No matter how airtight a lawyer's reasoning may be, all it takes is for the client to utter one absurdly stupid sentence to unravel the whole thing. These lawyers were shocked at what exactly these clients didn't think were worth mentioning. At least they could bill by the hour. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I'm a court appointed attorney for qualifying individuals in family matters. This was a termination of parental rights case. I had been fighting to argue that my client is stable, working lawfully, has a suitable apartment, doesn't need psychotropic meds anymore, and is ready to be a parent. After a few months of negotiating with all the parties and the Department of Children, we have a pre-trial to try to convince the legal guardians. I meet with my client before the hearing to see if anything changed. 'Nope, all good, let's get my kids.'
Great, that's not happening today, but let's try. We get going in court. My client, who is super hot-headed and quick to anger, gets riled up and goes off on the guardians. She is screaming in open court. It doesn't end there. She reveals that she is no longer working, no longer staying in an apartment, and doesn't want to have a relationship with the guardians despite her kids loving them. She refuses to send her kids pictures of the toys that they left with her (she won't return them), and she plans on moving out of state. She thinks they can live as a family off of state aid when she gets her kids back. AND she is four months pregnant. This information was revealed in a matter of fifteen seconds. I was too shocked to even react.
She was clearly not the image of stability and parental fitness I've been trying to paint since last July. This client was working really hard to get everything right, and legitimately had everything going for her prior to this hearing. I was not making false representations or trying to get a monster reinstated. This was a true bombshell, as I did my due diligence to make sure things were on the up and up and statutory requirements were met. Things fell part very fast apparently. This was a very atypical situation, parents typically do a really good job working hard to meet their requirements."
"Our client was a home health care worker for the elderly and home bound. One of her clients left his estate to her when he passed away, about a year after she was hired. The surviving family was upset and sued her for undue influence. From everything our client said, they just got along really well. She quit working for her company to care for him full time, they went on small trips together, and were together every day. In contrast, the surviving family was only a great niece who lived several states away and hadn’t spoken with the deceased in a decade prior to his death. So we thought we had a legit case of a man expressing his appreciation for the woman who cared for him in the last two years of his life.
Towards the end of the deceased’s life, he began making plans to change his will and leave his property to our client. In several produced emails, she 'joked' that they should just get married and avoid the hassle. Cue the accusations that she’s a gold digger. So we stress to her that they’re going to come at her from this angle and she needs to be prepared. Before her first deposition, we prep our client for days. She is a little out there, and her demeanor in general is rather off-putting, so we went above and beyond in preparation. There was nothing we didn’t ask her a hundred different ways and times.
During the first ten minutes of the deposition, our client is asked about her marital history. She states she’s been married three times, which we knew. She then goes on to say that SHE HAS BEEN ENGAGED ELEVEN TIMES BUT ALWAYS BROKE IT OFF BECAUSE THEY DIDNT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO SUPPORT HER LIFESTYLE. To top it off, she states that while she’s never been arrested, she did spend two weeks in jail for contempt for refusing to obey a judge’s orders and hiding evidence in a previous lawsuit. She spends the rest of the next 16 hours (during two days) alternating between arguing that she doesn’t remember basic information like her phone number, and insulting opposing counsel and calling him names.
Multiple times during breaks and such, we ask her what is going on, tell her to calm down, and review everything we went over to no avail. Finally, I end up in the restroom at the same time with her, and I watch her pop a handful of pills for her 'anxiety'.
Ever watch a $4 million case go up in flames because your client is crazy? It was a rough day, and that woman still owes me $10k."
"The company I worked for at the time was doing due diligence before acquiring a small tech startup. The COO of the tech startup was a well-liked guy in the company, friendly, and outgoing. Though we had heard rumblings that the COO was rather hands-on with the work and with female employees. Apparently there was a walk-away package proposed to the COO that would let him keep a sizable portion of his post-acquisition bonus, because a young woman who worked in their sales department had filed HR complaints against the COO and obtained counsel.
I sat in on the meeting with the COO and the company's retained lawyers while they grilled him about his contacts with the young woman. The COO denied ever having contact with her without multiple other people present (and those people said his behavior toward her in the meetings didn't raise any flags). The COO emphatically denied having any contact with her outside of work. The lawyers asked the question a half-dozen different ways, and each time the COO denied any out of work contact.
Later we meet with the woman and her lawyer with the COO not present. Her lawyer gives us a rather graphic card that came with a bouquet of flowers addressed to her from the COO. The guy had an account with a florist linked to his credit card. When the company-retained lawyers confronted him he said, 'But I never had contact with her. It's not like I delivered the flowers myself!'
COO got terminated for cause, so no walk-away package for him. At her request, the woman was given PTO until after the acquisition, then moved to another one of the companies under our umbrella."
