Lawyers Share Their Most Shocking Cases
On TV, courtrooms seem like well-oiled machines. Lawyers know just what to say to get that perfect piece of testimony. Judges are impartial. Witnesses cry on cue. In real life, though? Not so much. These court cases are wild rides, from start to finish and I can’t stop binge-reading them.
1. A Spectacular Self-Screw
My friend was defending a guy in court. The main witness for the prosecution was on the stand and was asked if she could identify the defendant. She scanned the courtroom and seemed confused—my friend was already silently celebrating because if she couldn’t identify him, he could probably get all charged dropped.
As he was mentally adding this case to the “win” file, he happened to glance over at his client, who had just helpfully raised his hand to make it easier for her to identify him. Even the judge facepalmed on that one.
2. Well That Backfired
One of my father’s friends tried to salt the earth before getting divorced. A rental house and a cabin were deeded to relatives, their cars were sold for tiny sums, stocks handed over to a trust “for the children,” etc. Husband vanished a chunk of cash from the company he co-owned with his wife using phony invoices. The guy even stopped paying himself a salary, electing to burn through their personal savings instead. This was all a huge mistake.
He learned that judges really, really hate when you try to hide or intentionally diminish assets, and they will absolutely refer you to prosecutors for fraud. I don’t think he did any jail time in the end, but his ex-wife got EVERYTHING, plus the satisfaction of firing him from his own company.
3. You Just Played Yourself
Not the worst, but one that sticks out something they did to themselves. Woman shows up to court in an “It’s party time! Drink up!” t-shirt. She was there for her first appearance on a third DUI charge. Judge was not in a humorous mood that day.
4. There’s Always a But
This guy wanted custody over his children after a divorce, but his wife was accusing him of physical harassment. He was asked if he had ever laid his hands on his wife, and he straight-up said: “Yes, but only when she annoyed me.” I was ready to leave the courtroom and laugh.
5. The Devil Is in the Details
I was trying to get a restraining order for a woman in divorce court from her son’s father. She details a story where he grabbed her arm and slammed it on the tub, breaking her wrist. On cross examination, I asked the accused, her ex, if he ever broke my client’s wrist on purpose. Then the true, awful story came out.
His response: “Oh yeah I did!” I’m jubilant….for two seconds. Then he continues. “She was nine months pregnant and about to do crack. I tried to grab her arm to get the pipe and protect my unborn son.” She left that detail out in her conversations with me.
6. Talk About a Bad Trip
When I had been licensed less than a year, I was representing a guy in a custody case. He was adamant that his ex was on drugs so I requested drug testing. The judge said both parties had to be tested, which I had warned my client would likely be the Judge’s request. Mom tested clean. My guy tested positive for drugs.
We did not win the case. Same guy also fell asleep during the hearing.
7. Pays To Be Organized
Not a lawyer, but…a friend kept meticulous records of how much time his estranged wife spent with their daughter. He used pink highlighter for Mom and blue highlighter for himself. Mom sailed into arbitration demanding full custody and handsome child support and the house. Dad pulled out three years worth of year-long calendars. Mom had spent less than a full month with the child in three years.
Mom was not happy with the outcome.
8. Can You Paint With All the Colors of the Wind?
As a private investigator, I work on a TON of crazy court cases. This one will always stick out as especially wild: Guy calls me to help catch his neighbor who is knocking over his trashcans at night. We set up a small night vision camera to catch the guy. Watch the video the next day—it’s just the wind. This was definitely not the result our client wanted.
He freaks out, says that his neighbor could have had an invisibility field or could have been moving too fast—like the Flash—to show up on camera. Wants to pay us thousands of dollars to rent a heat-seeking camera or one that can shoot thousands of frames per second. It turns out lots of crazy people call P.I.s to investigate the TV controlling them, alien abduction, etc. Lesson learned!
9. A Shocking Turn of Events
I handle estates and wills. Bar none, the strangest, and most embarrassing, will reading was in a room crowded with relatives when a man who passed fairly young left absolutely everything to his 26-year-old stepdaughter, which was quite a lot of money and property. The two ex-wives and his children from the first marriage got nothing, nor did siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. The will specified that a DVD be played to explain why the stepdaughter was getting everything. Like everyone else, I thought it’d be the guy explaining the big “screw you” to the rest of the family.
What followed was completely unexpected. It was a hidden camera recording of the guy and his stepdaughter going wild in bed together. The video started in mid-action, with her screaming “yes oh god yes!” It had obviously been edited to start with maximum shock value, and it worked, because it took about 30 seconds for me to recover enough to turn the thing off. It was definitely the biggest “holy moly” moment of my career.
I later learned that the guy and his stepdaughter had a relationship since she was a teen, all the way to when he passed (when she was 26). Apparently, though this is second-hand and I can’t confirm, there were multiple clips of various video bits through the ages on the DVD. At the end of the DVD, the guy explains that the stepdaughter gets everything because she’d been “the best lay of his life.”
The worst part was that the will specified that I was to give every single family member their own copy of the DVD. The copies had been kept in a box and had been distributed prior to the showing, so everyone had “The Best Moments Of” in their hands, at the time the DVD was playing.
Epilogue: the family sued and lost, believe it or not. The girl got to keep everything.
10. They Probably Can Now, Buddy
I was working as court staff in a hearing where a guy was accused of robbing a grocery store. The defendant’s lawyer was arguing that they could not identify the man in the surveillance camera footage as his client. While the footage was being shown to the court, the defendant leaned over and said loud enough to his lawyer, “Do you think they can tell that’s me in the video?”
11. Best Come Prepared
Not a lawyer, but a friend properly screwed over his ex wife. He thought things were not going well. She seemed off. He did a little digging, and saw enough to prove she was cheating. He hired a private detective. The detective got pics of her kissing a dude, going to his house, plus the cell phone call log, credit card statements, etc.
Then everything goes topsy turvy. SHE asks for a divorce and claims HE is being unfaithful. She claims she has been nothing but a loving wife, yet provides no proof he is cheating. He pulls out a 3-inch binder with a couple-month log, photos of her going into restaurants with her boyfriend, pictures kissing him in the parking lot, pictures of her car at his place, text log, etc, etc, etc.
Both married people had equally high paying jobs. She wanted to take him to the ringer. He threw out some offer like $25K cash, and nothing else, no retirement funds, no house, no child support, etc, plus he wanted the kids. Basically take $25K and walk. Her lawyer told her she better take it, and she did.
12. MySpace Misstep
My brother was on a jury back in the days of MySpace. A woman had been hit by a big rig during foggy weather. She was suing for a back injury. The last day of the trial they ask her if she has a MySpace account and brought up her site for the jury to see (I think all profiles were open then). There’s a picture of her dancing on the hood of a car and right next to it is a text exchange of her saying that she shouldn’t go out too much because her lawyer says that she has to look injured.
Needless to say, she lost that case.
13. Learning to Fall
Years ago I worked in personal injury, and we had a woman come to us saying that she slipped and fell outside a nail salon because they hadn’t swept up the wet leaves outside the door. So we take the case, and almost immediately we get a call from opposing counsel saying he’s going to courier us something important. When we opened it, I almost burst out laughing.
We pop the disc in the computer, and right there is security camera footage of our client picking up the wet leaves, putting them on the sidewalk, and sitting down on them before calling for help. I have never facepalmed so hard. Needless to say, we dropped the case.
14. Consider the Source
My dad is a physician and is sometimes called as a professional witness in cases of malpractice. In one memorable case, a family was suing a doctor for something fairly frivolous, and my dad was a witness for the defense. The lawyer representing the family was cross-examining my dad, and brought up a chapter in a medical textbook and asked my dad to read a highlighted paragraph.
