Having your day in court is a right, just like remaining silent. Some people, though, think making a stink is going to help their case. They are always wrong, and acting like a nincompoop in court is a surefire way to end up in the slammer.
JasonWKing6598 asked attorneys of Reddit: When has a client's ego gotten them in trouble during court?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
15. What not to do in court, 101.
Slightly different scenario but I like telling it anyway.
A colleague of mine was in a family law matter. The father was the other party. He had extreme anger issues that, for obvious reasons, he tried to keep under wraps.
Cross-examination begins, and my colleague has decades of experience - these issues will be made known. Plus, my colleague is a woman - he does not like women. Leading questions begin, and in no short order, he erupts - he gets out of his chair, and tries to pick it up to throw at my colleague. But it's bolted to the floor (no wonder why).
"No further questions, your Honor."
14. Trials happen because the state thinks it can win.
Criminal defense attorney. Basically every defendant I've ever represented. Sometimes it's stupidity mixed with an ego. Bad combination.
They always think they can outsmart homicide detectives. Those cops have been practicing interrogation skills for longer than the accused has been on earth. So many cases turn on a dumb statement to LE instead of invoking right to counsel.
Often they'll want to talk over the judge and/or prosecutor when a ruling is coming. That never ends well.
You get a lot of these guys saying "I'll just go to trial. They'll have to give it to me (ie life sentence) after trial." Yes, sir (or ma'am.) They can and they will. These defendants think prosecutors and judges are bothered by going to trial or will cave with a plea at the last minute. Sometimes it works out for them, but that's a real dangerous gamble to take.
Defendants always come up with the dumbest, weirdest logical arguments that somehow make complete sense to them.
"If it's a deadly weapon, how come I shot him three times?"
Or my personal favorite for a homicide by gunshot: But did they find the gun?!? Do they have the gun!?
No, dummy. The gun is wherever you threw it out. BUT they do have a bullet in the victim's head and a casing or two for good measure.
13. Just keep your mouth shut.
Literally every time.
I sat in a criminal court every day for a year, and more than 75% of those who were found guilty would not have been there if they had exercised their right to remain silent.
Also saw a guy who wanted to exclude evidence that he was a member of a gang, but got his motion denied because he had the name of the gang tattooed on his face.
Another one. A woman repeatedly said she couldn't remember various things, and said she was on a medication that affected her memory. People not recalling things is pretty common, but they usually don't have a reason like that.
Didn't turn out so well when the government played a wiretap of her saying she was going to claim she didn't remember and blame it on her meds.
12. Toxix ego costs millionaire half his money.
A couple was going through a divorce and the man talked his soon to be ex-wife into a settlement that was supremely beneficial to him. The wife would still be left with plenty of money to live on but it was still only a small portion of their shared wealth. She signed this deal, and all the man to do was sign as well and it would have been done, it would have taken him literally less than a minute.
Instead the man for some reason decides he wants his day in court and he's utterly convinced the judge is going to side with him over his wife. Lawyers try desperately to get him to sign the deal he himself talked his wife into but he refuses, demands to go the court. The lawyers finally relent, the whole thing goes to court. They were living in a no-fault state, the woman was awarded 50% of the estate by default. The man lost millions because he wanted a judge to agree with him.
11. First impressions and all...
I am an attorney but currently work as a judge's clerk:
You have every right to fire your attorney. You can threaten to fire your attorney at any time. Threatening to do so (loudly) during voir dire (the time when all the potential jurors are present) is generally not the wisest time.
You generally want to appear united with your attorney (as they are your advocate). And when the first thing jurors see is you clearly having a major disagreement with them it gives a terrible first impression
10. Throw me in jail, how bout that? "Bye bye."
I saw a video of a girl who had a $5000 fine, flipped off the judge, so he increases it to $10,000. When he tells her this she tells him to F off and then gets two months
Love that one.
9. Not being a jerk is free.
Lil Wayne! He had his deposition taken in a case over reproduction of his concerts. He was a total jerk during the deposition (which, of course is on video). See for yourself:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n_kbtKL3Z94. It's pretty awesome. He threatens opposing counsel, etc.
Then, he couldn't make it to the actual trial of the case. I believe he was sick. When a witness can't make it to trial, the other side can play, you guessed it, the deposition video. The jury saw this and it cost him millions.
8. Florida, enough said.
A good friend is a public defender in Florida. He said he lost count of all the people that he specifically requested they NOT show up to court wearing any drug or alcohol related clothing (ie beer or pot t-shirts, hats or shiny Budweiser jackets) for their DUI hearings, but, of course, they did. And lots of them also show up smelling like alcohol or smoke as well. All ages, races, genders.
