From Law & Order and Judge Judy to Netflix’s “Making A Murderer” that glued people to the screen for two whole seasons, our fascination with law (mystery and crime too, for that matter!) is stronger than ever.
You can’t help but wonder what really happens behind the closed court doors. But thanks to one Redditor who asked “Lawyers of Reddit, what was your 'oh hold on' moment in court?” we may get some answers from people who have been there, done that.
Below, we wrapped up some of the most interesting stories lawyers shared in the thread, so scroll down and upvote your favorites as you go. And if you’re in the mood for some more legal stories, be sure to check out our previous post with lawyers revealing the moment they knew they won the case.
#1Sat in on a personal injury case where the plaintiff broke their leg in a [collision] and had a doctor on the stand as an expert. The woman's lawyer begins questioning the doctor about their experience with leg injuries (he was a well known orthopedic surgeon in the area).
She asks if he's ever treated a tibula fracture (the leg bones are tibia and fibula) to which he only answers "no" then she starts grilling him with questions about the tibula.
After about 6-7 questions she asks "how did you get a medical license and have been able to practice medicine this long if you've never treated a tibula fracture?" And begins a small rant about going after his credentials and those that gave it to him, to which he simply responds "there is no bone named the tibula".
The lawyer became beet red and everyone in the room tried their best to keep from laughing including the judge.
Image credits: bang-a-rang47
#2I was a baby lawyer in my first year representing the 19 year old child of some rich people in San Mateo County CA. My client had gone on a bit of a shoplifting spree and we were cleaning all her cases up with a global plea (meaning we handled them all at once).
Being new, I filled out the plea form wrong swapping the counts she was charged with for the counts she was pleading to. It’s an easy mistake to make. Every court has their own unique form and I was unfamiliar with San Mateo’s.
The judge calls my line, starts reading off the plea form, notices the mistake and then starts screaming at the top of his lungs “COUNSEL! WHAT IS THIS?! WHAT IS THIS?! IS THIS YOUR FIRST DAY ON THE JOB? THIS IS A COURT IF LAW AND WE DO NOT ACCEPT MISTAKES! FILL THIS PLEA FORM OIT CORRECTLY OR I WILL HAVE YOU TAKEN INTO CUSTODY FOR CONTEMPT!”
I did not expect a reaction like that. My client, who had clearly just taken a huge [rip] at 8 AM and who was wearing an all-pink velvet track suit was looking at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world.
I corrected the plea form. The judge made me wait until the very end of the calendar to take my plea. Afterward, he called me up to the bench. In private he told me, “Sorry to ream you like that. Everyone messes the plea form up so I always pick the youngest lawyer to yell at. The older guys will grumble and complain, but if you noticed they all fixed their own forms and we didn’t have any more problems. Keeps the calendar running smooth. Where did you go to law school?” After that he invited me into his office for coffee and gave me some really good life/work advice. Turns out he likes talking to new lawyers.
Image credits: dangerousgift
#3I'm not a lawyer but I was a character witness for my childhood dog in a civil trial between our neighbors and my parents. Opposing counsel was questioning me, I wasn't even out of elementary school at the time, and he asked if our dog was aggressive. She was a rottweiler and very loving and incredibly protective of me and my siblings. His final question to me is one I will never forget. He asked "Did your father tell you what to say before you came into court today?" I responded "Yes." Then he asked "What did he tell you to say?" I said "The truth." Now I was too young to remember the courtroom reaction, but according to my father the judge audibly guffawed and the opposing counsel lost all the wind out of his sails.
Image credits: Gortonis
#4Not me but my former law partner. She was in court representing a client, I think in a hearing for a protective order against her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Our client was telling the judge that when they met to exchange the children for visitation, the ex had kicked her. He immediately angrily shouted "she can't prove it, I didn't leave a mark!" Thanks, buddy!
Image credits: DaniKnowsBest
#5Not in court but at a tribunal, and also I was plaintiff, suing for wrongful termination.
My rep: so you terminated him because he was ill
MR: and he was ill because he's disabled
MR: so you fired someone for being disabled
Image credits: [deleted]
#6I think this qualifies, though it wasn't me that was the lawyer.
Got called for jury duty. Was at the jury selection phase, and they asked if "anyone here thinks they should not..." blah blah. Defendant was in the room.
I raised my hand. The defending lawyer looked at me like "oh this oughta be good" and asked me to explain. I suggested I tell them in private. He insisted I tell the courtroom.
"OK...I probably shouldn't be on this jury because I was on a previous jury for this man which returned a guilty verdict".
Lawyer's face went "oh sh*t".
Commotion and a wait while they looked up records. Yep; verified. Whole jury was now "tainted."
Everyone goes home, and they start over.
Image credits: SuspiciousChicken
#7Not mine but my bosses one:
She had to defend a small time delinquent as duty solicitor. Before going to court he asked her what he should do; she explained to him if he was cooperative and truthful his sentence would be milder.
After hearing the case the judge asked him if he wanted to add something. He got up and explained to the judge: "my counsel told me to be truthful, so I wanted to tell you that I not only did the pilfering I'm being heard for but also several others in the region".
He continued to admit to several robberies that had been unsolved yet and everyone, even the state attorney were facepalming.
Image credits: ComradeCatilina
#8Literally the first thing I ever did, was just a law student intern. Guy has a legit defense on a drug possession case. Hard substances found in a jacket, guy wasn't wearing jacket, they were going to have a very difficult time proving the jacket belonged to my guy.
Had a long meeting with client. Explained everything. Client was excited.
Day of the preliminary hearing, guy shows up and sits down directly in front of the officer who detained him...
... while wearing the jacket in question, the exact same jacket we were going to say they couldn't prove belonged to him.
Image credits: cuthman99
#9Reposting myself from years ago:
Story from a friend of mine - he was defending a guy in court, don't remember what he was charged with.
The main witness for prosecution was on the stand, and was asked if she could identify the defendent. She was scanning the courtroom & 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.
Image credits: Jeffbx
#10UK - Bear with me on this one. I was in court listening to the most boring old defence lawyer you’ve ever seen, he was questioning the arresting officer in the case. It was [hard substances] or something like that.
Anyway, he’s droning on about every little detail and the magistrate was constantly telling him to hurry along. The arresting officer was getting noticeably annoyed and the room became empty pretty quick. Everyone was very bored and annoyed. He was droning about details that I’m not sure anyone was really listening to or cared about.
Anyway, he went over [capture] times and the likes with the officer, time he admitted the suspect and released him. He had bored the officer to the point were he was barely paying attention.
“So he was admitted in at 21:45 on the night in question...?” “Yes” “...and released the night after...” “yes” “...and that was what? Just after 10pm?...” “yes” “What time after 10?” “I don’t know, quarter past 10 maybe” “so my client was detained for more than 24 hours” “erm...wait”
The penny dropped. The officer let his guard down and had revealed he kept the defendant for more than 24 hours, which is the max time for detention in the UK. The defence rested and the magistrate threw the case out immediately. Well played sir, well played.
Image credits: War_King_123
#11When I was in college, I was a bailiff. Guy is on trial for murder. First witness testified that she saw the defendant shoot the [target]. Second witness states the same. Police officer testimony is that he arrived at the scene and defendant was there holding the [piece]. Medical examiner testimony is that the first bullet hit the [target] in the arm, the second bullet hit the [target] in the torso and the third bullet hit the [target] in the heart which was the fatal [blow].
Defendant yells out " see that proves that I didn't [slay] him, I only [hit] the mother f**ker twice."
Image credits: Mynameisinuse
#12Mine actually happened while I was sitting in the jury pool during vior dire. The case was a double homicide, and the jury pool filled the entire courtroom. If you're not familiar with vior dire it is when the lawyers ask the potential jurors questions to determine who they want to sit on the jury and who they want to exclude. It is a long and boring process for almost everyone involved, but 9/10 it's the most important stage in a case.
So the lawyers are asking us questions and if that question applied to you, you raised your hand and they handed you a microphone to answer the question.
The question asked was "Do you or anyone you know have prior knowledge of this case?"
So this older gentleman raised his hand, is handed the mic, and proceeds to say "Yeah I work at the police station as a janitor, and I heard two detectives talking about him points to defendant and they were saying he was about as guilty as sin."
We all kind of stared open-mouthed at this guy, and I started chuckling because I couldn't believe what I was seeing!!
Naturally, the defense attorney asked to approach the bench followed quickly the by the state prosecutor. After some quick and energetic whispering, the judge addressed the man.
"Do you realize what you just did. You potentially tainted this entire jury pool. I will be calling your boss and you will be hearing about this. You can count on that. You are dismissed sir, but this isn't over."
The man was escorted out and then the judge addressed the remaining jury pool which was still in a mostly packed room. "Now I want you all to disregard what that man just said. I'm sure if any of you were ever accused of a offense like this you would want a fair trial, and not be condemned based on the words of one old man."
I have been in court many times since, but never have I seen that level of downright jaw-dropping absurdity again.