He does, and the lawyer says something to the effect of, “So, what you just read means <blah blah medical thing>.” My dad confidently replied, “No, it does not mean that.” The lawyer says, “No but if you read xyz, the author clearly states <blah blah medical thing>.” Again, my dad says, “No, really, that’s not what the author means.”
The lawyer had no clue what he was getting himself into. “How do you know that’s not what the author meant?” Dad replies, “Well, because I wrote it.” The judge basically facepalmed while the lawyer mimicked a goldfish and stared at the author’s name on the chapter. Basically the best moment of my dad’s professional life. And yes, the ruling was in the defendant’s favor.
15. Major Facepalm
My mom is a lawyer and was representing a black woman who was accused of stealing. My mother is also black and this is how it went down.
Plaintiff’s lawyer: “Please point out the accused.”
Officer: points at my mom
Mom: “I’m the lawyer, officer.”
Judge: dismisses case.
16. Cases Closed
I worked as a paralegal at a firm specializing in land use litigation and real estate. Another paralegal’s husband had once gotten a DWI charge and, as a favor to her, one of the partners offered to defend her husband in court. This is a small community with a landmark windmill in the center of town. Well, this paralegal’s husband (who we all called the “missing link”)’s DWI stemmed from him crashing his car into the windmill. It had been on the front page of the local paper, there were reporters at the arraignment, the whole nine yards.
So, the law firm partner tells the “missing link” that when the judge asks him how many beers he had had before his accident, he should tell her that he had just had three. He proceeds to stand up in front of the judge and tell her confidently that he had only had three…cases! The whole room started laughing and he ended up getting jail time.
16. A Crucial Clerical Error
I was in an accident a few years ago. It was definitely the other guy’s fault. He got a ticket for an unsafe left turn, and I got a ticket because I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. In the section on the ticket, the cop inadvertently wrote, “Did wear seatbelt while operating motor vehicle.” When I got to court, the judge asked how I wanted to plead.
I asked the judge if I could ask a question first, and he said sure. I stated, “The ticket says I did wear my seatbelt while operating my motor vehicle, and if that’s the case, I want to plead guilty.” The judge looks down at the ticket, and looks back at me and says, “Case dismissed! Have a good day.”
17. The Prescription Writing on the Wall
I was involved in a custody dispute. The dad alleged the mom was doing all sorts of things, and he should have the kid. The dad’s attorney grilled the mom about texts she had sent where she was trying to sell prescription pills. She wouldn’t admit it. It seemed like the dad’s attorney moved on…until he came up with a brilliant trap.
He eventually ended with, “One more question. Where did you get the pills you were selling.” Mom responds without thinking, “Oh, my doctor prescribed them.”
18. Keep Digging That Hole, Counsel
I was prosecuting a contempt action in family court (something that basically never works) and everyone in the room could tell I was winning. The other side was unprepared (out of arrogance) and I was basically ripping this guy to shreds on cross-examination (which his lawyer didn’t even think would happen, because he expected the case to be dismissed). At the end of the trial, the judge ruled for me and stated that she found the defendant’s testimony to be untrustworthy. I was shocked at winning a contempt trial to begin with, but then this exchange happened:
Defendant’s attorney: “Your honor, now that you have found my client’s testimony to be untrustworthy, I am requesting a continuance in order to prepare further witnesses” (This concept is shocking in and of itself, because to even think you can bring more witnesses after you rest your case is laughable).
Judge: “You had your shot and you missed, counsel.”
Defendant’s attorney: “Your honor, there was no way I could have anticipated that you’d find my client’s testimony untrustworthy and as such, I didn’t have the opportunity to prepare other witnesses in support of his position”.
Judge: “That may be an argument for your carrier, counsel, but it holds no water with me. See you this afternoon for sentencing.”
For those who didn’t pick up on it, the judge basically told the lawyer ON THE RECORD IN FRONT OF HIS CLIENT that she expects him to get sued for malpractice because he screwed up so royally. That was mind-blowing on multiple levels.
19. Spoiler Alert Will
Two sons of a really wealthy couple go to the family lawyer to have their recently deceased parents’ will read. The lawyer is super nervous because he has known them both since they were kids. One son gets the entire inheritance, and the other gets nothing. The explanation was that it should be passed through to blood relatives only. So that was the day he found out he was adopted.
20. Cutting Right to the Chase
I had a case in which a lawyer, who apparently had expertise in areas other than litigation, decided to litigate a case for one of his clients. He asked to depose my guy. No problem. I meet with my guy and get him all prepared for the testimony. We sit down at the deposition, he’s sworn in and we’re ready to go.
Now, the first question isn’t “would you please state your name?” or anything like that. The first question was something like “Isn’t it the truth in this case that on April 6, 2004 you…” and then a conclusory statement about his whole claim. I objected. My guy says “No.” Other lawyer shuffled his papers and after a lengthy pause asks the second question: “You sure?” The case did not go much further…
21. Time to Walk The Plank
I work in criminal law, and once saw a defendant who was charged with simple theft of mail matter. He was a porch pirate and had stolen a package that was worth less than $100. When he was initially arraigned he was offered a 30-day jail sentence to plead guilty. He refused and insisted upon going to trial—huge mistake. When his case reached my office, he was again given a reasonable offer of two years. Because he had a lengthy criminal history, he was considered a persistent offender so the offer was more than what a package thief would typically get, but reasonable nonetheless.
It’s important to note that he was caught on security camera actually stealing the package and getting into a car that was registered to him. Basically we had him dead to rights. But, he still insisted on a trial. So we tried the case. The jury found him guilty and imposed the statutory maximum sentence given his criminal record—20 years.
That’s the story of the man who turned a 30-day sentence into 20 years.
22. Grocery Expenses
Divorce lawyer here. It took the couple two hours to decide who would get the groceries left in the fridge. The estimated value of the groceries was around $40. Two hours of my time, opposing counsel time, and mediator time added up to about $1,000. It all came down to a bulk-sized jar of peanut butter.
23. Feeling Bad for the Children
I’m an attorney and a foster parent, and my wife won’t sit next to me when we have to go to court for our kids because I usually have a running commentary on how inept the attorneys are. The judge for this type of case knows me and knows I’m an attorney, so he finds this entertaining. Last time we went in there was one attorney, who is my FAVORITE, in the case before us.
Myself, the judge, and every other attorney hate her because she oblivious, loud, and incompetent. So she stands up in this case and goes “Your honor, my client has only been found guilty of child endangerment in another county. I see no reason that this court should hold that against him when it comes to custody of his children.” The judge did not agree.
24. But It’s My Favorite
This was literally the first thing I ever did as a law student intern. My client has a good defense on a possession case. Substances were found in a jacket, but my guy wasn’t wearing a jacket, so they were going to have a very difficult time proving that the jacket belonged to him. I had a long meeting with the client and explained everything. He was excited.
Day of the preliminary hearing, the guy shows up and sits down directly in front of the officer who took him in…while wearing the jacket in question. The exact same jacket we were going to say they couldn’t prove belonged to him.
25. Ableism in Effect
I was the plaintiff in a tribunal suing for wrongful termination. My representative says, “So you terminated him because he was ill?” Employer responds, “Yes.” My representative continues, “And he was ill because he’s disabled?” Again, the employer says yes. “So you fired someone for being disabled?” Employer says, “Yes.”
26. Just a Little Spittle
When I worked for a judge, two prominent local news people had a divorce. They filed mutual restraining orders against each other for “violence.” The filings were vague on details, but still somehow conveyed a sense full-on hatred. At the hearing, we learned the real story: It turned out the “violence” was spitting. More specifically, during a heated argument, flecks of spittle managed to touch the other party.
Judge denied the restraining orders, and both parties’ attorneys probably bought new yachts. Such is justice.
