was a well-reputed foreign lawyer who insisted that the appeal period for that foreign judgment had long passed.
It was therefore imperative that we made all these applications as soon as possible. But instead of properly doing our own independent research, we relied on our client's word regarding the appeal period. Looking back, this was a huge mistake. In reality, there were two appeal periods, and while the first had indeed passed, the second was still outstanding.
That meant we could not seek to have the foreign judgment recognized and enforced yet per our own court rules. We did actually realize the error before we went to a hearing due to an associate on our team having a hunch and another associate actually being able to read procedural rules in the relevant foreign language.
But we did have to adjourn the hearing and entirely redo many of our pleadings and affidavits during which time the defendant did indeed dump a bunch of his assets leaving us with a mostly dry judgment.
84. Give And Take
I had a client say his ex owed him a lot of money and that she was trying to get out of paying him back by getting a protective order against him. It seemed reasonable, so I took his case. At the hearing, it came out that they were never a couple and he was sending inappropriate, you know, "toys" to her residence on a weekly basis.
I also learned that she never asked for the thousands of dollars he gave her over the years because he was paying for her services. We lost. He got laughed out of court and learned a valuable lesson: tell your lawyer the good AND the bad stuff before trial!
85. Corporate Competition
I have a client whose former employer is suing him for damages to a company car. With the info he provided me, it looked like he has a solid case, so our best tactic is to stonewall the employer. So far so good...until the employer sends me a copy of an email where my client explicitly admits to liability. Now it’s a shot case, and if I had known about it earlier, I would have negotiated a settlement. Folks, don’t lie to your lawyer—it only hurts your case.
86. Be More Specific
I was involved in a hit and run car accident. My leg was pretty mangled. However, the driver of the car was caught. He was some rich kid who was driving his mom’s convertible Porsche. He denied all knowledge of hitting me. At the trial, the prosecutor asked him how long he had been driving, and he thought for a minute.
Then he asked the absolute stupidest question: “Do you mean how long have I been driving with or without my license?” The judge then went off asking why and when he had been driving without a license. His defense team sat down and shook their heads. He lost the case. Interestingly, he passed on a year later by drowning on a speed boat while intoxicated.
87. Hello, Nurse!
This one is the opposite of the rest, as it went in my client's favor, but I will share it because it is a funny and happy story. I represent individuals who are applying for professional licenses. One time, I was retained by a guy who was applying for a nursing license to begin his second career as a nurse. But there was one huge issue.
This guy was previously charged with murder—not manslaughter, legit first degree. He pled down to a lesser offense, but I know that the nursing board is not going to be thrilled with the idea of giving him a nursing license. I talk with the client about the circumstances of the previous case, hoping to get some explanation that we can use to mitigate his role or put it in context.
After all, he wasn't convicted. But, the client's explanation isn't very helpful, and, in fact, makes it worse because in addition to someone kicking the bucket, it was the result of a deal gone bad. In these types of situations, the only strategy is to take the position that your client is a "changed man" who made some mistakes in the past, but has turned his life around.
This strategy (if true) usually works, since everyone should be given a second chance, and denying a license to someone who is truly trying to be a better person often reinforces the cycle. So, the day before the hearing, we prepare for hours, discussing how we are going to frame our case this way. On the morning of the hearing, the client was running late, so I had a little bit of time before he arrived.
On a whim, I decide to do a little research to see if there has ever been a similar case to this one. As luck would have it, my research leads me to an appellate decision featuring the co-defendants in my client's previous case. In the appellate decision, the court spends a lot of time discussing the facts. Each of the four co-defendants has a totally different version of what went down during this deal gone bad.
None of the defendants can agree on what their roles were, or anything. However, there are two, and only two, things all of these four co-defendants can agree on. First, my client (who was a large, physically imposing guy) was asked to join the deal as the "muscle," but was not really told the details or that there was a possibility that it could go bad.
In essence, he was told that this was a routine thing, and all he needed to do was stand there and look imposing so that nobody would try anything stupid. Of course, my client probably could figure out what was going on, but these facts significantly diminished his role in everything. And there was an even more important detailed buried in the testimony.