Image credits: ColdStare
#13I was involved in a pretty messy custody case. The other party was a mess and had kept the child from my client for a few weeks. OP was playing lots of stupid games and kept requesting continuances. I requested a drug test, which the judge ordered. However, the OP didn’t show up for it (to clarify, he did show up, he just stood in front of the toilet for literally 2 hours and claimed he couldn’t pee). I was representing the plaintiff so the burden was on me. I called multiple witnesses that testified to the defendant’s drug use. So, opposing counsel decides to call their client for direct examination and asks, “you don’t use heroin and crack, right?” That is, for the non-lawyers, a very stupid question for many reasons. Especially considering his client didn’t show up for his drug test. However, I fully expected the defendant to just lie and say he was clean. After the question was asked, there was a really long pause and the defendant said, “yes, I do both of those drugs.” My head almost exploded. I didn’t ask any questions on cross examination because I didn’t want to muddy the waters. I won, and the child is doing great.
Image credits: TurkeyofJive
#14Person I was representing was on trial for Assault in the Third Degree and DUI. In my state, A3 means you've assaulted an aid worker or police officer and is a felony. The allegations are that he was very verbally offensive to the officers and, at one point, kicked one in the face.
We're sitting at the defendant's table and the officer is testifying about the statements my guy made to him, including some pretty horrific name calling. Out of nowhere, my client screams "You're a f*cking liar! F*ck you, you son of a b*tch!!!"
We lost that trial.
Another time, the judge asked a client whether anyone had coerced him into pleading guilty, and he said "Yeah, my attorney." I about sh*t my pants, but he laughed and said, "I'm joking. No."
Image credits: BirdLaw458
#15Not a lawyer, but I witnessed my ex wife try to argue with the judge that she couldn't be accused of kidnapping our daughter because our daughter was legally emancipated (not a spoiler: she wasn't) at the time of the kidnapping. My ex had legal statutes written on small sheets of paper she had torn out of books in the jail library, and she kept arguing with the judge after being told that none of it mattered.
After the fifth time my ex interrupted the judge with her nonsense, the judge slammed her hands down, stood up, leaned over her bench, and told my ex that she had been a juvenile court judge for 20 years and was well aware of the statutes. If she interrupted one more time then she would be held in contempt and spend several months more in jail.
My lawyer held up his folder in front of his face to hide his grin during this exchange. I walked out with full legal and physical custody of my daughter, court supervised visitation for my ex, and a full restraining order.
Image credits: windstrider13
#16Was in court for a directions hearing. The judge was already in a bad mood and asked why we were here for such a seemingly pointless litigation (without giving details, he was right.)
The barrister starts to make our case, and I am taking notes about areas we need to further explore when I hear
"EXCUSE ME, WHY WERE YOU SO RUUUUUUDE TO ME?"
The client, who had been told to NOT COME, had come to court that day and was evidently incensed by the judge questioning the merit of their case.
They berated the judge for about 3 minutes, with me and my cocounsel first stunned and then trying to shut them up, before he adjourned the hearing.
The case did not go very well, to my client's surprise and fury. Big sigh.
Image credits: ladyfennec
#17I was representing a plaintiff in a hit and run case. Plaintiff is testifying and is, despite me preparing them for several hours the previous day, an absolutely terrible witness for her own case. Like, she couldn’t even identify the street she was crossing when she was hit by the car. (It was a major highway and we had gone through the sequence of events countless times the day before the hearing)
The “oh sh*t” moment came during cross-examination. Defense counsel pulls out a picture of my client dressed up and ready to hit the club which was posted to Facebook the day after the alleged [incident]. I, thinking quickly, object because the timestamp refers to when it was posted, not when it was taken. Defense counsel show the picture to my client and asked her when the picture was taken. Sure enough, they say it was taken the day after the [incident] when she was supposedly in unbearable pain.
Image credits: DoctorTargaryen
#18Opposing counsel was a nightmare. Everything late, his work was extremely subpar, and so forth. Accused me of lying multiple times when he had dropped the ball.
During another hearing in which he did another dumb move, judge says “I’m glad you are the last case on the call, and all of the other attorneys have left the room, so they aren’t here to hear me say that you are a terrible attorney.”
Image credits: Dbo81
#19Represented a woman charged with multiple very serious felonies. She insisted that in the months before the offense, she’d been seriously dating one of the detectives who ultimately wound up investigating and testifying in her case. For a variety of reasons, I trusted this client and believed her, even though the detective never disclosed the relationship in his report.
So, during his testimony, I ask “Detective Smith, you had a romantic relationship with Ms. Defendant, correct?” He goes “What? No!” and is visibly offended. The judge Iooks at me like I’ve lost my mind, the commonwealth attorney audibly says “what?”, I’m freaking out because a large part of my cross and argument was focused on the bias formed by the prior relationship, and now I’ve got nothing and I’ve lost all credibility.
I try again, “Detective Smith, have you had a sexual relationship with Ms. Defendant?”. As the Commonwealth rises to object and the Judge starts to scold me, the detective goes “Oh, yea. We’ve had [relations], it just wasn’t very...romantic.”
Edit/Update: State is Virginia. The jury acquitted my client of the relatively minor charge that the detective in my story was involved with, but convicted of the other, much more serious charges that detective had nothing to do with. There was a confession and video on the serious charges, so it was kind of a no-brainer. Sorry I'm being kind of intentionally vague, there are no confidentiality concerns (since this all happened in open court), but its distasteful to give out too much information about a client.
The detective was not "disqualified", his testimony was not thrown out. Impeachment, no matter how good, doesn't result in you getting to throw out a witness's testimony entirely. By the way, it wasn't really the [relations] that was the issue, it was that he didn't disclose it to anyone and his repeated insistence under questioning that he didn't disclose it because it was irrelevant. Like Watergate, its not the [incident], its the coverup that gets you. But I don't get to demand the judge throw out the testimony or that charge just because the cop failed to disclose a prior relationship with the defendant. I just get to point it out, argue it in closing, and then hope the jury also sees the relevance.
Image credits: Fictional_Idolatry
#20I was interning for a judge, we were in the middle of voir dire, for what was frankly not that exciting of a case--half day trial expected, not salacious details or harshness or anything. 75 potential jurors in the room, and when my judge didn't let a guy out of jury duty "because he'd have to pick up his kids" that guy proceeded to say in front of everyone that if he was made to show up next week he'd make it the shortest trial ever and find him guilty right out of the gate.
My judge was an incredibly even-keel guy. Nothing shook him or got a rise out of him, and he was an expert at figuring out what he wanted to say in the most neutral fashion possible before he said it (conversations with him took forever because there was a pause before every sentence).
But then. BUT THEN. This guy [sickens] an entire jury pool of 75 people. We had to individually question each person to see if that little outburst was going to affect their impartiality, etc. 75 in camera interviews later, judge pulls the guy back in in front of everybody and begins to SCREAM at him about disrespecting him, the courts, and every other juror's time. Me, the attorneys, and the court reporter go white faced because we didn't know this was coming.
The guy didn't have to sit for jury duty, but I still don't know if he got to pick his kids up, since he spent a couple days in jail for contempt.
Image credits: [deleted]
#21Watching a hearing when the defendant said "I mean I did stab her... But it was a gentle stabbing..."
Image credits: SphericalUser07
#22“Do you see the defendant here in court?”
(Witness/victim looks at each jury member then everyone in the audience)
(Judge hides his face behind file folder)
“Are you sure, maybe over on this side”
(witness looks confused) “I’m not sure.”
(I point at defendant) “maybe over at this table by that lawyer”
. . . “Yeah, maybe.”
Image credits: AkumaBengoshi
#23Not a lawyer, but I got in enough trouble in my teens to know what a judge does/doesn't like.
Uncles/father decide they're going to conserve my grandmother and put her in a secured perimeter memory facility. In reality, they just wanted to piss away her $20m estate. We end up in court with our lawyers.
One thing I know about most judges/courtrooms. They want to be revered like a church. No talk back, no talking out of turn, wear a suit, even if it's a $20 goodwill suit.
Father, uncles all show up. All of them spend about an hour badmouthing me. I'm keeping my mouth shut, looking at my feet. One of my uncles tries to examine me, I just keep my mouth shut until the judge tells him he's not a lawyer, and I'm not examination. None of them are well dressed, sneakers, dirty sweatpants.
My uncle (who's the ringleader) decides to start talking over his own lawyers. My lawyer makes some comment, the judge starts talking to her and my uncles lawyer says something like, "Now hold on ladies!"
All they had to do was keep their mouths shut, and not tell their lawyers how to do their job and they would have won. They pretty much handed grandma and I the win.
#24I was interning during law school prosecuting domestic violence cases. The Deputy DA asked me to talk for the first time during a guy's arraignment, for beating his wife. An arraignment is when the Defendant hears the charges against them and pleads guilty or not guilty basically. When the judge calls on me to speak, I got insanely nervous. And told the Defendant that his charge carried a maximum penalty of 30 YEARS, when it was actually 30 DAYS.
He freaks out, the crowd (some in the gallery were his family and friends) gasps. The judge basically stops me and says "I think you mean 30 days counselor..." After which everyone, including the defendant, laughed at me...
