A lawyers job is to provide the best possible legal advice to their counsel. There are some situations, though, where the best advice is never going to be enough.
Some clients aren't actually that interested in advice. Sometimes the guilt is plain to see. Sometimes a client lies.
People have seen this happen so many times that lawyers, jury members, people there watching trials, etc. all spoke up. Even a Judge Judy fan had a story about this!
So here's what we learned after reading all of these stories. If you're ever on trial for anything, just stop talking. Shh. It's for the best.
Not this Time....Giphy
My grandma was a lawyer, specializing in murder cases. A man comes in, saying he's been accused of murdering his wife. As my grandma starts asking questions, the man says that this was his second wife. She asks whether he got divorced, widowed, etc. The man goes:
"I killed her, but I did my time in prison and I swear I didn't kill this one!"
Uniform Commercial Code.
Trial tech on a case where the defendant claimed that their customer and them did not have an ongoing business relationship, trying to get around provisions in the Uniform Commercial Code. Owner couldn't remember how much they ordered, how often, considered the plaintiff just a random customer, couldn't recall who their biggest customer was.
Turns out plaintiff was their not just the biggest customer, they were responsible for over half the total business for over 30 years, parents did business together too, they marketed together, went on business sales trips together, records showed they planned the entire operation around the plaintiffs historical order patterns each year. Once the plaintiffs lawyer was done questioning everyone knew defendant was full of crap.
I was on a jury for a DUI trial where a BF and Girlfriend (mid 20's) were both drunk and decided to drive their young niece and nephew to their grandmother's house. The kids were in the back seat without seat belts on when they wrapped the car around a telephone pole killing both kids instantly. Of course the two drunks survived because of a driver airbag and the passenger side seatbelt.
Now, the drunks thought they were clever and decided if neither of them testified and admitted to driving they could get off because if we had doubt about who was driving you couldn't convict. A nurse from the hospital testified about treating both of the adults when they arrived. She testified that the male had airbag abrasions on his face and the female had a distinct bruise from her right shoulder to her left hip, exactly where a seat belt would be. It was all downhill from there.
We usually know right away if our client is guilty, it's just a matter of how long they'll get, and if they can make a good impression on the judge to maybe get a better sentence. But as soon as someone mouths off in court we know we're not getting them that plea deal anymore.
In the Room....
A man had murdered someone. He knew that lawyers were partial and had the privilege of confidentially. So he walks into a lawyers office confessing the murder. With him, he has a rolled up carpet, in which, he explains, there is a corpse. He asks the lawyer to advise him how to get rid of the body. The lawyer is an absolute boss, remains calm, asks the client to wait outside while he confers with fellow lawyers and then calls 911. After a few minutes, the police arrive and the man is arrested.
The Smell of It All....Giphy
Client showed up reeking of pot and laughing inappropriately to drug possession pretrial proceedings.
This isn't even abnormal. The amount of people I've seen wearing shirts with giant pot leaves while on trial for possession wouldn't be believable if I hadn't seen it myself.
My mom was on a jury DUI and they lawyer recites the lyrics from Johnny boy along with walking around with his zipper deliberately down to, "prove that because he forgot to zip up his pants doesn't mean he was drunk" as to infer that his defendant not turning her headlight on after leaving a bar at 2am didn't prove she was drunk.
My mom said the entire Jury just looked each other like...wtf when they realized he was reciting Johnny Boy. Over a DUI case where the defendant had no kids. The lady next to my mom said something about her kid being in the military and of course i was also deployed at the time so the lawyer prolly should have been a bit more aware during the jury selection.
My mother is a lawyer. She knows before even meeting the client because she sees the Discovery. 9/10 the have a record a mile long for the same thing.
Most people actually did the thing they were accused of or something substantially close, possibly worse. So really I'm just assuming they did it and focused on how strong the evidence is and where I can create holes and emphasize doubt. Probably the worst case was one we ultimately won mostly. Guy beat the hell out of his mistresses dad who got into it with him over him mistreating her. He went from saying "I had to defend myself he pulled a knife on me" to "Yeah I whooped his butt and had to cuz I mighta seen a knife you know?"