27. Showing Them All Who’s Boss
I used to be a police officer and spent a lot of time in court. I saw a lot of things go really wrong for people over the years, but the one that sticks out most in my mind is a guy who was up for a DUI. He started relating his side of the story and told the judge that he had “only had two bottles of wine.” His lawyer was desperately trying to get him to stop talking.
The man then yelled at his own lawyer “Don’t interrupt me!” to which the judge said, “I think you should probably take a moment to listen to your attorney.” The man then told the judge “Don’t tell me what to do, I’m not a damn child!” The judge just smiled, leaned back, and said “Of course. By all means, then, continue.” The result went badly for him, unsurprisingly.
28. No Parting Gift Like One Last Miff
I specialize in wills. Here’s the best one I ever worked on. It read: “To my wife I leave her lover and the knowledge that I was never the fool she thought me. To my son I leave the pleasure of working for a living—for 25 years, he thought the pleasure was all mine.”
29. Untimely Guilt Pangs
Someone I knew had a pro bono case where she had to defend a person who had been charged with a criminal offense (don’t know what, confidential and whatnot). Even though the police and DA could pretty much pinpoint the crime to her client, there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, circumstantial at best. She had instructed him to shut up and let her do the talking during the trial, as from experience the client sometimes does not know how to answer a question properly—oh, how he should have listened.
She pleads and can show that the court has nothing on her client, she feels that for once, a pro bono case is going her way. After her plea, the judge thanks her for her plea and turns to her client. He asks if the client had something to add to the plea. Client looks at her, back at the judge, tears well up in his eyes and he blurts out: “I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again!”
She threw her notes and everything else she had in her hands at the client (now convict) apparently. She basically got screwed by her own client, who screwed himself even worse.
30. Start With the Man in Your Mirror, Sir!
I once observed a case where the plaintiff attorney simply played Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” as his closing argument, hoping to evoke an emotional response in the jury. He lost the case.
31. Just the Usual
I had a client file for divorce because every morning his wife would ask him how he takes his coffee…for seven years.
32. A Hole in the Logic
My firm had been chasing down this woman for years, trying to get her to pay out on a six-figure judgment. She kept nothing in her personal bank accounts and used the money for her business accounts for a rather lavish lifestyle. She kept claiming she was broke and that she didn’t use her company funds for her living expenses, including in court affidavits.
During the deposition, at the beginning, she stated she was current on her mortgage for her huge house. We went through all her finances and companies, and after a few hours, I brought up the mortgage again and then asked, “If you’re broke but current on your mortgage, how are you making mortgage payments?” Her face immediately went pale.
Utter silence, then in a soft voice: “I use company funds.” Her attorney stopped the deposition and pulled her out of the conference room. My boss was observing and started laughing and told me it was a good question.
33. Some Things Are Worse Than Nothing
When my client was 18, his dad wrote him out of the will before suddenly passing away. The strange thing was that they always got along. It seemed very suspicious. He was then kicked out of the house by his father’s evil wife without a penny to his name. On Christmas Eve, the client went back to get some photos he left there and saw something he shouldn’t have. It was then that he learned just how evil she really was.
He knew where she kept the spare key, so he let himself in. On the way to his room he saw the step-mom’s phone sitting on a table and as he passed by she got a text message. The message read something like, “I’m so happy we got away with it and we can finally be together. He didn’t deserve it anyway.” The client was convinced that, at the very least, she forced his dad to take him out of the will. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it could be worse than that.
He kept saying that he thought it’s possible she had something to do with his death. Or maybe she changed the will herself somehow. Unfortunately, because there was no evidence, there wasn’t any proof of wrongdoing. The whole thing really struck a nerve with me and I lost a bunch of sleep over it. But I am happy to report that I recently ran into the client and he is doing much better. He just started law school and is planning to go into estate law to help people get through problems like the one he had. I hope one day to hire him.
34. Lost in Translation
The dude in the court right before my brother one time was a guy who claimed to have only spoken Spanish. The judge read off everything that he had been charged with and then the conversation went something like this:
Judge: “Mr. Gonzalez, how do you plead?”
Gonzalez: “No hablo ingles.”
Judge: “Mr. Gonzalez, do you understand a word I’m saying?”
Gonzalez: “No hablo ingles.”
Judge: “Mr. Gonzalez, am I to understand that, in all of this time, no one has bothered to get a translator for you?”
Gonzalez: “No hablo ingles.”
Judge: “Well, I guess if you can’t understand what you’re charged with, we’ll have to drop all the charges.”
Gonzalez: “Gracias, señor.”
Starts walking out.
Judge: “Get back in here!”
36. Mocked in Translation
A client of mine divorced his then wife because she would only speak French when her family would come over. Her family spoke English, French, and Spanish and he could only speak Spanish and English. It was only when he recorded a conversation while they were there that he learned her dark secret. When he had it translated, he found out what was going on.
She got bored of being married to him and her family basically talked bad about him while he was there.
37. Maybe She Just Forgot
Custody battle. The lawyer for the mom puts her on the stand for the sole purpose of credibility. It all unravels from there. Opposing lawyer starts questioning her about an allegation that she smoked substances with her kids when they were 12 years old. Mom says the children are lying and deflects to the dad’s “harassment”…which, by the way, doesn’t exist.
During the same cross-examination, the mom admits to “medicinal Mary.” When probed, she did not have a card and when asked where she got her medicinal stuff, she said “local drugstore down the street.” Liar, liar pants on fire. Remember…her lawyer put her on the stand in an effort to make HER the more credible parent. It went as badly as it could have.
38. If The Sweater Fits
Not my case but still my favorite story. Dude screwed himself over when he went to a jury trial for a burglary charge and wore the same, distinct sweatshirt he wore the night he committed the crime. Kind of hard to argue the guy in the video isn’t your client at that point. Needless to say, he was convicted and spent a few years in DOC.
39. The Customer Is Always Right
This lady got into a minor fender bender with a truck in a casino parking lot. My guy said she parked and went inside the casino for a few hours. At her deposition, she testified that she was so hurt, she went right home and to a hospital. So I asked if she was a frequent visitor of the casino, and if she had a rewards card.
She was happy to tell me she did, and she had gold status, and showed me the card. This turned out to be her big mistake. I subpoenaed her rewards card’s records, and it showed she was playing slots for hours after the accident.
40. Cry Me a River
After argument from the Assistant District Attorney, the judge asked the defense counsel why he should allow the defendant to remain on his own recognizance. The defense counsel looks up, obviously searching his brain hard for any reason he can possibly come up with because he knows his client is a dirtbag, before finally responding with the following: “Because my client’s girlfriend lives in the apartment above mine, and I’ll have to hear her crying all night!” The defendant was remanded to jail.
41. Let it Burn
A friend of mine is a lawyer. He had one client who, in accordance with his will, which also contained the permits to do so, had his entire estate burned while his family watched. It sounds cold, but apparently, the guy suffered and ultimately passed on from a fairly easily treatable cancer because he ran out of money and his relatives would not help.
42. In Clear Violation
This guy getting a divorce becomes suspicious and insanely jealous that his separated wife is having an affair. He secretly follows her to a bar and waits outside in his car. She comes out many hours later in the dark and follows another car to a house. The husband follows her and parks down the block. He gets out, sees the house her car is parked at, and goes around into the backyard. He’s sneaking around looking in windows and finally opens a sliding glass door and enters the house.
His wife and the guy she’s with hear him moving around, lock the bedroom door, and call 9-1-1. He starts pounding on the bedroom door and shouting at his wife, and then the cops kick in the front door. The cops get everyone downstairs to sort this out. That is when the guy made a shocking realization: his wife was sleeping with his own divorce lawyer.
43. To Beyond the Grave
I advised on a will where the deceased had left considerable assets to people who had already kicked the bucket by the time the will was read. There is nothing unusual in that per se, except that these individuals were long dead when the will was made. The lawyer apparently asked the guy, “You know you’re giving your money to dead people?” and even sent him to a doctor to make sure his mental state was okay. The doctor gave him a full bill of health and said he was perfectly compos mentis, so the will stood.