Image credits: theTALC
#25A lawyer I used to know was in court on a work injury case. The judge asked his client "Just what is the nature of your injury?". His client replied "I can't raise my arm this high any more", while she raised her arm up to show just how high she couldn't raise it.
Image credits: rylos
#26I 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:
Defendent'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 an 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 f**ked up so royally.
That s**t was mindblowning on multiple levels.
Image credits: Thedurtysanchez
#27I was the defendant, representing a nonprofit that I volunteered for. The plaintiff was a 60 something Grandma who was looking for a retirement settlement after falling out of her jacked up pick up truck in our parking lot. The premise of her case was that our parking lot was in bad shape (it was) and that she fell into a pothole and broke her leg, which resulted in her having to take Coumadin and diminished her enjoyment of salads at the Friday night fish fry (no, really).
It was going along fine, until my lawyer put up a photo of the pothole, taken the day of the incident, filled to the brim with water, after a recent rain. He asked the lady if she had gotten her foot wet, to which she replied that she couldn’t recall.
He talked a little more about how perhaps if her foot wasn’t wet, it might have been because she fell out of the truck and didn’t really fall into the pothole. He asked again if her foot was wet, and she affirmed that yes, her foot was wet.
The “oh s**t” moment came when he went back to his desk, flipped through her deposition and read the part where she was extremely adamant that her foot wasn’t wet. Then he did some fancy legal stuff, the case was thrown out and I went back to work.
Image credits: StopDoingThisAgain
#28Not exactly in court. But I was defending a juvenile robbery case, where there was very little evidence. There was supposed to be two guys, but they only picked up this one kid, he had no stolen property on him, he was picked up like outside his own house, wearing different clothes than the victim had initially said. This kid was on the honor roll at school, his family seemed kind and were involved, he wrote poetry and played instruments. I actually believed it was a legit mistaken identity case. I went to meet with one of the kid's mentors for a character reference.... and he exactly matched the description of the other robber.
#29I'm not an attorney, but a reporter whose beat is the county courthouse, so I've had plenty of these moments happen in front of me.
A guy was convicted of attempting to murder several police officers.
At his sentencing, the prosecutor revealed the defendant got a prison tattoo while he was awaiting sentencing of a tombstone with the names of all the cops he attempted to kill. But the defendant still had the audacity to beg for a lenient sentence.
He got a few hundred years in jail.
Image credits: KingHygelac
#30I was just interning in court during law school but I'm a lawyer now. Fight in a club, someone had broken someone else's jaw, and had 6 friends with him that insisted he had been identified wrongly because he never have a beard and the victim said he had a beard. They used a very specific phrasing to the tune of "my friend doesn't have facial hair because he is a professional in the food industry and it would go against the regulations". After three of the witnesses had repeated the same exact phrasing, the judge stopped one to ask if he knew what a couple of the terms in that line meant, and the witness couldn't explain it.
Defense lawyer got busted for instructing the witnesses. She'd also gotten the defendant to reject a plea deal that exchanged prison time for a fine and community service.
#31Not a lawyer but I had a big "Oh s**t" moment.
I was in court for driving while suspended in a county and in front of a judge that were both notorious for putting people who did that in jail. My license wasnt supposed to be suspended, a pencil pusher forgot to press a button or something and it never got un-suspended after the time was up. I had proof of this, but I was still really nervous.
The guy who went up to the judge before me walked to the table where we were supposed to stand, sat down, and put his feet up on the table. The judge asked him what he was doing and he gave a flippant answer and basically told the judge to get f**ked. This seriously pissed the judge off. The judge went off on this guy and the guy gave everything right back to him, pissing him off more and more. The judge ended up jailing him for contempt and had the bailiff cuff the guy and put him in a chair off to the side to await the marshalls who would transport him to the jail.
My name gets called. The judge is looking at me like Im fresh meat and he is a Great White shark. Im already thinking to myself "OK, if this judge puts you in jail, run over and beat the s**t out of the guy that pissed the judge off so badly. He's why youre going to jail."
The judge looks down at his paperwork and back at me and says "You're Mr my last name"? I said "Yes sir." He said "Yeah, we were talking about you earlier, Im going to void your arrest and dismiss this case, your license was supposed to be valid and you shouldnt be here."
I let out a huge sigh. The judge asked me if I was OK and I said I had been a bit worried, especially given the guy that was right before me in line. The judge said "Dont worry about him, he wont be seeing anything that isnt behind bars for about 90 days." and laughed.
#32I'm not a lawyer but a court case I was involved with went this way.
My ex-MIL was a crazy b****. Me and my wife at the time had cut her off almost completely. Every one in a whole she would give in and let her mom visit, which always turned out badly.
Eventually we got divorced and I got full custody. MIL went nuts and decided to sue me for custody. I looked over the law and for any form of visitation or custody you need to have had contact in the last 6 months and she hadn't seen them for over a year.
So we go to court. I can't afford a lawyer but the law was pretty clear. She goes through three lawyers, each of them quit in turn. So she finally winds up representing herself.
During the last hearing she was talking to the judge and said something to the effect of "I don't want to get custody of them, I just want to be able to visit". The judge then asked her point blank "this is a custody hearing. Are you telling me you no longer want to get custody?" She said yes and the judge dismissed the case immediately.
#33Not a lawyer but shared an oh s**t moment with one.
I hit something in the road and had a tire blow out while driving home from MEPS, hit a concrete divider and wound up rolling my car. No injuries and no other vehicles involved. Received a reckless driving ticket that the officer told me was just procedure and not to be concerned with.
Fast forward a month and I'm in court with my lawyer who plans on pointing out this ticket could prevent my hardship enlistment. He's not expecting it to take more than a minute because the issuing officer and prosecutor are on board.
Queue group oh s**t moment. I'm fourth on the docket and the judge has just handed out maximum sentences for all three prior defendants. People are getting 6 to 12 months, having licenses revoked, for little stuff.
Prosecutor gets screamed at the instant he opens his mouth, police officer is told to shut up while answering a question the judge asked, my lawyer is told he's about to be held in contempt. I'm starting to think I'm gonna get 3 squares and a cot, just not where I planned on getting them. The judge told me to step forward while shuffling my case paperwork and my lawyer just gave me a look that said, I'm so sorry.
Case dismissed in the interest of justice and if any more idiots waste his time with nonsense like this again every one is spending the night in county.
#34During jury selection. “I can’t be a juror due to the fact I’m kinda racist.”
#35Not oh s**t bad, oh s**t I can't believe she said that. First jury trial, pretty serious charges. I'm cross examining the alleged victim, and in answering my question she says, "Oh yeah, I lie all the time!" Needless to say, I won that trial.
Image credits: captroper
#36Sitting in court, doing some plea paperwork for with a defense attorney for a go home plea agreement (where person is released from custody and doesn't have to do jail time), we hear this "Ksssssssstt- shhooooo" to our left and we look to see his guy sitting in the galley all by himself, sitting in the cloud of a biggest vape hit I have ever seen, then has the audacity to tell the judge it "went off in his hand"
Do not pass go, do not go free that day.
#37Not a lawyer, but was working at the jail when an inmate came back from court and immediately went on suicide watch. Apparently he was up for a plea deal and was only looking at six months, but started questioning some of the facts, which let in a ton of previously denied evidence. This new evidence linked him to six B&E’s and rapes. He walked out of court facing a 99 year sentence, which he was certain to get. All because he opened his mouth.
#38Sat in the public gallery at a bail hearing for a man accused of heinous crimes against a very, very young female relative. The judge started laying out the conditions of bail and one of them was to surrender his passport. Man turned to his attorney and said, loudly, words to the effect of; "But you said I could fly back to my home country..."
The judge stopped himself, and revoked the man's bail.
Image credits: scruit
#39Never ask a question to which you don’t know the answer. Prosecutor suggested to me client that the canned goods he had burgled were to be used to trade for drugs. Me thinking the idea ludicrous asked my client whether he has ever traded food for drugs. To which he replied that he once exchanged a frozen chicken for heroin. Needless to say, I didn’t win that one.
Image credits: [deleted]
#40Not in court but a deposition. Plaintiff in a sexual harassment case (that was suspected to be paid role play with her boss) kept a very detailed sex diary on her work computer. At one point she was asked to read from the diary for the record and asked if she had written the accounts and if they were true. She was asked at several points if she wanted her new husband to leave the room while she did this, but declined.
Let's just say it was extremely kinky, she confirmed it was true, and the only mention of her now-husband was that he was boring in bed but she was going to marry him because she couldn't get her first, second or third choice. He ended up leaving on his own after she read that part out and confirmed it was him she was writing about.
#41Represented a pro bono client that had just turned 18 and was charged with serious property damage. I walk in to his bail hearing and the judge looks at him and goes “I knew you’d be back as an adult.” The judge then turns to me and says “Counselor, you may want to learn about your client’s history.” No bail.
#42NAL but I was on a jury once for a murder trial. Got selected and the trial started almost immediately.
Man was on charged with murdering his neighbor. They made their opening statements, there was even a bloody note. It wasn't terribly long but they clearly put a lot of effort into their strategies and were ready for battle.