When being cross examined at the trial. The only saving grace for us is that he was legitimately being over prosecuted because the one thing he was telling the truth about was not living at the residence and the state was really trying to invent a way to make this a domestic assault charge in order to have enhanced punishments available. Jury came back with a not guilty on that particular charge since it was clear he both did it with no justification but also lived elsewhere.
Take the Money....
I witnessed a traffic accident that was obviously the fault of a car that ran a red light and drifted too far to the right so it clipped the front wheel of a scooter that was staying stopped at the red light since they fortunately saw the car coming. The girl on the scooter was obviously the victim, but in court she kept speaking out of turn and referring to the judge as "ma'am." Like obviously often.
The judge was a man. She also wouldn't let her lawyer submit the police report since she thought it wasn't needed. After the judge ruled that there wasn't sufficient evidence to force the guy that hit her to pay for her scooter or ER bill, she started screaming that he could afford to pay her since the PI her lawyer hired said he was worth about $10 million. Uhh, that's not how it works. Someone doesn't have to pay just because they can afford to.
She then sued his insurance company USAA since they're the ones that created the problem by not paying a valid claim, but it was after the statute of limitations.
Her lawyer was more than happy to take her money for work he knew would get thrown out within a few minutes in court. I kept telling her it was stupid to keep fighting, and I even called the lawyer to tell him it was dishonest to bill for time for something you knew would fail, but he just kept billing.
When they hired me, a lawyer with a degree and office in a mall.
"you can win this case"
A tenant of my mother's went to a lawyer in order to sue my mother for a multitude of BS reasons.
Simply put, his method was this: if the lawyer didn't come to some conclusion of "you can win this case" or "you're in the right", they were fired by the tenant on the spot.
Spoiler: he is most certainly not in the right.
Civil Plaintiffs' attorney and have a ton of specific examples I wish I could share but Protective Orders. Generally though if Judge gives your IT forensics guy the ability to go look for deleted emails and text messages its game over.
the flood gates opened!
I used to work for a small regional cell phone company in the mid 2000's that has since gone out of business. I was fresh out of school, and the first on my team that had an IT background, instead of traditional telecom background.
My first assignment, was to look into our SMS (text messaging) server to change it from just logging to/from with a date, into also starting to log the payload (the text contents) themselves.
I did the needful. Like I said, we were small, so when legal got a subpoena they forwarded it to us, to pull it, then forward it back. Once the authorities noticed we started to save the actual text of conversations, the flood gates opened!
I had no training on how to handle that kind of stuff either. I would have to copy/paste into a text file to send back to legal. Which made it hard to not read some of it. I also had no idea of what they were investigating, but sometimes you could tell.
My coworker got caught in the crossfire and called as a witness once in a local high profile case. Prosecutors used the text message logs in their case, but originally brought an IT guy in to validate the logs were real. The IT guy had no clue, he dealt with the MMS side of things and said they did not store the contents of each text (He did not know MMS and SMS were different, he's an idiot). So that blurred some lines. Prosecutors then asked for the person who pulled the records (my coworker, who also took over that being the expert on that platform) to testify that yes, we DID keep those records, and he was the one who pulled them from the system.
I was a plaintiff in an attempted manslaughter case. The defense attorney held a relatively tight grip on his case until I recounted the attack and made clear the assailant's intention to kill and how close I came to getting KO'd and pummeled.
I've never heard a defense attorney roast their client like that guy did. Basically called them the lowest of lows and barely defended their case at that point.
NOTHING about X
Unfortunately my best story for this is from my own client. We had a client who was on the board of directors for a company, and was being sued for allegedly not telling the board something. His part of the case was really only a smaller part of a larger and more complicated case, so while there were a lot of other issues in the case overall, the entire case against him specifically essentially boiled down to whether or not he told the board about X.
I and few other attorneys spent an entire week — 9 AM to 5 PM or later, Monday through Friday — prepping this client for his deposition by going over every document in the case with him and explaining why it was important. On several occasions we reiterated that no matter what else happened in the case, as long as we can show that he told the board about X, he was fine.