"We had clients who said the bank wrongly foreclosed on their house. The wife provided bank statements (their checking account was in a different bank than their mortgage), showing that they had made their payments every single month for the past several years. I checked through each one to make sure they all showed payments and looked good. There was also proof that the notice of foreclosure was never actually delivered to them. The bank was baffled. Expert witnesses we talked with confirmed that during the recession, a lot of banks' record-keeping had really gone down-hill, and a wrongful foreclosure could definitely result from that.
We got to mediation, and the first thing the bank comes back with was that upon close examination, they had noticed one tiny error on the bank statements, so they were calling off mediation and subpoenaing statements from the bank itself to check against our clients' statements. Our clients were upst, and so were we. So what if the bank had made a tiny error?
The opposing side got the subpoenaed statements a couple weeks later and sent them to us, and I had the joy of comparing them. I quickly noticed that there were differences between the ones from our clients and the subpoenaed ones in the 'electronic withdrawals' section. Our client had used a PDF editor to delete an entry in that section on every statement, add the mortgage payment, and then adjust the totals, carrying them over each month.
We approached our clients about it, and we said, 'These look forged. We can drop the case or you can explain what the issue is.'
The wife said, 'We should probably drop the case.'
She never confessed to us about forging them, but without a doubt, she had forged them. Her husband had no idea. He actually wasn't on the call where we accused her of the forgery, and he called a few weeks later asking for a case update. That was not fun telling him his wife had lied to him for the last year and a half. The opposing side said they'd be okay with us dropping the case as long as our clients paid their attorney fees. Our clients were happy to do that. It's actually very lucky the defendant bank didn't try to get them charged criminally."
"There's a rule you're supposed to follow when questioning trial witnesses, and that rule is to never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Despite this rule, lawyers often ask small, apparently inconsequential questions which are necessary to set the scene, but are so inconsequential or obvious that their answers are fairly presumed. This case was an exception to that general presumption.
The defendant was arrested on a warrant and transported to jail. After booking him into jail, the officer returned to his vehicle and discovered a baggie of illicit substances sitting right in the middle of the backseat. The defendant was charged with possession.
At trial, the officer explained that he routinely searches his vehicle before his shift starts, and after any time he transports someone in the backseat. The defense attorney tried to poke holes in the story but the officer's testimony was remarkably consistent. The officer was fastidious about checking his vehicle. The appearance of the substances coincided with the defendant's presence in the vehicle.
Then, as the defense attorney was running out of questions, he threw out THE question: was there anyone else in the backseat of the vehicle. It was a Hail Mary. Even when there are multiple arrests, police tend not to transport more than one person at a time if they can help it. There was no reason to believe anyone else could have feasibly been in the backseat with the defendant.
Though it's no surprise to you, the defense attorney and prosecutor were stunned when the answer came back as 'yes'. Turns out, the defendant was with his girlfriend when he was arrested, and the officer courteously agreed to drive her to her apartment before taking her boyfriend to jail. This fact was not included in the police report, the officer never told the prosecutor, and, shockingly, the defendant never told his attorney. There was a palpable pause as this fact sunk in. Since there was another person in the back seat, there was more than enough reasonable doubt.
Proofs were concluded and the prosecutor threw out a half-hearted closing. The not-guilty verdict was a given. Because of this case, I learned to never assume a fact, no matter how obvious it may seem."
"So as a public defender, you get assigned to a case, and you get a file that generally consists of the police report and any witness statements that may have been taken by the police and/or DA. Because the State has a duty to disclose evidence to the accused's counsel, if they know of the existence of video surveillance, generally the DA would stamp in the report 'KS/WP' (Known Surveillance/Will Provide).
I get a routine destruction of property case, where my client is accused of destroying a computer monitor. The officer's account of the case was simply 'Surveillance reviewed. Client taken into custody,' stamped with the red KS/WP. The client called and sounded much more reasonable than she would turn out to be. She calmly explained it was a wrong place wrong time issue, where she was passing through and tripped to hit the computer at a receptionist desk. So we schedule an initial meeting for Friday.
Friday comes around, and about ten minutes prior to the client's arrival, a runner from the DA's office delivers the CD with the video. Being a bit busy at the time, I figured I'd watch it with the client when she arrived. She arrives and again, seems just fine. I mention that we have the surveillance and could go ahead and review it, and she pleasantly agrees. She and her reasonably well-dressed husband come in, joke a bit about how awkward this all is, and sit down across from me. I turn the monitor around so we can watch what happened. In the five minutes of surveillance provided, The first four minutes were a mundane scene of a receptionist answering phones with a pair of double doors behind her. I fast-forward. Then, cue the music.