First witness was called, it was the son of the man on trial. I forget the first question but it didn't matter, he immediately broke down crying and invoked his 5th amendment right.
Everyone freaks out. Judge and lawyers were like wtf. Jury had no clue what was going on but we were quickly ushered out immediately after that.
Few minutes later it was explained to us what happened. The judge declared a mistrial. The prosecutor must have suspected that the father was taking the fall for the son who actually murdered the neighbor. Rather than risk losing, there was a mistrial while they sorted out who to actually charge and try.
#43Not a Lawyer. Wife is, but she was just watching. Making his statement before the sentencing, the defendant, who molested a step daughter, her friend and a niece, pulled a knife from god knows where, and stabbed himself twice before getting wrestled to the ground. How he got it through the metal detector, no one knows. He lived through that but died two months later in prison of natural causes.
#44Not 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 oh s**t moment, and I felt pretty good about my chances of getting my money back. I won the suit, but did not get full damages.
#45I was at a hearing arguing that my client was wrongfully terminated because the employer failed to abide by the proper procedures. during the hearing a witness for the employer tried to offer documents that were fraudulently altered in order to make it look like the proper procedure was followed. i noticed the alteration. opposing counsel quickly got that witness out of the room, and after a quick adjournment, my client got a large settlement.
#46I was the dumbass that almost screwed myself. I had 2 charges in 2 different courts. I accepted the first plea which almost always carries probation but my plea didnt have that condition.
When it came time to accept the second plea, the prosecutor didnt include probation because she assumed my first charge put me on probation. She said as much to the judge and me being a big dummy almost corrected her. My lawyer grabbed my shoulder and, i s**t you not, told me to "shut the f**k up, she doesnt know."
#47My client is the one that probably thought “Oh s**t!!”
Before trial, I was trying to convince my client to give his ex wife 200$ in child support monthly while he was looking for a job ( he had a job but he was paid under the table for the exact reason of him not wanting to pay for child support), I tried to explain to him that if we go into the court room without an agreement between him and his ex the amount the judge will impose him would probably be a loootttttt higher, he kept saying he couldn’t pay that much that he was jobless and poor, after fighting with him about how the judge won’t care about this and how he should be a decent parent and take care of his kids he said to me “I should have gotten a male lawyer, woman just don’t get it” since I was doing this for free, I just told him to f**k himself and that he was trash and left him to look for another free lawyer 20 min before his hearing
#48IANAL but my buddy is going through a nasty divorce and I went with him to the initial hearing for support.
Turns out his wife lied ALL OVER her deposition about everything from how much money he’s making, to being a violent drunk.
She then tried to admit a secret recording she made of an argument that she baited him into having.
His lawyer asks where the recording took place, which was in California; a two party consent state.
#49Actually a lawyer: "oh s**t" moments shouldn't happen in court. Any surprises should be ironed out in discovery. If you're in court and have an oh s**t moment, more than likely it's because you didn't do your job.
My "oh s**t" moment was going in for a status conference and then finding out I had a second status conference on another case I was completely unprepared for because my assistant didn't put it on my calendar by mistake. I told my opposing counsel my situation, and him being a generally nice guy who I got along with regularly, he told me what was going on in the case and we went in and got an amicable result from the judge.
Sorry, but that's how legal practice actually goes most of the time.
#50Probably the funniest one I ever came across happened to a colleague. We were prosecutors then. 18 year old defendant applying for bail. He needed a residential address and got his dad to show up at court to confirm that the family home was available to him. Defence lawyer gets old dad to confirm that son can stay at family home. Dad says yes. My fellow prosecutor gets up and asks dad - do you really want him home? Dad goes off the deep end. ‘Jesus. The grief he’s brought me and his mother. Out all hours. Taking drugs. Hiding stolen property in the garage. All night parties. I’m on anti-depressants and the wife’s had a nervous breakdown.’ Dad goes off on one for five solid minutes. As the defendant gets taken back to the cells, he calls out ‘Thanks Dad. I owe you one.’
#51I’ve had a couple.
Best one was when I was a youth prosecutor/defense attorney in Teen Court. The youth defendant was on “trial” for assault. I asked him what happened and he said, “my friends told me I wouldn’t beat up the Easter Bunny at the mall so I did.” Only time I truly could not control my laughter in court.
Another, I was watching a detention hearing in federal court (only issue is whether the defendant will get to go home until trial). This was an appeal of the court’s previous decision that the defendant be held until trial. The third witness was an FBI agent which, needless to say, is not normal at a detention hearing. The FBI agent testified that some other attorney (not the one representing the defendant at the hearing) had been taking letters from the defendant and sending them to different people for the defendant. Those letters were contracts to have the prosecuting attorney killed.
The representing attorney withdrew and the defendant was not released pending trial.
One more, I was in traffic court one time and a sovereign citizen who was acting fairly hostile began approaching the judge’s bench. He was arrested at gunpoint which was pretty wild considering there were 150 or so people in the court room.
Last one, my first ever civil trial I was representing the plaintiff who wanted to evict the defendant from her property for non-payment of rent. After presenting my case, the judge asked the defendant to present his evidence. The defendant replied, “huh.” The Judge said, “now is your turn to present your case.” The defendant said, “I don’t understand.” The Judge leans over the bench and asks, “why are you here.” The defendant said, “oh yeah... yeah, right.” The defendant then went on a thirty minute tangent about all sorts of things like how he only parks his car so he can see where he is going when he pulls out because that was taught when he was in the military. I could have objected but the more he talked, the more the judge disliked him. After thirty minutes the judge finally asked, “about the rent...?” The defendant says, “oh yeah. I’m not trying to debate that I didn’t pay it.” That’s how I won my first civil trial.
#52Two high-profile men on trial for killing another guy. Both ex cops from the 80s, a notorious time in our country for police corruption.
The first trial had been aborted after one barrister had made a casual comment that the other accused had already killed “two or three people”, second attempt was six weeks into an expected ten week retrial.
All of the networks and papers were covering this trial, the gallery was always packed with law students because of the many uniquely horrific aspects of the trial.
So, we’re six weeks into the retrial. Defence 1 gets up to cross examine a witness.
“Did you know of (accused murderer 1)?”
“Yes, he was a cop and a drug dealer in the 80s.”
The court basically exploded, the judge immediately issued a non-publication order (meaning there was an embargo on all information from that day). It was early afternoon but the judge excused the jury for the day then spent the next day and a half deliberating over whether to abandon the trial - over half way through, and for the second time.
#53Step-parent adoption I was handling in law school. I was appearing before the court on a motion--literally just submitting a written brief and summing up my argument so the judge could think about it in chambers for a few weeks--when the judge stopped me halfway through my explanation of the motion, said "I'm ready to sign the final order," and executed it right there at the bench. The client happened to come along for this one, and broke down (happy) crying before we left the courtroom. I felt ten feet tall.
#54My client fell asleep during his custody trial. Between that and him testing positive for marijuana on the day of trial after he made a big deal accusing his ex of using drugs (she tested clean), I was so happy to be done with that case.
#55Was getting an expungement for a guy who had really turned his life around. This was gonna help him get a job as a coach at a small university. I'm in a very conservative jurisdiction. Client openly and voluntarily - without even the slightest prompting - admits to smoking pot. Expungement was granted but there was a long lecture that made it seem like it was not going to be granted.
#56Not a lawyer, but a defendant. As a teenager, I got busted with a couple of buddies throwing eggs at cars. We were only actually in the courtroom for our sentencing, there was no trial. The judge called each of us up individually to ask us if we had anything to say. One of my friends tells the judge that he is a good kid who doesn't normally do things like this (lie, we used to do it all the time), and that "I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time." I wish there was a video of my other friend and I sitting in the benches watching this happen. We simultaneously dropped our heads into our hands because we couldn't believe that idiot just said that. The judge was not pleased, and she took the opportunity to remind him that going to a store, buying eggs, going to another location across town, and then throwing those eggs at cars was not just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
#57IANAL, but at my custody hearing my stupid ex insisted that our son, who's on the spectrum, didn't have autism at all, and only had behavioral issues. Also that she'd refused to call the office that made the diagnosis. And that his behavioral problems started going away in August of 2014.
My lawyer in cross examination: Isn't August of 2014 the month in which he started spending most of his time at his father's house? And also when he started getting behavioral therapy for Asperger's?
Stupid Ex: I don't know what you're getting at, but yes those are the same dates.
Needless to say it was all downhill from there.
#58I was in court for some restraining order hearings. I was sitting on the front row. Right before the judge comes in, the deputies bring in a lady in cuffs who had been causing a commotion in small claims court. They sat her down about 5 feet down the bench from me. She is not at all happy to be there.
Well about that time the judge came in, and the lady immediately told him to “suck a f**king d**k.” She continued, “You look like you just popped a d**k out of your f**king mouth.” I was pretty sure I was about to get pepper sprayed or something.
Judge immediately gave her 30 days for contempt. She kept on like that and eventually got 120 days total.