The day of the deposition arrives. Opposing counsel sits down and starts questioning our client. In the first 5-10 minutes of the dep, opposing counsel straight-up asks our client what he told the board. Client responds, "I told them about Y, I told them about Z, I told them about A, B, and C" — and says NOTHING about X, literally the only issue in the case against him.
In 20+ years of practice it was the closest I've ever come to rage-quitting on a client.
Footage Doesn't Lie.Giphy
Years ago I worked in personal injury, and we had a woman come to us saying that she slipped and fell outside of 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.
We open it, pop the disc in the computer, and right there is security cam 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 facepalm'd so hard. Needless to say we dropped the case.
"Oh my doctor prescribed them."
I was tangentially involved in a custody dispute. Dad alleged mom was doing all sorts of things and he should have the kid. Dad's attorney grilled mom for about 20 minutes on texts she had sent claiming to sell her prescriptions. She wouldn't admit it. Dad's attorney moved on and eventually ended with, "One more question. Where did you get the pills you were selling." Mom responds without thinking, "Oh my doctor prescribed them."
"performed the minimum required diligence"
A doctor testifying under oath that he deliberately chose not to inform a pregnant woman of a positive test result for a really severe genetic disorder, because he figured because she was a member of his church she wouldn't have considered aborting the pregnancy under any circumstances.
A primary care doctor who received a complex and technical test report from a genetics lab, and simply forwarded it to the patient (who didn't really speak English and wasn't medically educated). She testified that she "performed the minimum required diligence" which is not what you should say and expect a good outcome.
I've told this story before but I might as well put it here. This guy wanted custody over his children after a divorce and his wife was accusing of abuse(physical) . He was asked if he had ever abused his wife and he straight up said 'Yes, but only when she annoyed me' or something along the lines of that. I was ready to straight up leave the court room and laugh my butt off.
My father as a young lawyer was trying to get a case to take place in one state and not another because the insurance laws were more favorable in state A. The company he was in litigation with wanted it in state B for that reason, and claimed they only distributed in state A but had no locations in it and should not have to go to court in state A.
Well this company was a soda company and my dad has a major diet soda addiction, he goes through at least a 12 pack a day. So they were in a meeting with the soda company lawyers and took a break and he went downstairs to get a diet soda. When it came out he noticed on the can that it said "Distributed by the XYZ soda company of State A". So he got another diet soda and brought that one up stairs to the meeting. The XYZ soda co decided to settle after that.
This was in the late 70s or early 80s I believe.
My parents have a jewelry store and the landlord was trying to extort them to sign a lease for nearly double what it was appraised for. Problem was, the lease they signed and the landlord signed said when they renewed the lease both parties were to get their own appraiser then meet in the middle of what the two prices were. Landlord didn't like what his appraiser said so he refused to tell my parents what the appraisal was. So for two years he sent every lawyer in town to try to kick them out. They tried everything but legally had no leg to stand on.
Well, unfortunately during this time the landlord developed Parkinson's and his mind started to go. We finally got him to do a deposition and that's where everything when to hell for him. It was like he drank a truth serum. He just told all. My parents lawyer would ask things like: "Why did you not show the appraisal to my clients?" And he'd say: "It wasn't what I wanted. I wanted them to pay more so I hired other appraisers, and paid them off to raise the price nearly double."
Or another one was, "Why did you want them to pay you in gold that you would then sell back to them?" (Remember it's a jewelry store) He said, "Oh I didn't want to pay taxes."
It was sad honestly. His lawyer by the end of it all just had his head in his hands. We had a new lease within a month for less than we originally even offered, and he had to pay back 75% of our legal fees. Nearly $100,000.
When my client filed a restraining order against his ex and then asked me to leverage the restraining order just so he could get back with her. In our state, if you do this, you'll have to pay the other persons attorneys fees.
My client was charged with aggravated assault (5 years possible) for kicking the sh!t out a guy while wearing cowboy boots with those fancy steel ornamental tips on the boots. He wore the boots to his jury trial.
This is a really big misconception with regards to defense attorneys. There could be perfect evidence, a slam-dunk case in a first degree murder charge, and that defendant still needs someone to make sure all of the legal proceedings go, well, legally and smoothly. The prosecutor can't just do whatever they want.