44. Caught On Tape
I spent a summer as an intern doing narcotics work. You’d be surprised how much information defendants and their friends/family share over prison telephone calls, even when they inform you the line is being monitored and recorded before the call begins. That said, a defendant maintained he was an innocent uber driver and was not in the business of selling drugs…meanwhile he was telling his wife over the phone that they needed to figure out how to move a ton of drugs so they could afford the lawyer to represent him.
Needless to say, he was shocked when the recording was played back in court…
45. So That’s How You Really Feel, Eh?
A defense lawyer was once delivering her closing statement to the jury. In her final sentence, she accidentally said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I urge you to find my client guilty.” There was a long moment of silence before she caught her mistake and shouted out “I mean not guilty! I meant to say NOT guilty!”
46. I Guess That’s One Way to Deal With Your Problems
The couple separated ten years ago but didn’t officially divorce until a couple years ago. She was going to get his house so he burnt it down then faxed her the transfer of ownership forms. He might be going to jail for arson though.
47. A Social Media Screwing
Well, not my story, but a prior boss’s story: They had a drunk-driver-kills-a-car-worth-of-people case at the time when they were a general practitioner. My boss was representing the family that got hit (one where the two kids and the wife had lost their lives, but the father had not) and wanted the college guy’s drunk-driving skin to be mounted on a wall.
This was back before Facebook was commonly used in Court proceedings and before tons of people realized that stuff is too great for any attorney worth their weight in salt to pass up. So, the kid (drunk driving college kid) had managed to get the judge’s sympathy during the first part of the hearing by saying he was sorry, haunted, never going to drink again, this was going to ruin his life, etc. The judge seemed to really be eating it up.
Then comes my boss and immediately burns this kid’s remorse to the ground by showing numerous Facebook statuses and photos of them binge drinking, partying, and even joking about driving drunk from the date of the accident up until a night ago. The kid looked like he was being forced to swallow hot coals and the judge was absolutely livid.
Needless to say, the kid had to do way more than just apologize and be remorseful after that.
48. Lawyers Can Go Mad Too
Worked at a law firm that was subpoenaed as part of a divorce between a partner at the firm and a partner at another major law firm. The woman issued more than 70 subpoenas to banks, firms, investment companies—you name it—because she was convinced he had squirrelled away $20+ million overseas behind her back. It got so bad that she dug up receipts from 25 years ago to try to put together this grand conspiracy puzzle.
In the end, after she racked up $1.5 million in legal fees, and seven different lawyers, the judge said this s*** is ridiculous—there was no conspiracy, and you are not entitled to a portion of this phantom $20 million. Mind you: this was a major law firm partner who was acting this way. She made millions per year in her career. But she apparently lost her mind.
49. The Sovereign
Sovereign citizens always make for a good time. There was this one guy getting a divorce from his wife of 25 years. His entire argument for why he shouldn’t have to pay any alimony to his wife who stayed home taking care of their eight kids (three of whom were still at home) was that since his wife would no longer do her “marital duties,” it wasn’t technically a true marriage.
What he meant by this was that she wouldn’t sleep with him anymore because he was trying to force her to have even more kids. He then dramatically referenced the Bible to top it all off. The judge’s face was priceless.
50. This Clause Is Worthy of Paws
One summer, I worked as an administrative assistant to a lawyer who worked in wills and estates. Most of it was the usual petty arguing about percentages of money, but one couple was deeply concerned about which of their children would receive the urn with the ashes of the family’s long deceased cat. “Wouldn’t want to play favorites.”
51. Bad Advice
I was still in law school working for a solo practitioner part-time. We had this divorce case where the dude got caught cheating and his wife had cleaned out their bank account. It was their only marital asset, and she was using it to pay for her attorney’s fees. There was absolutely no reason for her to pay that much for an attorney and, due to that, the attorney on the other side was inflaming her client to fight on every little issue to earn that retainer.
Now, our dude was also stupid. He didn’t pay the court ordered temporary child support order and due to that, he had to pay some of her attorney’s fees. But after all that is dealt with, we have a date to hear arguments on anything not agreed to. Our biggest point is that he’ll pay the support order, but that she owes him half the bank account amount. We get in front of the judge and she tries to argue that she used the money to pay for a new place and moving fees. Nonsense, we had the financial statement where the wife stated that she paid pretty much the whole amount as a retainer.
The judge turns around and drops the mic. He looks at the attorney in the face, and tells her that her signature is on the financial statement, meaning that either she lied on the statement or she is lying right now. The judge tells her to think very carefully about her next statement and that, in her opinion, the wife needed to pay half the money back. The other attorney instantly goes quiet, asks for a recess, and completely changes her resolution position.
We basically had her by the neck, because she knew that if we wanted to, this could amount to a bar complaint—as she had made a false statement to the tribunal. We got him back all his money and he got to claim his child for the next five years on his taxes. Honestly, I felt bad for the wife. She had no clue how badly her attorney was screwing her over. This, among other things, is why I refuse to practice family law.
52. By a Hair
My dad was a divorce lawyer in the 70s and had a client who wanted to divorce her husband for two reasons. First, he did not have enough hair on his chest and second, he did not drive fast enough.
53. Going a Little Too Far With the Story
I was sitting in court waiting for my case and there is a basic traffic stop case going on. The prosecutor has the officer walk through the incident. The officer recalls all these details about how he pulled the driver over for running a red light, then noticed a busted tail light. How he stayed cool, calm, and collected, even as the driver became irate.
The officer said the driver was cursing at him and saying he can “Shove the ticket where the sun don’t shine.” The officer then claimed that the driver ripped up the ticket, rolled up the bits, and threw it at him. The officer sells the story really well, and I noticed that most of the courtroom has become invested at this point.
The driver is not a lawyer, but chooses to represent himself and takes all of a minute to embarrass the officer and court. “Your honor, the officer testified, under oath, to the court that I acted belligerently, then aggressively tore up and threw away the ticket, which I find hard to believe.” He pauses for effect here, and then absolutely slam-dunks.
“Seeing as this here is the ticket, in one piece, without even a crease on it.” He pulls out the ticket from a folder he had in front of him. You could hear many in the court gasp, laugh, mumble. The judge stops the driver, looks over to the prosecutor, and addresses him, “Mr. Smith, thoughts?” Without hesitation, the prosecutor replies, “We would like to drop the case.”
All the other defendants pending their case applaud. The judge bangs his gavel, calls order in the courtroom, admonishes the room, and then admonishes the officer and prosecutor before closing it out.
54. Doesn’t This Guy Have Anything Better To Do?
Story from my parents who are lawyers. So throughout the divorce proceedings, there was a car that was a huge point of contention between the husband and wife. After months and months of saying he would never let the wife have the car, the husband concedes in exchange for something great, like one of their summer houses. It turns out he had been driving the car for three hours everyday in a big loop around the city, putting thousands and thousands of miles on it basically making it worthless. The amount of planning and spite that went into that was amazing.
55. Bias on the Bench
I once saw a judge stand up and recuse himself from a criminal case in the middle of a trial, publicly stating that he knew the defendant—and that he was a “son of a you-know-what and guilty as hell!” This judge was well known for being incredibly strict and by-the-book. I nearly burst out laughing when he lost it on this guy. He really must have hated him.
This will always be my favorite. I was doing a boundary dispute, a squabble over what was essentially a few inches of land. The other side was a lawyer, and an absolute jerk. He was acting for himself—the whole “a lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client” thing was bang on for him. He was a deeply unpleasant guy, a tormentor who thought he was the smartest guy in the room.