As the deputies took her to jail, she slipped out of her cuffs and tried to run. Then she apparently destroyed the bed in her cell. Got charged for escape and destruction of property as well. It was not her best day.
#59Worked as a clerk at the local court after law school.
There was this case about sending a 15 year old girl to a rehab/youth home since she had problems with alcohol. This girl had a backstory that made the story of the girl from "13 reasons why" look like a fairytale. Her parents had basically dumped her and her brother and left to live in another country, so they were called over Skype. So basically the girl had an attorney, the parents had an attorney and the state was represented by two attorneys. After reading her file I thought that no human being can be normal after the s**t she's been through, that she'd be a quiet, broken down girl during the whole trial.
Boy was I wrong. She didn't even need an attorney, she basically out-argumented her parents attorney and the state attorney her self. I remember how awed I was of her strength and energy, but I also felt sad that I knew what she had to go through to get this strength. I always think back to that case, I really hope she's doing fine now.
#60Lawyer here! I had a pre-trial conference at 9am at a court about 2 hours away. So I wake my ass up super early to drive in s**tty weather to the conference. I get there and we're waiting for the other (in town) attorney. All the while I'm grumbling to myself about how I'm from out of town and I can still make it on time. Finally the court calls the other attorney's office and gets a receptionist who tells us through tears that... Other attorney passed away the night before. Needless to say I was just happy to still be alive and we rescheduled for a few months later.
#61When I was a trainee solicitor, I watched one of my colleague’s trials. Couple of ne’erdowells accused of racially abusing their neighbour.
First Crown witness comes in, gives her name and starts answering questions about the incident in question. From the public gallery, I can see both accused whispering to each other in the dock, then gesturing urgently to their respective lawyer. My colleague asks for the witness to be taken out of court and back to the witness room, because “something unusual has come up and we need to address you on it”, to which the Sheriff agrees.
As soon as the door closes behind the witness, this (relative) bombshell is dropped: “That witness is not who she says she is.” I was like ??
After some investigation by the court police officer, it turns out that the actual witness didn’t want to attend court, so got her friend to go and pretend to be her. She had a “script”in her pocket that she’d clearly been revising in the witness room beforehand.
No prizes for guessing which particular racial stereotype was in play here. Unbelievably, no action was ever taken against either the witness or her understudy!
Plenty of good moments as a defence lawyer, but that one stands out as a “had no idea that was coming” moment.
#62Two moments in a DUI trial:
1. Passenger is testifying for driver’s sobriety when the DA asks her, “you keep saying he was sober, but are you even TIPS certified (a course for bartenders so they can recognize drunk patrons)?” She was.
2. The head of the county’s blood lab accidentally admitted he cranked the sensitivity of his machines way up because he “was experimenting”
#63Medical malpractice defense lawyer here representing hospitals/doctors. This was not my oh s**t moment but plaintiff's oh s**t moment. For context, usually at trial, both plaintiff and defendant will have an expert physician testify as to their opinion to whether the doctor/hospital performed everything correctly.
I thoroughly researched plaintiff's expert, who was an ob/gyn (baby delivery) and found out he had been suspended a number of times for his own botched deliveries and giving incorrect medical testimony to help plaintiff's cases.
During the actual day of trial, turns out he was not licensed to practice medicine independently without supervision from another physician and he was one year into his three year suspension. Plaintiff's lawyers had no idea about their own experts background and they just sat there with a blank look on their face. Needless to say, during cross examination, we destroyed his credibility and won at trial.
#64Staff attorney for a judge. Had a domestics hearing over some issue (final divorce hearing, custody mod., idk). The mother's attorney is a prolific a**hole in the community. Puts on a big dog and pony show because clients like to pay for billboard, legal eagle crap. Pretty bad reputation in our legal community.
Father's attorney (young attorney, mom's attorney old guy) stands up and is attempting to examine his witness. Mom's attorney stands up and objects to literally every sentence the Father's attorney starts. Judge just kind of sits hoping it will calm down, tells mom's attorney to sit down. He continues, and just before the judge finds him in contempt, father's attorney turns and says, "You may think because you're older than me, you can treat me with disrespect. You can hoop and holler all you want but you won't do it at my expense. If you want to put on a show, go join the f**king circus, [attorney's name]."
#65Corporate lawyer but took on a pro bono immigration matter helping a victim of domestic abuse get her immigration status sorted out. She had been in the country for 20 years, originally legally, but not anymore.
It took us multiple months to get a hearing scheduled. We've spent hours in US Customs and Immigration Services' offices by this point. Her situation is somewhat precarious and we need to resolve this.
She told me a few weeks before the hearing that she needed to reschedule because she was going to be out of the country. She said her daughter was going through a high-risk pregnancy and would be giving birth during that time, and my client was the only caregiver / available family for her daughter.
That's fine - we put together a letter, get a note from the daughter's doctor about the medical necessity, etc. US CIS gives us a hard time about it, but ultimately hearing is rescheduled.
My client and her (other) daughter come to the rescheduled hearing. Client gets asked about recent trips out of the country. "Well, I went on vacation to my home country last month."
Instant cringe. She's in the US illegally, and it's unclear whether or not she should have been traveling on the passport she was.
I jumped in and tried to clean it up for her, and thankfully this USCIS official was more interested in moving us through the system than getting hung up on past issues. However, she within an inch of this all collapsing around her / getting kicked out of the country.
#66Unfortunately I’m not allowed to say too much but basically, on charges of growing marijuana, stated he was growing “herbs for medicine” (and gestured air quotes with his hands) and then whispered, I kid you not, “marijuana.” Bro...
#67I clerked in family court as a law student. My judge was off so I had a slow day finishing some orders. Other clerk IM’d me to come to her court room ASAP. I got in just in time to hear a VP tell the judge she didn’t understand why it was such a big deal she got a DUI with her kids in the car. Queue the judge yelling at this lady and the lawyer shrinking as small as possible in his chair. VP lady was petitioning the court for early release from ignition interlock because it was embarrassing for her kids...
Number 2. Same court, same scenario in being pinged by other clerk. This time a dude and his wife were in court because he was 3 months behind on spousal support. I thought it was weird that he had like 8 lawyers with him for a simple hearing. One lawyer asked for a total, the answer? 4.5 MILLION dollars, no joke. Other lawyer for dude said they needed time to work out tax implications. Judge said he’d save him the legal fees and told him there was no write off for spousal support. Dude WROTE A CHECK for 4.5 million dollars. Hearing over.
#68An attorney in my firm just had a trial with a good one. Our client blew a stop sign and t-boned Plaintiff. Among other things, Plaintiff had a hairline cervical fracture. He was prescribed a C-collar which he supposedly wore for 3-4 months, including to his daughters wedding.
At trial Plaintiff's attorney had Plaintiff put on his cervical collar to show the jury. He had it on while his attorney did the direct. Unfortunately Plaintiff and his attorney didn't realize he put it on upside down. There is a part that is supposed to go down on your chest for stability. Well it was on upside down so it was sticking up in front of his mouth. His attorney asked him about that being annoying and in the way of his eating. He gets done with his examination and the first thing the attorney from my firm asks is, "can you please explain to the jury why you put the cervical collar on upside down?" Plaintiff denied it was on upside down and two jurors blurted out, "uhhh, yea you did!" (Jury is not supposed to comment or ask questions). Needless to say, the jury did not like his testimony and he was awarded nothing.
TL;DR - Plaintiff put C-collar on upside down at trial, jury called him out on BS and gave him nothing, despite relatively serious injury.
#69The best "oh s**t" moments are when your opposing counsel or opposing client says or does something that wins the case for you. True, in civil cases you usually know what will happen ahead of time, but in my state discovery in smaller civil cases is more limited, and clients don't always want to spend $30K when we can get the same result for $10K.
In an adverse possession case the witness only needed to say "I used that area as my backyard," and I fully expected him to say this. It would harm my case, but I knew I could get around it. When asked about his use of the area, he said, "No, I never really went back there, didn't use it at all." Lost the case for the other side, and I could barely keep a straight face. It was completely opposite of what the witness had told opposing counsel off the record; apparently the "under penalty of perjury" made him change his story.
I had another case about losing multi-unit dwelling insurance because a guy's place was a fire hazard. I asked him if his personal insurer knew about the fire hazard. "Yeah, and the jerks canceled my policy!"
I also love it when I have a difficult party on the other side and the judge rips them a new one. I had a convoluted case with a lot of parties about nothing at all. The plaintiff was heinous. The six or seven attorneys were working out calendars with the judge when the plaintiff starts yelling at her attorney from across the courtroom because she didn't like that he had conceded some little non-issue. Judge told her to sit down and shut up. I was sad that the case settled because she would've been amazing on the stand.
#70A famous high profile case in my community had an incredible moment.
A high profile guys house was raided, and they found a few shreds of evidence in the ash tray, and other scraps in the toilet.
In court, he was asked if he ever burned evidence, he said no. When asked if he ever flushed evidence, this older man without the best memory of 2 minutes ago responded "no, if I wanted to get rid of evidence, I would burn it in my ash tray".