My client's phone rang in court and forgot to put it on silent. The ringtone was the Mortal Kombat theme song.
You Can Afford It.
My roommate was on a scooter and rear-ended by a USSA member. Obviously, it was the fault of the guy that hit her. She took him to court to pay for her damaged scooter and her $8k ER bill. She argued that he should pay since he was rich instead of bringing the police report or ER bill to court. She of course lost. Courts only care about proof.
During the Menendez brothers trial, when Erik was testifying that he and his brother went to the Big 5 to purchase handguns in August of 1989. According to Erik, when told that there would be a 15 day waiting period on them, they chose to purchase shotguns instead. Erik even mentioned the case and shelf where the handguns had been sitting.
The attorney then paused and said "Mr. Menendez, did you know that Big 5 stopped carrying handguns in March of 1986?"
Thank you to r/missmattyyo for linking the article that explains why this was such a big deal. It basically undermined the credibility of the Menendez brothers' testimony since they were caught lying under oath about the guns, which also made people believe that the molestation accusations were also lies. The initial trial was deadlocked, however the second trial saw them both convicted of the murders. Here is a link to the video that shows the testimony in question. If the timestamp doesn't work, it starts at about 16:07.
Not a lawyer, but a law student. This was in a case that my professor showed us in class.
Some guy was accused of something, I cannot remember what, but the judge spoke him free because there wasn't enough evidence he had done it. Guy said "thank you judge, I'll never do it again".
DA appealed and got him convicted.
Not a lawyer, recent law school grad studying for the bar. This happened summer after my first year of law school, I was making a court appearance as a student attorney (basically, a rule in my state that lets students practice under attorney supervision).
I was working with the public defender's office, representing a client at a first appearance on a probation violation/bail hearing. On a probation violation, the judge is allowed to hold a defendant without bail (keep them in jail until the case is over).
Client says he has some money, but not much. Could get together about $500 for bail. Ok, I'll ask the judge to keep it low or just release him. Prosecutor asks for $300 bail. Great, my work here is done. Whatever I say, judge will order $300 or less and my guy is out.
I say my piece, and then my client interrupts the judge, saying some incoherent stuff about how he needs to get out and he's got this that and the other thing going on. Won't let the judge speak.
Judge holds him without bail even though the prosecutor didn't ask for it. All he had to do was shut up and he'd have gone home that afternoon.
6 Figure Judgement.
Late to the party, but I'll chime in anyway. 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 affidavits filed with the court. During the citation deposition, at the beginning, she stated she was current on her mortgage for her huge house.
We go 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?" Dead 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.
I was listening to the Casefile podcast. Guy gets obsessed with his former teacher. Kidnaps her and her daughter and holds them for 52 days. They escape. At the trial while she is testifying he slashes her with a knife.
He was convicted.....
Yeah, that’ll do it....Giphy
The defendant tried to slap the hell out of one of the jury.
In one where I was a jury member, almost all the evidence was on camera. One lawyer was trying to make his case on the fact a mandated sweeping security check wasn't done on time and if it had it would have potentially prevented what happened to his client. After him drilling in this point endlessly, the opposing counsel asked to see footage of around the time of the missed sweeping check.
The video showed a specific visit to the client. A personal visit is far better than a sweeping check. First lawyer was not such a smug guy anymore.
Sincerely, William Barr's lawyer.
I once had an idiot client who put out a public statement announcing that a subordinate had resigned.
Then the subordinate announced that he had not resigned, and furthermore, had no intention of resigning.
Then my idiot client put out an email announcing that he had fired the subordinate.
Then I had to advise my idiot client that he didn't have the right to fire the subordinate.
Then I had to explain to my idiot client that he couldn't fire the man because he is not my idiot client's subordinate at all; in fact, he was hired by, and worked for, a completely different subsidiary - over which my client had no authority.
So I got my idiot client to put out a public statement saying that his boss, the Chief Executive, had fired the subordinate.
Then my idiot client's boss blabbed to everybody that he had not fired the subordinate, and that he had thrown the whole matter back into my idiot client's hands.