Part of his case hinged on wheelie bins and how prior to the boundary having been moved, there wasn’t space to store a full size bin beside the house. The fact that you now could means that clearly the boundary must have moved. That was the extent of his evidence. It really was thin stuff. But man, he had an idea and he was sticking to it.
During the actual trial, he pulled a fast one by suddenly producing an old aerial photo, ostensibly to show the boundary at the front of the property had also moved. Generally, you have to disclose stuff like that in advance. You can’t just sit on something relevant and then suddenly whip it out at trial with a flourish. But it backfired horribly.
While he was making his submissions, I looked more closely at it. I then realized that it very clearly showed a wheelie bin in exactly the spot his case said there couldn’t be one. I told the judge we were happy for the photo to be admitted after all, got the other side to confirm the date it was taken, then pointed out he’d just completely screwed his case. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving chap.
57. Fine, I’ll Do It Myself
Not a lawyer, but I took my landlord to small claims court for refusing to return my security deposit without cause. I did my due diligence. I wrote a demand letter, looked up the law that he was breaking, and prepared evidence to show the judge. After I presented my case and requested the full amount I was owed plus damages to the full extent I was entitled to, the judge looked at me and asked me if I was a lawyer.
I’m pretty sure my former landlord had an “I’m screwed” moment, and I felt pretty good about my chances of getting my money back. I won the suit 🙂
58. Sexism Gets You Nowhere
One time, I saw an indigent defendant who was in custody tell the judge his public defender wasn’t working hard enough and he wanted the judge to appoint different counsel. The judge asked him what specifically was the problem and he said, “I don’t want a female lawyer. I need a man who can take charge and fight for me,” or something very similar to that.
The judge (also female) said that’s not how it works, then he started yelling and getting into specifics about his public defender, just mainly I don’t like her, she won’t visit me, etc. The judge is annoyed and looks at him and is like fine, I’ll appoint another attorney for you, but because you are not satisfied with your attorney and I need time to appoint you new counsel I am not going to hear any other issues today and will reset your case. He had no idea, but she had just royally screwed him over.
A few days later the judge sends the defendant notice of his new appointed attorney, who happens to also be female, and a notice of the case reset for six weeks. The case was originally set for a bond hearing and the DA and his PD had agreed to release him on an unsecured bond, meaning he would have gotten out that day if he hadn’t thrown his temper tantrum. Instead, he waited another six weeks in jail just to have another female attorney represent.
59. That’s Just Wrong
I’m an attorney, and even though this wasn’t my case, it’s too wild not to share. My ex’s brother helped his friend (he was friends with the couple, but clearly “chose” the guy) hide assets and wash cash in the six months leading up to a “surprise, I’m divorcing you!” by the friend to his now ex and deceased wife. Oh yeah—he did this because she had just been diagnosed with cancer, was not going to live, and he didn’t see why “his money” should go to “her health care” when she was going to “die in a few years” anyway. He was a stellar guy, as you can tell…
60. Don’t Stop Believing
My dad is out of state on business driving through some no-name town when he goes through an intersection. Suddenly, a cop pulls him over and tickets him—stating that he ran a stop sign. My dad insisted that there was not any stop sign, but the cop did not listen. Angry, he went back to the intersection and saw that there was indeed a stop sign hidden behind a tree and twisted in the wrong direction!
Even angrier, he went into a convenience store and bought a disposable camera. The clerk laughed because he saw what happened and knew what was up. Luckily, my dad had to be back there in a few weeks for work. The cop assumed that someone with out of state plates would just pay the ticket, and was shocked when my dad turned up in court, calmly presented his evidence to the judge, and strolled out in five minutes scot-free.
61. A Post-Mortem Addition to the Family
I’m a lawyer who works in last wills and testaments. I was working with a nice old lady, when she drops the mic. She confessed that she had a secret daughter, and she wanted to leave the daughter some money and photographs without the rest of her family finding out. Even her husband does not know about the secret baby. That will be a fun conversation when she passes away.
62. Hide and Go Seek Gone Wrong
I had a client hide Ziploc bags of ground meat throughout the house (in air vents, the attic, behind water heater etc.) I think it was at least 20-30 bags that took months to find all of them.
63. The Rare Double-Screw
When I was clerking for a judge, a defendant wrote to the judge trying to explain that the two bongs found on the floorboard of the car were actually his girlfriend’s but he was afraid to speak up earlier because she’s on Section 8, and drugs are forbidden for Section 8 recipients. Mind you, he was on probation at the time the cops pulled him over and it didn’t matter who owned the bongs, he was still in violation of his probation for being in possession of drug paraphernalia.
His attempt to get out from his charges not only screwed over his girlfriend, but it also showed that he knew of the bongs that were in her car.
64. Not the Brightest Bulb in the Courtroom
I am a lawyer now, but this was when I was in law school and we had to go watch actual court cases in the local district court. A guy is accused of destroying some stuff his neighbor owns. After a complicated plea by his lawyer about how some evidence is inadmissible and therefore it cannot be proven the defendant is guilty, the judge delivers the verdict, agrees with the lawyers, and acquits him.
The defendant gets up, walks towards the judge, as if to shake his hand, and says, “Thank you, your honor, I’ll never do it again.” The prosecutor then quasi-jokingly says “appeal?”
65. Money Can’t Buy Sanity
I actually have something for this. I don’t have my license, but I work in a P.I. office. I’m the only administrative staff member. It’s basically me and my Vietnam vet boss in a Ron Swanson-April Ludgate kind of situation. A story he told me recently comes to mind. He and his partner were once hired to sweep a house and look for any valuables.
They agreed to the case before knowing the full extent of the damage to the home because the lawyers were willing to pay well and our caseload was small at the time. The home was owned by a man who inherited a large fortune because his father had invested in a little movie that went on to become one of the biggest horror franchises of all time.
The son never worked a day in his life. He had a big mansion out in the boonies. No one ever saw him or his wife because they spent all of their time inside. The home was now empty because he went nuts and killed his wife and their dog. He was serving life in prison and the family’s estate needed the home cleared. When my boss and his partner got in there, they realized how bad it was.
For years, this guy and his wife had been using substances in the house. Every square inch of the mansion was covered in trash. After binging, the two would puke and then just cover the vomit with trash and leave it there. The same went for the dog’s waste. This went on for years. In addition to the puke and animal waste, there were needles littered through the trash.
My boss had to buy hazmat suits to sweep the home and look for valuables. Apparently, there was a ton of diamond and gold jewelry just thrown right in with the filth. At one point, they found a table behind a door that was missed by the forensic crew completely covered in the wife’s blood from where he had done the deed.
They also found an entire room full of kiln and ceramics supplies worth thousands of dollars, all untouched. I guess the guy decided he wanted to become a master potter before quickly abandoning that pursuit to become a creep. They could only access the home through one exterior door that wasn’t blocked. When they eventually walked around the exterior of the home, they found that the guy had purchased himself a shark cage.
As in, he decided he wanted to become a shark photographer, and ignoring the fact that he didn’t live right on the ocean, BOUGHT a shark cage and stuck it in the yard. Eventually, people started to invade the grounds and steal stuff from the home, and one day the shark cage just disappeared. This is the first one that came to mind because it just escalated so much as he relayed the story to me.
It’s hard for me to tell a lot of these stories because of our confidentiality policy. My boss has other crazy stories from working private security for Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, and the Girls Gone Wild guy, and we have a few instances of having to serve papers to crazy people. This job is never boring.
66. The Invisible Man
I’m a lawyer who investigates the backgrounds of witnesses for our cases. I found someone who was pretending to be someone else who died as a kid. My boss alerted the feds and they investigated and found out he had faked his demise 20 years before to avoid an embezzlement trial. He got convicted for the false identity because he filed taxes in the fake name.
Not sure about the original embezzlement charge.