Guess who won the case
#71Not my story, but while getting on the elevator banks at the courthouse, another lawyer tried to hold the door with his foot and his shoe popped off and went up with the elevator (In this court house there are probably 20 elevators, so there was no way he was going to find that shoe in time for his court call). He freaked out for about 10 seconds and then said "I guess I am going to court with one shoe on." and got on a different elevator. Hilarious.
#72I was representing my client during a sentencing for some petty burglary. The judge asked him if he had anything to say before he imposed sentence. My client started “Your honor I just want to apologize...” I’m thinking he’s going to apologize for the burglary like they always do l, but he continued “...this morning I tried to bring a knife into the courtroom.” And it was f**king out on record before I could stop him. There was no way for me to strike it from the record and my client is a f**king idiot. I still kick myself for that.
#73It's hard to call stuff in court "oh s**t" moments most of the time because generally you know what's coming. Even in criminal defense. I had some flubs early in my solo practice that more boiled down to lack of experience.
But going for things that actually happened in court, I will go a little lighter than some of my fellow practitioners here.
Closing argument in an assault case. I've learned to grow comfortable with my speaking style, and part of that is to cut loose a bit when it is appropriate. So I make light of some of the states' allegations given the testimony by the prosecuting witness. There is one guy on the jury panel that thinks I'm just hilarious. I had to wait for him to stop laughing.
The oh s**t moment? When the jurors came back to return a verdict, the same ROTFLWTFBBQ guy was elected foreman by the other jurors.
Verdict was not guilty.
#74Obligatory INAL, but in a pre-mediation meeting once for an uninsured motorist claim an insured had alleged that she couldnt walk without the aid of a cane and had a pronounced limp after an accident due to a low back injury and a shooting pain in her right leg.
The doctor notes didnt support anything but a subjective injury after a few weeks, but she was still treating 2 years later and going to new physicians. So, we had her followed covertly to see if she was really using the cane and had a limp, etc. We got footage of her carrying like 4 grocery bags in each arm to her car in a walmart parking lot, walking perfectly fine. When she got to her car she even opened the trunk of her SUV without putting any bags down and lifted the gate with her knee part way.
Her elderly mother was with her using a particularly decorative purple cane with a flower pattern on it.
They followed her to a doctor appointment an hour later and shes on video using her mother's cane and walking with a limp that would give Forrest Gump a run for his money.
Never did follow up on how that played in
#75My ex forgot why she was in court.
Not a lawyer, but fully two years after we dated, a crazy ex got a restraining order on me as revenge for saying her tattoos sucked. She said I'd sexually assaulted her and threatened to rape her. We go to court, she tells her side, judge picks at a couple holes in her story, then asks her (per the law on restraining orders) how she feels I am a threat to her safety, security, and privacy: "Nobody should be able to say that about my [tattoos]." The f**king idiot just finished saying I was a crazed sexual predator, and then completely forgot.
#76NAL, but had a few lawsuits that my family was subjected to that purposefully killed our family business.
We were being sued by my moms cousin, who was a lawyer, but not in our state (she couldn’t pass the bar in our home state and moved to a state where the testing was less rigorous), so she had a legal team of her own.
In the suit, she was claiming that our side of the family had embezzled funds from the business. Her mother, who was elderly but not yet senile, was called to the stand as their witness.
As she was being questioned about the heinous things that we had allegedly done, her responses were generally “No, they wouldn’t do that” and “R’s kids are nice kids. They’re the reason why the business is successful” and finally a “who keeps saying all of these awful things about them?”
Pretty sure that caused cousins lawyers to have an “oh s**t” moment. She lost that (and every other) suit that she brought against us.
#77Not a lawyer but this happened when I was at a pre-college "law school" thing.
We were going to the Court of Appeals near our law school, and right before we left the English teacher (who I'm sure was just there to make sure no one in the group of 30+ teenagers wasn't vaping in the back row) said to bring a pencil and pad of paper to the trials because, and I quote, "They're just so interesting, you know?". Fast forward to sitting in on a murder trial and there are signs everywhere saying that writing anything down was expressly prohibited. Then, the officer in the court room chewed someone not in our group out for writing stuff down (even though the stuff that person wrote wasn't related to the case) and then we all just turned our heads and stared at the teacher who told us to do just that, and the look on his face as he slowly slid the pencil and paper into his jacket pocket (so as to avoid getting caught) will be something I will never forget
#78I am not a lawyer, but I work for a lawyer.
Many years ago my home county went through an abrupt and involuntary change of judge when one of the sitting judges was suspended and disbarred for bad conduct. This process took months where our criminal docket was handled by a carousel of visiting judges from other counties who couldn't care less about our community and quickly came to resent having to fill in on the bench while our judge was prosecuted and the Governor went through the slow process of appointing a replacement.
It was standard for cases to just get set off or delayed. Our docket swelled and the jail emptied because very few people were being sentenced to jail. The visiting judges would grant low bonds, or OR bonds in all but the most serious felonies. Petty criminals who didn't negotiate a plea with the prosecutor, just reported back to court month after month with no disposition.
One afternoon an attorney presented for plea, a man accused of domestic violence for boxing his child's ears. This was to be a routine plea for probation and anger management. When the facts of the case were read before the latest judge, he looked up from the docket and pursed his lips. When the prosecutor announced the parties had reached a plea agreement and the conditions and asked the court to accept the plea agreement, the judge stated simply, "No." and directed the defendant to have a seat.
The defendant looked anxiously to his attorney as the judge outright rejected the plea agreement and sentenced the defendant to 30 days in jail.
Well, the defendant freaked out, as did his wife who loudly protested she needed the defendant at home working. The judge pointed at her from the bench and told her to shut it or she would spend 30 days down as well.
Well, the defendant's wife collapses into a weeping mess of bleach blonde hair and KMart coutour. The bailiff, who frankly looked surprised at being asked to do anything aside from remind people to remove their hat, escorted the defendant downstairs to the jail. THe attorneys, prosecution and defense, looked very much like two children who were in trouble, but they weren't quite sure why.
Once the shouts of the defendant faded into the belly of the courthouse and the sobs of the white trash in the back of the room slowed, the judge addressed the court.
"Look," he said, "I know you all have a deal. And you know I don't have to accept it. I can leave him down there for thirty days." 30 days being a more than reasonable sentence for misdemeanor assault on a toddler. The judge continued, "I just want to teach him a lesson, and I will. You see, when I was a kid, my Dad boxed my ears. He did it often and one day he did it so hard, I'm now deaf in this ear. I know you all think it's no big deal," he addressed the defense attorney, "and you're pretty used to getting away with sweet deals for a while now because you haven't had a judge." He leaned back in his chair and surveyed the courtroom. "But this one hit a nerve with me. And you can file whatever complaint you want later, but I'm just going to let that guy sit down there for a couple of hours and think about what he's done, then I'll bring him back up."
Well, we were stunned for sure. After months of just watching criminals come and go in a never ending circle of arrest, plea, probation, it was honestly a shock to see someone sentenced to jail at all, much less in such an abrupt fashion. Toward the end of the court day, they brought the ear boxer back upstairs. He got a lecture and tearfully promised never to box his kid's ear again. But seeing him go to jail like that, even just for a couple of hours, was a pretty big "oh s**t" moment.
#79So, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm a forensic case manager for an alternative-to-incarceration program. Basically our program accepts clients who have severe mental illness and instead of going to jail, they're mandated to mental health/substance abuse treatment instead, and my job is to follow them throughout the mandate, and be the point person for the court and their therapists. We go to court with them and talk with their lawyers and judge and provide a psychological evaluation. I have many, many stories and only been here about a year.
This one guy we had to stop working with even though we initially accepted him into our program. He was eligible for inpatient residential treatment because he was very sick and a violence risk. We referred him to places, and got a call from one saying they interviewed him, but they were rejecting him. Why? When asked to describe himself, he laughed and said, "I'm the murderin' type." Yeah, residential facilities don't like hearing that, bud.
Ok, one more. Our judge in our treatment court is really great. He's understanding that clients have relapses and instead of going straight to jail for violating their plea, he'll give them a warning or give them more time on their mandate. Usually, when clients are respectful and don't say dumb things. This guy, an old guy, at least 60, charge for selling his meds, comes up positive for cocaine after a couple months of his mandate. Ok, that's fine, we'll work with that. Unfortunately for him, when the judge asked about his urine positive and what happened, he said, "I was out partying, there was drugs, I wanted drugs." No remorse. He was made to go to more intense substance abuse treatment and added time to his mandate.