Second, and more importantly, all four co-defendants agree that as soon as someone—they couldn't agree who—pulled out a glock, my client, who was hired to be the "muscle," immediately turned and ran away. In other words, as soon as there was a sign of trouble, my client absolutely "noped" his way out of that situation, and ran like a scared rabbit.
When my client arrived, I asked him why he didn't tell me these facts, since they are precisely the type of mitigating factors I was looking to uncover before. As it turns out, he was so embarrassed by the whole situation that he didn't want to tell me about them. This newly obtained information significantly helped his case, and he ultimately was given his license.
I will note that by all accounts, he is a really great nurse, and truly did turn his life around. His story shows precisely why people should be given second chances at life, especially when they were never really given a first chance.
88. Technical Device
One of my clients received a ticket for talking on his cell phone while driving and defended himself by saying, “Your honor, I was not using a smartphone while driving. I was actually using a flip phone.”
89. Is This Yours?
One girl within a much larger group of people was charged with possession, but because she had thrown away the substances, they couldn’t prove that she, in specific, bought or owned them. Their whole argument was based on the idea that it could have been one of the other people. It was an airtight case...until the crucial moment hit.
Just before the judge made his ruling, he asked if the girl wanted to say anything. Her statement was the dumbest thing I will ever hear. This girl asked if she could get her drugs back.
90. Look What I Can Do
The case had gone on for years. The client was badly injured in a car accident and was about to win millions. Then one day, she posted a Facebook status about her doing something very active and thus negated the entire case. We had to settle for only $100,000. Years of work down the drain with just one Facebook status.
91. Balancing Work And Home Life
My husband lost his job in the title/mortgage business. He applied for unemployment and got denied. I decided to help him with his appeal hearing. I asked him repeatedly before the hearing, “Is there anything you did that made them fire you?” He reassured me that no absolutely not. They really fired him out of nowhere.
Hearing day came. He testified under oath that he had done nothing wrong and was a good employee. Upon cross-examination, the other attorney pulled out his real estate closings document, which he had forged and backdated. He had to admit to perjury. He also did not get unemployment benefits or sleep at home that night.
92. In Confidence
Over my summer internship, I helped with trying to get some evidence admitted. The evidence was recorded audio of mental manipulation on a call between a daughter and her father. The lawyer spent a long while trying to show there was no expectation of privacy for the conversation. The mother then went on stand and immediately said the most idiotic thing possible.
The first thing she said regarding the audio tape was that she always stayed as far away from her daughter and let her daughter lock her bedroom door so that their conversation has the utmost privacy. It wasn't admitted.
93. Impossible To Prove
I was an intern at court and was watching a battery trial with another intern. The defendant was asked if he could remember how many people were present when he beat up the other guy. He then pointed at my fellow intern and said rather loudly, "she was there, but she didn't see anything! Don't trust her!" Found guilty.
94. Made It Myself
We had clients who said the bank wrongly foreclosed on their house. The wife provided bank statements showing their payments every single month for the past several years. I checked through every one to make sure they all looked good. There was also proof that they had actually never received the notice of foreclosure.
The bank was baffled. We talked with expert witnesses who confirmed that the recession had affected a lot of banks' record-keeping and a wrongful foreclosure could result from that. We got to mediation, and the first thing the bank said was that upon close examination, they’d noticed one tiny error on their statements.
So, they were calling off mediation and subpoenaing statements from the bank itself to check against the client’s statements. Our clients were mad, and we were too. The opposing side got the subpoenaed statements a couple weeks later and sent them to us, and I had the joy of comparing them. I quickly noticed something was wrong.
There was a difference between the ones from our client and the subpoenaed ones in the "electronic withdrawals" section. Our client had used a PDF editor to delete the entry in that section for every statement, add the mortgage payment, and then adjust the totals carrying them over each month. We approached our client.
We said, "these look forged. We can drop the case or you can explain what the issue is." The wife said, "We should probably drop the case." She never confessed to us about forging them, but without a doubt, she had forged them. Her husband had no idea. He actually wasn't on the call where we accused her of the forgery.
He called a couple of weeks later asking for a case update. It wasn’t fun telling him his wife had lied to him for the last year and a half. The opposing side said that they'd be ok with us dropping the case as long as our clients paid their attorney fees. Our clients were happy to do that, which was quite lucky for them.