67. Missed Me?
Not my case, but my dad’s. He was the equivalent of a Public Defender decades ago. There was this guy who would get caught for being drunk in public, public lewdness, etc. EVERY weekend. He seemed to draw the same judges and was pretty well known to everyone in the courthouse as an absolute lost cause. One of the “regular” judges had him appear in his court again.
The judge is ready to give him a prison sentence because he was driving a car this time, but the guy starts crying that he finally got a job out of town and was trying to turn his life around. Judge takes pity on him. Big. Mistake. He tells him as long as he never messes up “in my town again” he would just drop the charges. Well, sure enough, the guy shows up the following Monday.
Same judge. Driving drunk AGAIN. My dad now has his case. The judge tells him he gave him his final chance, to which the guy sobs and replies “I was leaving town, your Honor. But my friends decided to throw me a going-away party.” The judge was not amused. My dad had to do everything he could to not laugh.
68. Nightmare Step-Aunt
Not a lawyer but this story always gets me. My biological grandmother died 20 years ago of ovarian cancer, she left all her money, trusts, bonds to my grandfather to use (while alive) and disperse (after she passed). My grandfather remarried something like 15 years ago to my step-grandma. My grandfather ended up dying first a few years back. My step-aunt is a greedy nightmare who lives on the opposite side of the country, she’s lived off of her mother and my grandfather for all of her life—I still can’t forgive her for what she did.
She’d come over and take them on “vacation” where she’d use their money to buy herself things and get a free skiing trip about eight times a year. After my grandfather passed, my step-grandma had to move where her children live to get care for dementia. My step-aunt has access to not only her own mother’s estate, but my grandfather’s as well, so she can “take care of her mother’s needs.”
That wasn’t enough. She decided to try and sue my dad and uncle for their dead biological mother’s estate. My dad is bilaterally paralyzed and in a wheelchair. My uncle is a triple bypass survivor with a pacemaker and multiple stints. Both are on fixed disability income. The court date came and I literally wheeled my dad in while my uncle walked with a cane.
My step-aunt is entirely able-bodied and rolling in the millions my step-grandma and grandfather worked their whole lives to earn. The judge took one look at the whole picture and she was absolutely denied access to my biological grandmother’s estate. We were there for less than an hour.
69. Munificent Motivator
Client: “I’d like to leave $100,000 to my son, $100,000 to my daughter, and $10,000 to each of my ten nephews.” Lawyer: “But sir, your estate is worth about $500. Where are your heirs supposed to get this money from?” Slamming his cane on floor, the client roared, “EARN IT, JUST LIKE I HAD TO!!” Definitely one of my more memorable meetings.
70. There’s An App for That
I was a legal assistant when this case came in, but this lady divorced her husband of two months because he got her an iPad case for her birthday instead of the expensive jewelry she wanted.
71. Showing Off Your Stolen Goods is Never a Smart Look
My mum was a personal injury solicitor, and she was basically trying to prove that the car that hit her client and caused life-changing injuries (brain damage) belonged to X. X at first pretends not to live where he does, then the car is found abandoned and all wiped down. The trail seems to end. Then, my mum has a hunch and checks X’s Facebook profile.
He had a public profile, and his profile picture was him standing right next to the car in question. She screenshots the photo and sends it to the opposing counsel with a slightly more politely worded “Your client is a total idiot.” She’s retired now but she considers it to be one of the most satisfying moments of her career.
Needless to say, she won the case and her client got a million-pound settlement and is now living in Spain. All for the want of a simple privacy setting and a touch of common sense.
72. A Dramatic Reveal
I practice immigration law. I had a woman come in and explain that she was from Canada, had been living and working in the US without permission for decades. Boyfriend beat her up to the point where she was hospitalized. She pressed charges and the boyfriend basically let her know via friends that his lawyer was going to call her credibility into question since she was an illegal immigrant.
It turns out her mom was born in the US and met the dad in college, which meant that she could gain dual citizenship via mom. We got her citizenship certificate expedited and I made her promise not to tell anyone. Sure enough, at trial, the defense attorney asks, “Isn’t it true that you are a Canadian citizen who has been working illegally in the US for decades?” To which she replies, “No. In fact, here’s my certificate of citizenship. I’m a dual Canadian and US citizen.”
She said the lawyer looked like a puppet when someone cut the strings. Boyfriend became a guest of the State for a long time.
73. Not What the Doctor Ordered
My client put his wife in an assisted living facility based on a misdiagnosis, the medication of which caused the wife to be unable to care for herself. While in the facility, my client—shocker—started dating another woman and methinks began using hard drugs. He used a loooot of money on both of these things. She eventually got off the medication and got better.
Suffice to say, she was not happy about what had transpired.
74. A Misplaced Identification
When I was in law school, I clerked for a criminal defense legal clinic. We had an assault and battery case where there was only one witness to the crime: the victim. I was sitting at the defense table with the actual attorney, another law student that worked on the case with me, and the defendant. We were all in similar looking suits as a matter of unplanned coincidence.
The victim was asked to identify the person who committed the assault in court and she pointed to me and not the defendant. Our attorney asked several times if she was really pointing to me and if she was sure, and she said yes. The prosecutor was visibly upset and the trial pretty much ended there as this was a bench trial and not with a jury.
It was never discussed or admitted to, but I suspect our attorney purposefully had me there at the trial because I did have a passing resemblance of the defendant.
75. Dumb Criminals Make Dumb Choices
This wasn’t my case, but in criminal docket court one morning, the accused wore a pair of very unique custom made red cowboy boots…stolen from the house he was accused of robbing. He wore them. To court. To plead not guilty. The prosecutor was laughing.
76. Don’t Play with My Heart
Lawyer here. One of mine that sticks out is that the husband and wife both played some sort of online role-playing game, sort of like The Sims I think but a little more elaborate and adult (“Second Life” maybe?) I don’t know anything about online games. The wife got heavily involved with the game, like 10 hours a day, and wouldn’t reduce her time playing no matter what he said.
What tipped things over the edge, however, was that he set up a fake profile/ avatar and went online to stalk her in the game and found her avatar having sex with some random guy’s avatar. Nothing ever happened in real life (neither of them were exactly oil paintings to look at), but that was enough for the guy to initiate a fairly acrimonious divorce.
77. The Self-Fulfilling Defense
Currently studying law. One of my tutors told me about a case he had while working for the state, where the defendant tried to claim that being an orphan had given him severe PTSD and mental illness and he was unfit to stand trial.
Unfortunately, he was on trial for murdering his parents, so it didn’t really fly.
78. Semantics in the Court
I am not a lawyer, but I witnessed a pathologist win a case in court by destroying the defense’s credibility. The question was over whether or not carbon monoxide poisoning could have caused certain signs of death in an individual, but the defense didn’t study their chemistry very well and kept asking the pathologist whether “carbon dioxide” could have caused these signs.
After thoroughly frustrating the defense by answering his questions “incorrectly,” the pathologist said very loudly, “OH I’m sorry, did you mean carbon monoxide? Because that’s a completely different thing.” Completely destroyed the defense’s credibility in front of the jury. They were done after that. So, I guess the opposing counsel screwed himself by not picking up a book.
79. The Foster Sister
My family did foster care for a few years, and we fell in love with the last girl we took in—now my younger sister. She was required to keep in regular touch with her emotionally and physically abusive birth mom, the intention being for them to eventually reunite. This woman was a nightmare come to life. Every single time they interacted, she’d spend the duration painstakingly shredding my sister’s self-confidence.
My parents worked hard to establish a strong rapport and a supportive environment, and she blossomed under their care. She’s one of the most resilient people I know. When the state tried to return her to her mom, she didn’t want to go, so my parents sued (I think? Don’t really know all the legal details) for guardianship.