Florida Man is a very real thing.
Not just the Florida Men, but the Florida Women and Florida Kids too.
7. A little humility goes a long way...
I did used to volunteer for a local program called Teen Court. It was run by the local city courthouse and allowed teenagers who were facing charges for misdemeanor crimes to go through teen court as a diversion program, and receive rehabilitation classes and community service rather than time in juvie. The charge would also not go on their record. Teen court was run by local teenage volunteers (after consideration and interviews) and it had an 82 percent rate for the defendants of never reoffending, which was double the rate for those in juvie in the city.
I had one defendant once that I was representing who was an avid skier. I always encouraged my defendants to make a personal statement so that the jury might connect with them more, recognize their sincerity and go easier on them. The jury has the ability to give up to 100 community service hours, but they don't have to give any at all. Often times how the personal statement goes greatest effects the time given. My defendant didn't even stand for his and simply said "just know that whatever time you give me is going to cut in to my skiing time."
He was given 100 hours and multiple classes which probably added another 20-30 hours on...
"Oh look at Mr. Important over here, has all the time and money in the world to ski. Guess he's got plenty of free time to do some 'volunteer' work for a bit." -Teen jury, probably
So basically all he had to do was not be an insufferable prick for 2 minutes and all would've been well? Christ, what's wrong with these people?
Exactly. Especially with the coaching and advice I gave, including help writing statements, it was especially frustrating.
6. Flame out.
My father was a public defender and defending a man on trial for arson. A witness said something unflattering about the man she had seen and my father's client jumped up and shouted, You can't talking about me like that, I'm Louie "The Torch!"
Worlds worst super-villain
5. It's just a bad idea.
Usually when they insist that they want to "speak to the Judge" directly.
You might as well hand them a shovel after the first "Let me talk!"
4. When toxic masculinity costs you your disability.
We were working on an SSI (physical disability) case. When the judge asked the client about his sex life, he decided to tell the judge about how he's still fully functional in the bedroom (to put it cleanly). He cost himself 10s of thousands of $$.
It sounds like he was honest. Are you saying he shouldn't have been? That's sort of unethical isn't it?
He wasn't being honest; that's the point. He had debilitating spinal injuries that he will never recover from. What he was claiming he could do was impossible given those injuries. If we didn't think he was disabled (from clear evidence of disability in the medical records), we wouldn't have taken the case.
3. At least he came back...
Worked in court mediation (so not a lawyer) and saw many young men arriving with "f-ck authority" type shirts on. It was so common that the legal aid team had been to the op shop and had a selection of more respectable shirts to lend defendants. But daily there was always at least one doofus who thought he knew better than the magistrate and would argue with him/her. It was amusing.
My favorite was when the obnoxious young man was told to walk home (from 10am court) to change "your shirt and your attitude" and be back for the afternoon sitting or be arrested and "discover the delights of justice hospitality."
It was over 30 degrees (Australia), there was only one bus per hour (which didn't go all the way there so he faced a long walk even if he made the next one) and he lived on the other side of town. I believe he was rather subdued when he got back (exhausted, hot, hungry and wiser)...
Didn't stop him getting into trouble again but he knew to wear a plain shirt next time.
2. Pro tip for court: keep your mouth shut unless absolutely necessary, and even then, shut up.
Obligatory, IANAL (what a terrible acronym). I got a DUI a few years ago, I know, hate me, but ran into a kid I graduated with at the ARD hearing. Kicker is his dad's a judge. I was scared to death, I knew I had f*cked up, I was in a suit, ended up sitting next to this kid who reeked of weed while we were called up to the court room in groups of 10-15 who was wearing a basketball jersey and flip flops. Even though that's specifically against courthouse rules, the lower level people knew who he was and let it slide... We got in to the court room just for the acknowledgement that we'd been accepted for ARD and would have probation and community service, the judge saw this kid and called him out, "who the hell let this kid in here like this?! Yes I know who you are and I'll be talking to your father and his superiors shortly after this." His dad is not a judge anymore. Not just that incident, but him bailing his son out time after time because "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM" definitely didn't help him out.
E: Oh so client ego end of that story, think he got 30 days in jail, and I'm sure the maximum punishment for a low level misdemeanor they could throw at him. That judge was very not happy with that kid.
1. He sorta has a point.
When I was on a jury, the defendant argued that he couldn't have known he was stealing because he apologized to the person he was stealing from before he left with the guys stuff.
What's the strangest thing you've ever witnessed in a courtroom?