#80Bench trial of complicated commercial litigation case. We have up on the courtroom monitor a spreadsheet setting forth how much the Defendant owes us and our expert is going through it line by line. Defense attorney objects, stating that he was never provided with this spreadsheet in discovery, it wasn't on our exhibit list, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, leaning against the wall at DEFENSE table is a posterboard blow-up of said spreadsheet. Judge looks at the spreadsheet on the screen, looks at the blow-up, looks back at the screen, looks back at the blow-up and says pointing to the posterboard: Counsel, is that your exhibit there sitting at counsel table? Attorney: Yes, your honor. Judge: Isn't it exactly the same as the spreadsheet up on the screen? Counsel: Well, they've got an electronic version on the screen, the one on the posterboard is from a PDF. Judge, shaking his head in annoyance: Overruled. This idiot attorney objected to lots of exhibits in a similar way, some of which we pointed out were on his own exhibit list. We won, btw. ok
#81Two of my favorites (am a lawyer- do criminal defense)
First trial- I had called the Prosecutor numerous times trying to settle- witness was uncooperative and begging not to go to court but no dice. Had never spoken to my client (not ideal, can explain later if need be). Client was accused of domestic battery for grabbing someone’s arms and leaving bruises. Witness says nothing happened. Put my client up to say the same. I guess the prosecutor wasnt paying attention because as soon as he looks at the guy- he turns around and mouths- “he doesn’t have hands.” My client had Stubbs where as should have been and maybe a “finger” or two.... can’t grab anything. Not guilty verdict.
Second was my stupid mistake. Port-a-potty tipping case. I invoked the rule and sent all witnesses outside including the co-defendant in my case. I spaced and asked the kid witness if he recognized anyone else in the courtroom as being there when toilets were tipped. Luckily it wasn’t on the record but I felt like a giant idiot. Found guilty but beat the offer. Case was dropped on appeal because my client was arrested for felony assault on law enforcement and the state didn’t care about toilets anymore.
#82I was a family law paralegal and we had one case that was a total s**t storm. It was clear from a week in that the mother's only goal was to utterly destroy the father in any way she could. We wound up getting temporary custody for the father and actually went to trial because the mother refused to cooperate. The mother was representing herself so my boss said I could stop by and watch for a bit for the experience and to satisfy my own curiosity.
The mother called co workers of the father. I'm not sure why but she asked a female co-worker, "Isn't it true that you told (father) that you think I'm a b****?" My boss tried to object for relevance but it was too late. The witness looked the mother right in the eye and said, "Absolutely."
Needless to say, we won that one for the father. It's ten years later and the mother is still trying to get custody back. She hasn't seen the kid since he was in diapers, she just won't let her revenge plot go.
#83We were just sitting around because of delay of some sort. Over the course of about 5 minutes, about 8 heavily armored sheriffs deputies quietly shuffled into the room and everyone was told they need to sit real f**kin still until told other wise. Another three big boys lead in the defendant. Small Italian American gentleman in shackles. He was up on a few pretty boring fraud charges. I'm guessing he had friends on the outside who wanted to speak to him.
Also, there was the guy who called the male judge ma'am. He was funny.
#84Not exactly Court, I am Mexican and we have a conciliatory figure that tries to fix problems between consumers and providers. I was making practices so I actually never signed the confidentiality contract that every worker signs, but still gonna try to keep details at the minimum. So there was a consumer whose phone broke and he sent it to warranty. I had no details, but knowing this phone manufacturer in particular I knew they wouldn't validate the warranty. But still, I didn't expected what they said. "Warranty is voided because of misuse of the device. Our warranty policies dictates that any uncommon use of the device is qualified as misuse, this includes STORING IT ON YOUR POCKET, BAG, BACKPACK, OR ANY CLOSED NON-NATURAL ENVIRONMENT " . Needless to say, everyone in the room was shocked, at least. I really wanted the authority to punish them for so bulls**t policies. Before anyone worries, this is only on Mexico and this company in particular is known for a good customer service un the U.S.
#85Prosecuting a DV case a few years back, real lack of physical evidence so it was pretty much a she said/he said. Victim was to be my first witness during trial. I prepped her the Friday before trial. One of my standard prep lines is 'dress like you're going to a job interview.' I wasn't going to be able to see her the morning of trial before going on the record because she had a civil case in another branch during my jury selection.
Anyways, case begins, finish voir dire and openings. Call her to the stand. She walks in with incredibly done up braided hair, huge hoop earrings, shiny black pleather high heeled knee high boots, and a skin tight shiny black pleather dress that cut off a bit too far above mid-thigh. The moment she walked in the door, all three of my female jurors started covering their mouths and suppressing laughs. Lost the case that moment.
I've since changed my line to "dress like you're going to church with your judgmental grandmother."
#86Prosecuting a drive-by shooting. Had a big map printed out and asked the main eyewitness to point out where he was standing at the time of the shooting, so that we could show he was in a good position/distance to see the shooter. The map was maybe 3 feet away from the witness stand...witness said, “Can you bring that thing closer? I can’t see all that good.” Verdict: not guilty
Ninja edit: another great story about a totally different case. Fight between neighbors got physical. Neighbor 1 (Black) beat the s**t out of neighbor 2 (Asian), so neighbor 1 got charged. At trial, neighbor 2 was testifying about the argument. Actual quote: “I didn’t CALL him a nr, I said he was ACTING like a nr!” Prosecutor was a black man and was less than pleased that his “victim” in the case was such a dickwad. Not guilty verdict and both neighbors ended up getting no-contact orders.
#87Opposing party (tenant) accused my client (landlord) of putting cameras on the roof of the driveway to spy on the tenant’s family. Tenant specifically said she saw my client putting up the cameras. Except the roof is pretty high and my client is 5’0”. Got the opposing party to admit she lied under oath. Judge wasn’t too happy and scolded her.
Edit: Tenant who is about 5’5” said she (tenant) stepped on a chair on her tiptoes to remove the cameras. If that was the case, it was simply physically impossible for my client to mount any cameras according to the tenant’s testimony.
Edit2: On Cross-examination, tenant testified that landlord did not use a ladder or chair to mount the cameras. And then later also testified that she removed the cameras when I asked if she brought any pictures of the cameras. It was complete bulls**t so no, there was never any cameras.
#88Many years ago I was a puppy lawyer working in the Public Defender's office. We were in juvenile court defending a kid who had been busted by the cops in the very act of doing about $30k in vandalism damage to a public school. No doubt at all that he did it, and he was charged with varied and sundry crimes which all required proof that the damaged public school building was "property of another." You can see where I'm going with this. Everybody knows that a kid doesn't own the school, right? It's plain as can be, isn't it? It went down like this:
Prosecutor: The state rests.
Defense: We move to dismiss on the ground that the statutes defining the charged offenses all require proof that the damaged building was the property of another and there has been no evidence introduced to that effect.
Judge: You're right. Case dismissed.
Prosecutor: [Turning slightly pale as it sinks in.] But, but, but...
Judge: [Visibly angry that this a**hole kid is going to walk.] No, I can not and will not allow you to reopen your case. There has been no surprise evidence or trickery here - they haven't done anything but sit there all morning. No, I cannot take "judicial notice" to supply a needed element that's missing from your proof. We are done here. Case dismissed.
The prosecutor damned near broke the lectern when he slammed his notebook shut before stomping out of the courtroom.
#89Was in court going against a pro se plaintiff. He asked if I could argue his side of the case to the judge too.
It's tough being a pro se plaintiff unfamiliar with the legal system, and I legitimately felt bad for him, so I just politely explained that it would be a conflict of interest.
#90New Judge with a chip on his shoulder. Plaintiff called me to get an adjournment on a Summary Judgment Motion I had made- they wanted more time to submit opposition. I don't have a problem with this, but the Court refuses to accept the adjournment request over the phone and says we have to appear in Court the next day.
So I go and Plaintiff doesn't show up. When our case gets called, I request the adjournment and the Judge explodes on me- demands to know why, insists he doesn't grant adjournments, just yells for no reason in front of a courtroom full of attorneys. I tell him it's Plaintiff's request, and they are not there, they want more time... but he doesn't want to hear it and just says "request denied, call Plaintiff and tell them to get here by second call."
So my "oh s**t" moment is that I just won my case because the Judge decided to be a butt hole. I call Plaintiff and let them know what happened and they panic. They are about to lose their case. The Judge has to grant my motion, it's unopposed. There is no way they can get an attorney to Court in time.
So the case is called again, and again I'm the only attorney on the case. I go up to the defendant's table with the biggest s**t eating grin on my face and say "Your honor, I'm here on behalf of defendants with an unopposed summary judgment motion." Everyone that saw me get yelled at suddenly realizes what I was doing (getting yelled at for trying to be helpful), and what Judge's outburst meant (I win, suck it). The Judge has no choice but to soften and re-hear my request for an adjournment, and grant it.
Follow-up: Plaintiff's client died and the motion was never opposed or heard. When they tried to reactivate the case with an administrator, I reminded them that my motion was the first thing to get heard once the case was restarted. They actually read it, knew they had no chance of beating it, and discontinued against my client without ever having to argue the motion.
#91I posted this story before, but it's really good and many of you may like it.
My wife is a court clerk. She told me a story a court clerk friend of hers told her. DA has a shaky case at best against a defendant. Police were trying to pin a drug charge on a guy with literally zero evidence. The report read that a certain amount of weed and meth were found and recovered in the defendant's car, but the evidence was "lost". Guy maintains his innocence and has no priors. The defense attorney is destroying the officers on the stand for inconsistencies between their accounts and poor documentation on the official police report. The prosecution's ace in the hole was a part of the police report that read something to the effect that the police K-9 said there was marijuana and meth in the car. Rather than saying something like the police K-9 alerted the officers to the presence of drugs, it left the defense attorney no choice but to call the police K-9 to the stand to confirm its testimony. DA drops the case.