This seemed like it would be an uphill battle; here we were, a family of random people trying to “steal” a kid from her rightful mom. We were really afraid that she would have to go back, and that her terrible family would systematically undo all the hard work she’d done rebuilding her self-esteem. Fortunately, her dumb mom decided to represent herself at the guardianship hearing.
I wasn’t in the room, but I heard the audio recording later on, and it’s incredible how thoroughly this woman shot herself in the foot. Some highlights: She kept trying to testify while cross-examining people, e.g., “Would it surprise you to learn that blah blah blah?” The judge called her out for this like six separate times and she just kept doing it. She would admit to various incidents of emotional torment, but then try to argue that it was all justified because her daughter was being difficult. She’d ask witnesses, for example, “And wouldn’t you be angry if your daughter did XYZ? Yes or no?”
My personal favorite and the best example of her proving our case: “It is absolutely not true that I hit my daughter with a wooden spoon! I only tried and missed. I’ll prove it, I can show you the mark it left in the doorframe.” Needless to say, we won guardianship. My sister never has to see that awful woman again unless she darn well pleases.
80. I Haven’t Got You, Babe
I used to work in “baby daddy” court as a caseworker. This guy kept telling me, the mother of the child, and anyone who would listen that the baby was NOT his. When they went before the judge, the judge confirmed through DNA testing that he wasn’t the dad. Dude turned around and ripped off his jacket. His undershirt said “NOT THE FATHER!”
81. Not So Sinful as To Not Get One, I See
My client was the outrageous one, so my heart went out to his poor wife. He had OCD which manifested primarily financially, so he made their lives a penny-pinching hell. Examples: he was obsessed with avoiding unnecessary driving (wear and tear on the car, gas expenses), so he cut the whole family’s hair at home and never let them eat at a restaurant or go to the movies.
But here’s the weirdest part of them all: he kept one toilet paper roll on him at all times, and you had to get one square from him before you could go to the bathroom. He never gave more than one square. Wife finally got fed up and left him when 1) he gave her bangs during an in-home haircut and 2) their daughter was so traumatized by the toilet paper thing they couldn’t potty train her.
Also: he HATED paying his divorce lawyer bill. He was also an old-fashioned mega-Catholic who considered divorce a deadly sin. He viewed my whole job as an unnecessary (and sinful) expense.
82. Seeing is Believing
I’m an attorney in Southern California. My client was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance. Officer is going through the usual signs and symptoms. Cop testifies that both of client’s eyes were red and bloodshot. Testifies that both pupils were dilated and moved slightly to exposure of light. In my opening, I had hinted that the officer will testify to some falsehoods.
The client gets up on the stand and pops one of his eyes out. My client had a fake eye that could obviously not be bloodshot or have pupil dilation. He was found not guilty.
83. Two Sides to Every Horror Story
I am a lawyer that handles quite a few divorces (among other things), and I’ve seen all sorts of reasons for marriages ending. The only thing that is consistently true (and relevant to this question) is that it is NEVER for just one reason, and it is NEVER one-sided. In fact, I’ve started telling potential clients in our initial interview that I am well aware that I am going to uncover some dirt on my client in the process—not to scare them, but to put their mind to ease that I’ve seen worse.
The fact that you haven’t been 100% an angel up to this point doesn’t scare me, and I’d rather find out about it from my client beforehand than later on from their spouse at the worst possible moment. All this is just to say that when you hear about people divorcing over one stupid argument or mistake, usually that’s just the straw the broke the camel’s back.
That said, some of the lighter straws I’ve seen include: A guy who is 100% convinced that his wife (our client) is actually a lesbian in love with his sister and just using him as a cover (but he also claims she is having sex with me to pay for her legal fees, and with every male whose phone number is in her call history).
A woman who is divorcing my client because he was “too sad” after his father died last year (my client had to break down her door to get his father’s ashes a few weeks after he left the house and she refused to let him back in or give them to him). A woman who claims my client was emotionally abusive towards her because he refused to yell at her, and sat in silence ignoring her when she screamed at him (he has this recorded, time-stamped for the dates and times she insists the incidents occurred, and she’s listened to them and his complete silence as she goes on tirades and insists this proves her point that he was “emotionally distant and abusive”).
84. Permanently Leaving the Neighborhood
I had a client who was the cleanest cut of the clean. Think of the nicest, most innocent, stable guy you can think of (I only take clients based on their initial few weeks of behavior and background check). He was basically Mr. Rodgers. No criminal record, same company for 20 years, great character references that were proven.
Then the client went and got not one but two DUIs and an assault charge. Then he committed suicide. I know he didn’t want me to get stuck with no money and hordes of paperwork. I think I’m a nice guy. But sometimes I wonder.
85. Drop the Digits and Your Spouse
I knew a guy who lost his own cell phone number in the divorce. He’d used the same number since high school, but she convinced the judge that she used his phone enough to get his number. Basically, he kept his clothes and car and had to pay alimony.
86. Remember, Remember the Fifth of May
It was a lawsuit against the owner of a Mexican restaurant for not paying his employees and keeping the waiters’ tips. He was just a terrible all-around guy. He created these fake handwritten schedules and payroll records going back years to try and prove that his employees didn’t work but a few hours each week and were paid for what they did work. It was difficult to prove they were fakes, but we managed to trap him during his deposition.
I made the guy go through random bits of his work schedule and asked him to confirm they were correct. We did a random week in February, March, April…then we got to May. “So here in early May, you had two servers working every night, one hostess, one bartender, and two cooks?” “Yes.” “And that didn’t fluctuate. You didn’t have a need for extra staff on, say, weekend nights?”
“No. It was very steady no matter the day.” “What about on this Wednesday? How much staff did you need?” “Just the two servers, my hostess, the bartender, and two cooks. The same as every other night.” “And if you would indulge me, what date are we looking at?” “May 5th.” “Okay. So it’s your testimony under oath that you had the same staffing needs on May the 5th as you did on May 4th and May 6th.” “Yeah.”
Opposing counsel’s head begins to hang while shaking. “So you are comfortable telling the judge you didn’t do extra business on May 5th.” “Yeah. Or June 17th or whatever date you pick. It was always steady.” “You have no problem walking into court and telling the judge and the jury, under oath, that your Mexican restaurant didn’t need any extra help on May 5th. That these schedules and payroll records you’ve produced are 100% accurate. For Cinco de Mayo? You are totally comfortable with doing that?”
“Yeah, I… Oh.” The case settled within a week.
87. Memories Are Worth More Than Plastic
Wasn’t the reason but did happen during the course of the divorce. Neither side would follow the court orders. When they had to go back to court, they were fighting over a pistol and the man’s grandmother’s bowls. I assumed for weeks that these bowls were some sort of heirloom or expensive china. I was so wrong. When they finally brought the bowls in to swap, they were freaking Tupperware.
88. Borderline Elder Abuse
I’m currently representing a sweet old lady on a case. I’ll be sparse with the details in case anyone figures out who I am. Long story short, this lady’s neighbor convinces her that her house is basically unsellable, that her house requires all sorts of repairs, the repairs to the house would bankrupt her, and that she should just sell the house. To him.
He shows up at her house the next day with documents to sign. She has no idea what’s going on. Doesn’t read anything (actually has an eye condition) and signs everything. When she finally sees a lawyer to close the deal, he says you can’t do this. You see, the price of the transaction was about 36% of what the house is actually worth and there weren’t any repairs that needed to be done that would justify the price. Not kidding, it was stuff like fixing a faucet in the bathroom.
Also, she didn’t understand that she would have nowhere to live afterward. Old lady thought she could just stay in the house for the rest of her life. To make matters worse, she’s living off a modest pension and the other side is suing for the house. They’re essentially trying to get her to cave because her legal fees are getting exorbitant.