95. Obvious Observation
I heard of some dude who was trying to appeal his disability benefit being revoked. He claimed that he was a paraplegic, but the opposition showed over ten minutes of video footage of him walking, running, and even jumping over a fence. After the one minute mark, the judge said, "Okay, I have seen enough. Please leave."
96. Little To No Headway
I was about to complete a land transaction that required my client to have built a road. The entire point of the transfer was the road. My client, as I called him prior to completion, told me, "turns out we, uh, didn't build the road..."
97. Say Something
The officer lost the ticket book, so there was no "official" evidence when I was in court for mine. The judge told us that the next fifteen on the docket just needed to plead not guilty since there was no evidence. One moron got up there and was arguing that he was only going 5 MPH over not 10. The judge looked at him.
He said, "son, just say not guilty." The guy again said, “but I wasn't going that fast.” The judge laughed and repeated, “son, just say two words for me, not and guilty.” The guy, confused mumbled not guilty in the form of a question, and the judge said dismissed. Everyone in the courtroom laughed and clapped for him.
98. Too Good For This
After seven attempts to prep this officer witness, he stonewalled me every time. I was so desperate I even said I’d prep him during his night shift. Almost the entire case hinged upon the officer’s credibility—so we had to get it right. But nope. He went and ruined it. He gets up to the stand and says, “I know [Mr. Defendant], I’ve detained him on three prior occasions and he always gets away.”
This actually shows HUGE bias. If I knew about this bias, I would’ve dismissed the case. Now, the officer is on an official court ruling him as a non-credible witness. His career is over. All because he decided he was too important to be prepped as a witness. If I didn’t document every time I contacted him to schedule prepping, I would’ve had heck to pay at my office.
99. Do It For The Children
It was a Special Ed case. The school district was supposed to be providing services to the child in the home. The clients told us that the school district had never sent anyone to provide the services, they hadn’t heard from anyone in the district about scheduling, etc. They brought this up during a pre-hearing conference with judge and opposing counsel.
After the conference, opposing counsel sends me pages of affidavits and documentation of all the times the school district employees went to the house and were refused entry by my clients for various reasons, or the clients just didn’t answer the door when they were clearly home. My clients had no explanation about why they lied to me. They fired us shortly after, and I was not sad.
100. To Do List
My sister, a public defender, had a shoplifting case where the defendant was caught in possession of stolen goods which happened to match a list that was also in his possession entitled, "Stuff to take from Walmart.”
101. Restraining Order Backfire
A wife filed for a restraining order because she wanted the house during her divorce. The husband has a good job, like $200k per year. The employer finds out about the restraining order and fires the husband. He was a very specialized employee, so the only job he can find close to the house and his daughter is $50k. Ooh boy, did this not go well.
The house gets foreclosed. Child support is set at less than $500 per month. The wife has to get a job as a waitress.
102. Facts Of The Case
I worked on a termination of parental rights case. The main arguments were that the parent was stable, working lawfully, had a proper apartment, didn't need psychotropic medication anymore, and was basically ready to be a parent again. After a couple of months of negotiating with all parties, we had a pre-trial to convince the guardians.
I met with my client before the hearing to see if anything changed. "Nope, all good, let's get my kids." Great, that's not happening today, but let's try. We got to court. My client, who’s super-hot headed and quick to anger, got riled up and went off on the guardians by screaming in open court. And unfortunately, it didn’t end there.
My client then decided to reveal that she’s no longer working, no longer in an apartment, didn't want to have a relationship with the guardians (even though her kids loved them), planned on moving out of state, and thought the family could live off state aide when she got them back. The last and most shocking part? She was four months pregnant!
The court learned all of this in the matter of 15 seconds. I was too shocked to even react. Speechless. She was not the image of stability and parental fitness that I had been trying to paint for months.
103. A Little Dusty
I had a woman with an expensive fur coat who claimed that the laundromat ruined it. It was a bit ruined, but the laundromat said that the stains were already there. The judge ordered an expert opinion—and it revealed so much more than we bargained for. The coat had traces of drugs all over it. They raided her place where they found her husband’s big stash of drugs. She should have just taken the stains.