#92Im only in Law School at the moment, but i saw this happen when i was watching a summary (non-jury) trial in my home town about 3 years ago. It was a domestic abuse case, with the partner of the accused being examined. The prosecutor asked her to identify the person who she accused of attacking her and she refused, or said something along the lines of she didn't remember. She was clearly scared of the guy, but it seemed like she was trying to protect him on the stand for whatever reason.
Well, that was ruined after the second time she tried to protect him and refuse to identify, as the accused shouted out 'Im right here you stupid b****'.
#93Late to the party here, but as a law student we were allowed to make court appearances under the supervision of an assistant district attorney. I was doing arraignments and my ADA said "Don't talk to the judge unless he asks you a specific question."
So the judge and the defense attorney were going back and forth about when the next court date would be. The judge wanted a specific date, let's say 4/20. The defense attorney was adamant that she couldn't do that date. In my file, I had a calendar with a big X over 4/20 saying "Do Not Schedule". The judge and defense attorney go back and forth for several minutes, the judge wanted 4/20 and the defense attorney saying no. I was keeping my mouth shut because the judge hadn't asked me directly.
Finally, the defense attorney relents and agrees to 4/20. The judge turns to me and says "Do the People agree with 4/20?" At which point I say "Sorry your honor, but we cannot schedule for 4/20."
The judge looked at me for a second and then just ripped into me "Mr. Jones1, you just heard me and the defense go back and forth for several minutes about a date you knew the People couldn't do? Do you like wasting the court's time?" It went on like that for a few minutes, him just berating me in front of about 200 people in a court in Brooklyn. Finally after me apologizing profusely and him giving me a withering glare, we moved on and went to the next case.
At the next break, the judge said "Mr. Jones1, please approach the bench." I thought I was really in for it then. I walked up beside the bench, the judge came down to talk to me and said with a big smile "Don't worry about it, I was just giving you a hard time. Welcome to Brooklyn Criminal Court."
#94I have another one that I’ve just remembered!
Representing a guy accused of housebreaking. Managed to persuade the prosecutor that they couldn’t prove it, so they dropped the case at the intermediate diet (procedural hearing) before the case called in court.
Headed downstairs to the cells to break the good news to my client, who was remanded in custody. Have an idle glance at the details of the charge while I’m waiting for the cells staff to bring him out.
The house that was broken into was my (then) next door neighbour. ???
Client was delighted that he was getting out.
Him - “Aw cheers pal you’re the man - cannae wait tae get out”
Me - “No bother...right - see that place you definitely didn’t break into? I live next door, so gonna leave my house and car alone please?”
Him - “Aye sure pal - me an’ the boys go up there stealin’ all the time. What car d’you drive?”
I told him what kind of car it was. Needless to say, my car was broken into about three weeks later.
#95This will be buried, but it's a good story:
IANAL, but I represented myself in small claims court against a former landlord in a case of illegal eviction.
I was in University at the time, renting a top-floor room in a shared dwelling, with 2 house-mates on the same floor, and the landlord occupying the basement. We all shared the ground floor, which held the kitchen and living room.
One day, landlord come up to my room and tells me I have until 2 pm to clear out my stuff because I was being evicted. I had paid rent (on time) for 4 months, had provided a security deposit, and had never been in conflict with either of the housemates. All told, I was confused. Landlord refused to provide a reason for eviction, so I called the police.
The attending officer informed me that he couldn't compel landlord to let me stay, which I expected. I only wanted an official record of what happened on a police report.
So I sued landlord for the cost of my security deposit, rent that had been paid for the month I was evicted, the cost of having to find new lodgings on zero notice, the cost of the motel I stayed in until those lodgings were secured (it was mid-terms so I had to be in the city to be at school) and "damages" - all totalling around $3K (essentially I doubled my reported costs in the claim. In court it's better to ask for more and let the judge decide what's fair - as long as you don't come off as greedy). Landlord counter-sued for damages to property, of which there was none.
Come the trial, I had all documents, records and discovery provided by me and to me (from landlord) ready to go. Landlord came with idiot advisor who acted as counsel for landlord, no documents, and one witness. Landlord had tried to convince other housemates to testify against me in court, but they refused.
Anyway, the first "oh s**t" moment was when the idiot advisor actually said to the judge that they could do whatever they wanted with tennants, and had been doing so for years, and the judge bench-slapped this moron for not understanding the basic tenets of the Landlord/Tennant act (it has a new name, can't remember it).
The second was when the judge asked if landlord would take the stand to present their evidence, and idiot advisor informed the judge that landlord would not be taking the stand at all in order to plead their case, or refute mine. The judge actually said "well, I don't understand how you expect to win without presenting any evidence, but o.k..."
The third moment was when their witness took the stand. He was the handyman landlord called to do little things around the house. He painted the room after I was evicted. In cross, I asked him the cost of painting (less than half of the counter-suit) and, as he was called as an "expert" on the repairs required by the landlord, I asked if in his expert opinion repairs (painting) were necessary. He said no, but he painted anyway because landlord paid him to.
After their witness proved to be a better witness for me, the case was essentially over. The judge asked us to wait a moment as he pulled out a calculator. He looked up from the calculator and stated he found the case in my favour, and awarded me the actual costs I incurred, less the inflated damages (around $1800) which is exactly what I expected. I asked the judge for a ruling on their counter-suit, which brought my favourite "oh s**t" moment of the whole ordeal.
He said: "the suit against you is entirely dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to provide any evidence, testimonial or (something) at all to justify this eviction. Landlord is ordered to pay (x amount) plus all court fees associated with filing this suit." And after the official ruling was passed he said to the landlord, "I recommend you find a better advisor, because this guy (referring to moron advisor) has no idea what he's talking about."
It was beautiful.
#96This was told to me by a legendary trial lawyer in my area. I probably have some of the details wrong, but here is gist:
It was a personal injury case against the manufacturer of an industrial fan. It was supposed to be child safe, but a kid got their fingers chopped off. The manufacturer was claiming that the plaintiff was only injured because the fan had been modified from its original condition. The defense lawyers had an exemplar fan that was straight from the manufacturer. They brought in an expert and, on direct, had him explain how it would be impossible for this kid or anyone else to hurt themselves. The idea was that the guard mechanism would have prevented people's fingers from getting too close to the blades.He was a well-qualified witness and gave very compelling testimony on direct exam.
Unbeknownst to the defense lawyers or judge, the plaintiff lawyer had brought a very long extension cord and plugged in the "perfectly safe" fan. On cross exam he went over the expert's theories and had him say unequivocally that it is impossible for someone to injure their fingers on this fan if it is unmodified. The plaintiff lawyer then walked all the way across the courtroom, turned on the fan as high as it would go and began walking it towards the expert. It was loud, so he had to kind of shout over it. He definitely had the jury's full attention!
He gets right up to the witness and starts in on him, still half yelling due to the noise. "Show us, stick your fingers in!" "No!" "Come on, stick your fingers in!" "I don't want to do that!" The other side is jumping up to object, but the plaintiff lawyer is two inches from the expert yelling for him to stick his fingers in. The expert is looking terrified and shrinking away from the fan. The jury came back in favor of the plaintiff.
It's my favorite example of "show don't tell"!
#97I did jury service back in the 90’s in the U.K., a four day trial where an estate manager (dude in charge of the farms on a big landowners estate) was on trial for growing and distributing cannabis. The police had raided the greenhouses and surrounding land and found tonnes of weed in all stages of production. Dude claims that he is addicted to cannabis and because his tolerance is so high after smoking so much for so long that he can only get a buzz from the very tips of the plant, where the THC content is most intense. Asks the court to believe that he just discards the rest of the plant, doesn’t sell it, doesn’t even give it away, just destroys the rest of the crop. So it’s the last day of evidence, where both sides sum up their case and remind the jury of the salient points of what’s been said. Dude himself has been quiet and respectful throughout, smart suit, softly spoken, stuck to his answers. I’d say the jury is not buying his claim and as the judge reminds us, it’s not about whether we think it should be legalised, it’s not about whether we think he has even sold the remaining bits of his plants, all we need to find him guilty is to think that beyond reasonable doubt, he had at some point shared a single joint with a friend, and that that was enough to convict him for supply on the counts against him. So the jury isn’t buying his story but we are also looking at him thinking he’s quite old, isn’t doing anyone any real harm etc, is unlikely to be running a massive dealing empire. Then on that last day, the public gallery (which has been empty all week) is suddenly full of the most blatantly stonery stoners you’ve seen in your life. One of them is even wearing an Adidas “adihash” t-shirt. The jury files in, we sit down, we look at the public gallery and I think it’s safe to say we STARE at them. Defence barrister turns to see what we are looking at and visibly slumps, then glowers at the solicitor and hisses “REALLY???” Such an own goal.
TL:DR marijuana farmer f**ks up by letting his customers come to court