I hate people—but this guy is a special kind of evil. If it went to trial, she’d to have to spend a lot of money. Money she doesn’t have. She has an eye condition (uveitis), but it isn’t bad enough to qualify as a defence (non est factum). At the time she was driving. She’s a terrible witness. Her evidence is all over the place. When she was examined (deposed for you Americans) she denies being taken advantage of. Not great for our position.
In Ontario, where I practice, contracts for the purchase of real estate don’t have to be notarized. Thankfully though, we literally just settled this afternoon, so my client can live in peace. In a little more debt than before, but nothing that will bankrupt her.
89. Sound Legal Advice
I once litigated a case against a party who chose to represent himself…and I managed to have objections sustained against every single question he asked my client on cross-examination. When the other party realized he wasn’t even going to be heard in this dispute that he had no doubt been thinking over and preparing for years, he just stood there in the well and actually wept.
Don’t try to represent yourself, kids. Lawyers’ knowledge on a lot of matters may be pretty superficial—but we know how proceedings in court go.
90. Not a Good Place to Lie About Your Priors
My sister got T-boned by a car, causing a concussion, when I was younger. Long story short, we were in court with the judge, who asked the driver if he had ever sped before. “No, your honor, I never speed” was his reply. The judge asked him a couple more times if he was sure, if he never sped. Ever? The driver was adamant that he never sped and never had before.
A few minutes later, my sister’s lawyer gave the judge some paperwork. She read it, and said to the driver, “It seems that you have some past driving violations. Can you tell me what they are for?” He looked down, “………… speeding.” The driver had to pay medical bills for my sister.
91. The Mister Softee Defense
I once got out of a noise violation ticket. I was driving around and had my music in my car up. Cop pulls me over, gives me a ticket for the noise violation. It wasn’t even that loud—you couldn’t really hear it from outside the vehicle, but I guess my windows were down. I go to court. My defense was, “If the ice cream man can drive around blaring that creepy music, I can listen to my radio.”
The judge tried to keep a straight face, but I got out of the ticket.
92. Sole Custody Is Not in Your Stars
Staff Attorney for a judge. Not a divorce but a custody modification hearing. Ex-wife wanted sole L&P custody of the kids because the ex-husband was spending all his money on a palm reader/psychic and refused to pay child support. On cross examination, ex-wife’s attorney got him to admit that he was spending all his discretionary income on this psychic.
He said he had spent over $5,000 on “readings” and other services there. Judges frequently chime in with questions in domestic matters, so my judge asked why he was not paying support as his divorce decree required. His “explanation” was bonkers. He said i) the psychic could “read” that his children were provided for without his money and ii) he would be able to repay the ex when he takes the children to Mexico permanently to “seek great riches” there.
Which my judge read as, “My psychic told me to kidnap my kids.”
93. A Pretty Embarrassing Mix-Up
I was representing a woman with a severe neck injury. Opposing counsel presented a test result that showed her cervical exam was normal. I felt almost bad when I pointed out he had the wrong cervical area in mind…
94. The Doghouse Becomes His Revenge
My uncle represented this guy getting a divorce from his wife of 15 years. Super toxic breakup, and they split everything 50/50, even the land that the house they lived in sat upon. Well, she decides to build a house right behind the other house. Mind you, this was a lot of land. There was probably 200 yards separating both home sites, and the backs of the houses faced each other.
The house gets built, and my uncle gets a call from his client asking about the legality of a situation he had gotten himself into. Apparently, his ex-wife would spend a lot of time in her backyard, so he saw her all the time. What he did was buy a female dog and name it the same name as his ex-wife. Anytime he would let his dog back in from letting her out, he would yell “Susan, you b****! Get in here!”
He would also yell if she was peeing on the flowers, “Susan you b****! Quit pissing on the flowers!” or “Susan, you b****! Quit digging in the dirt!” The ex-wife called the cops on him a couple of times, but there was nothing they could do because the dog was registered under the name of Susan, and it was literally a b****, so there you go.
95. Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold, Depending on the Season…
The wife cheated on her husband during his frequent travels for work. She was the one who filed for divorce, and she got to keep the house. Months elapse and the husband is still furious, rightfully so, but has no recourse. Then he has an epiphany: “I wonder if she changed the password to the Nest Thermostat?” She did not.
For the next year, he continues to mess with the thermostat. In the middle of summer when they’re sleeping in HIS bed, he turns the heat on to 90 degrees at 3 AM. Middle of winter? Time to shut off the heat and hope the pipes freeze. Away on vacation? Turn the air conditioning down to 55 and let it run 24/7 for a nice surprise bill when they get home.
96. 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.
97. Did Not See That Coming…
I was asking a witness about a conversation from years ago, and how he could remember it so well. His answer was disturbing. When I asked how he could possibly be so sure about the exact time of a meeting that occurred years in the past, the man’s response was unforgettable. He said, “I remember because right after that meeting I went back to my desk and suffered a heart attack.” After that, I had no further questions.
98. It Hits the Fan
I worked at my local district attorney’s office as a prosecutor when I was freshly minted lawyer. We had a special setting trial on a case that had been reset too many times. The week before, it became clear that this particular case was going to finally be tried. I was ready at the State’s table waiting for defense counsel when he walks in and tells me he’s going to ask for a continuance.
I’m pretty sure I laughed, thinking that it was never going to happen. So the judge walks in angry that he has to sit through another continuance request. Meanwhile, I get the aroma of something foul in the courtroom and I can’t place where it’s coming from. The judge asks the defense attorney why he needs another continuance and the defense attorney pulls out his briefcase, opens it, and pulls out a ziplock bag with soiled underwear inside.
Turns out he defecated his pants that morning in court. He was an elderly attorney and was taking stool softeners. The continuance was granted, and in fact, the entire courtroom shut down for the day to allow maintenance time to clean and shampoo the seats he was sitting on. I have no idea what ended up happening in that case, I never tried it, maybe another prosecutor did, but this was one of my more memorable “I rest my case” stories that I’ve seen a lawyer pull off.
99. A Bird’s Eye View of Terror
I represent school districts. One of my clients has a farm that is used to teach agricultural science to the students. The manager of the farm once decided to brutally euthanize a whole bunch of chickens in full view of a group of elementary school students. Sometimes, farms have to euthanize chickens. We understand, and that in and of itself was not the problem.
The problem was that he was whacking the chickens over the head with a hammer. And, to make matters worse, he had decided to whack each chicken like five or six times before they died, because he is apparently some kind of psychopath. The poor chickens were NOT dying from this. That didn’t deter him from continuing.
If one of them refused to die, he’d just toss the chicken on the ground and try again with another one. But the birds were all getting horrifically damaged and injured, so they were just flapping in circles on the ground, or walking with terrible, stuttering limps, or screaming in pain. One of the kids recorded the whole thing and holy hell was it awful to watch! Obviously, I recommended that the school district fire him immediately because his behavior was completely unacceptable. He then tried to sue us. For GENDER DISCRIMINATION. That case was practically over before it began…
100. Motion Denied
I’ve been practicing law in the same venue for many years with the same judges and attorneys. New hotshot attorney out of law school is opposing counsel. It’s a death case. My client was not responsible, but opposing counsel would not listen to reason. On the eve of trial, my client is willing to offer a decent amount to settle the case.
I call the attorney and encourage her to take it. I told her that if she didn’t accept, when we went to trial the next day I was going to have all her evidence thrown out and strike her witnesses. She thought I was bluffing. I assured her I was not. I told her to call any attorney in the area and ask them if I was a straight shooter.
She basically told me to shut up and that she’d see me at the trial. Sure enough, the judge excludes her documentary evidence—all hearsay—and strikes her witnesses. She has zero evidence when the judge is through with her. Her client was in tears. I think she got sued for malpractice. She wasn’t at that firm long after that debacle. But I told her it would happen.