And now, dammit, I have to spend the next four months boning up on all the statues and case law pertaining to obstruction of justice.
I work for an attorney whose client wanted custody of his kids. At that time the mom was claiming that he was an unfit parent and that he drank and partied too much. Trial wraps up and an officer comes in an puts the dad in handcuffs, much to all of our surprise. Apparently the guy had an outstanding warrant for a DUI. He didn't win custody.
"I know the doctors tampered with my drug test! It should have been positive for a lot more than just meth!"
Tell the Whole Truth.
I had a family client whose ex wasn't letting him see his kid. So we were in court with him explaining how important parenting was to him, how much he loved being a father, etc.
After 45 minutes of this the mother says 'I don't know why he's saying this, he abandoned his other kids'. Cue me who has never heard him mention having other kids. Turned out, yeah, 100% abandoned them, has had no contact for years, never made any efforts.
Please give your lawyers important information especially if another party involved knows your secrets.
The client who said they didn't speak English so we had to get an interpreter. When asked questions the client kept answering in English and the interpreter would have to stop and ask again and then answer in the language. Long confusing deposition to say the least. The client spoke better English than anything.
Im A paralegal, although I'm in IT now, but previously i was in other areas.
Well in court, the case before ours at the time was for theft and was going on much longer than it should have, Defense lawyer calls for a motion to dismiss, claiming lack of evidence. judge says he will entertain said motion after lunch, hits gavel says court will reconvene at 1 pm, court dismissed. Defendant stands up and says real loudly, " Told you i could get away with stealing that mess!"
He thought his case had been dismissed.
It's a toss-up between the one who called the judge a loser to her face and the one who didn't show up for a hearing because, while out on bail, he got arrested in the next county over and was in their lock-up at the hearing time.
I sat on a jury for a murder trial. When the judge allowed the prosecution to enter text messages into evidence, I saw the defense attorney exhale and put his hand on the defendant's shoulder.
We would not have convicted without those texts.
When, after a six week trial, the jury's first and only question during deliberation was whether $400 million was the maximum amount of punitive damages they could award. That was about when I lost all hope.
Only Judy Can Judge MeGiphy
Judge Judy: what was in the bag?
Prosecutor: my keys, wallet, gift cards, earpiece, etc
Defendant: YOUR HONOR THERE WASN'T AN EARPIECE
This case comes to mind from my time as a law clerk (i.e. not representing the defendant but taking notes for the Court).
It was a rape charge. The defendant claimed it was consensual and had called another employee as witness to show what a great guy he was (or something).
The witness says the defendant tried to forcibly kiss her and that she had told the police about it. Both the defense attorney and prosecutor were taken by surprise. The attorney obviously hadn't talked to the witness beforehand, which you should always do, and someone at the police had fucked up and never forwarded the info to the prosecutor.
Only one case passed through my hands where there was literally nothing left to say aside "Learn Spanish and move to your husband" to the wife that tried to bring her husband, who was deported, back to US. We didn't even take that case because there was literally nothing we could do. I worked on hundreds of cases, many which were extremely difficult but this was the only one where the answer was a flat out no.
Some background: Guy had multiple aggravated felony convictions (mostly drugs) dating from like 1990s to 2010s when the government finally gave him the boot.
If he committed them all before 1997 we could seek 212(c) relief for him.
If he was never a permanent resident or he was admitted in some other status originally and then sought adjustment of status originally, we could try to get him an I-601 waiver. Law basically really limits availability of criminal waivers to people who were permanent residents at some point in their lives. There was case law in the second circuit that carved out an exemption if you originally entered otherwise (e.g. on a tourist visa) and then got your green card in US.
If his wife were to come to us before he was deported we could probably maybe try to file a naturalization application as a defense against removal.
So basically, unless the law changes, this guy is never ever going to be allowed in US.
Not a lawyer but witnessed one of those moments with a relative.
Actual conversation as follows:
Judge: I thought I told you I didn't want to see you in front of me again for a probation violation?
Relative: But it isn't alcohol this time!
Judge: No this time you failed the UA for meth and that's WORSE!
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