I watched my client kick open a pair of double doors, screaming at whatever was on the other side. She leaves. She returns, screaming again, and re-enters the double doors. Then I see security guards gently escorting her out, as she is screaming at them. Security stops at the double doors. My client goes over to the reception desk. She leans over the counter to, you guessed it, grab the computer monitor, take it over her head, and bring it smashing to the ground. She gives the finger to security and leaves.
We watch the next thirty seconds in stunned silence, and the tape goes black. Now, I knew enough to watch my clients reaction during this, and she was a total statue. Didn't move. Stared at the screen with the smile of someone who has killed before. Probably.
Then she turned to me and said, 'So, what are you gonna do about this?'
I didn't know what to say, so I just kind of stared at her. 'Well, uh, probably work on a plea deal. Hopefully you pay them and get a couple of hour-'
'I didn't do it,' she stated
'Well, yes you did. I just watched it.' I respond.
She stands up and without breaking eye contact, grabs my computer monitor, lifts it up, and smashes it on the ground. She picks up her purse and walks out. Her husband follows, but he turns to me in my doorway and gives me the finger, shaking his head in a 'for shame' kind of way. I did not take the case."
"It wasn't my client, but the son of the opposing party (and presumably the party himself) who lied about being blind to make himself seem more sympathetic as a witness. We didn't know either until he took the witness box, their counsel asked him to take the oath, and he picked the card up and read it.
It later turned out that he'd driven to court too. They had been demonstrably dishonest throughout the case. At one point, they tried to claim adverse possession of the land in question, a squatter's dispute over some farmland. They said it had been lived on for more than twenty years. Really, they had owned the house next to the land for nine years, before which belonged to our client. The whole thing was just a cartoonishly dishonest attempt to steal a chunk of land.
Faking blindness was the cherry on top of a series of ridiculous events. The judge dismissed the whole thing in our client's favor shortly after. I was a trainee at the time, but my boss, who was in her late sixties then, said it was the most ridiculous case she'd ever handled."
"I was on trial for domestic violence charges from my wife (now ex), where she claimed I had thrown white paint on my car and proceeded to beat her up.
What happened was that we were arguing, she was destroying my things and throwing them out the window. I told her I was done and so she decided to throw rocks at my car, tried to pick up a rock the size of my head to smash through the windshield. When that proved too heavy she grabbed a one-gallon paint can to throw at my car. As she tried to throw the paint can at my car, I stopped her and tossed the can aside, at which point, she tried to attack me with an ice-scraper.
At this point, I restrained her and sat on top of her until she calmed down. She did, I let her go, and she ran to the busted open paint can, scooped up paint with her hands and threw it at my car. She then went back to the house. I went to the front door to ask for my things so I can get the hell out of there. She tried to kick me in the balls but I caught her foot and held it, telling her to freaking chill. She tugged to get her foot back, and ended up hitting her foot on the door frame. This caused a slight cut and bruise.
Well, I left and she called the cops saying I was beating her up and such. We go to trial, I defend myself, and she tells her story of the battered wife. That I was beating her up, threw paint at my car, and I slammed her foot in the door frame. At the trial, my lawyer pulls out the pictures of my black car covered in white paint and asks if I threw paint at my car. She of course says yes, but then my lawyer pulled out pictures the police station took of her to document her 'injuries.'
They were front and side views of her, but you can tell her hands were covered in white paint like gloves. Plus, it came out that she was cheating which was the original reason we were arguing in the first place! The jury acquitted me, and it was funny that I met the jury foreperson in the elevator as I was leaving the courthouse.
She told me, 'We decided to let you go because you need a divorce.'"
"When I was a law student, I interned for a judge. One of the cases we were observing was an illegal lockout case, where this owner of a franchise location for an international café company claimed the landlord/owner of the right to issue franchises in the US (happened to be the same guy) just one day locked him (franchise owner) out. The landlord had claimed the franchise owner was selling unapproved merchandise with the company’s logo on it. For two days, all we’re hearing is about these cups the plaintiff allegedly made. The argument was that counterfeit merch violated terms of the franchise, and lease, which meant terminating both.
Finally, the landlord is on the stand. The defense attorney pulls out a shopping bag as he’s about to introduce evidence. The other interns and I are so excited, for two days we’ve been hearing about these freaking cups. However, the landlord suddenly can’t remember where he got the cups from. In response to one question, he says he got them at the café, in another he says the corporate office gave it to him. Since he raised doubt about the source of the cups, the judge wouldn’t let them in, and we never got to see them. The defense attorney had to sadly put the bag away back into his briefcase.
So yeah, lesson learned. Prepare your freaking witnesses, especially when you’re trying to introduce critical evidence."
"It was a 'simple' bond hearing on a bad check case ($5k - so a felony). The biggest issue with this was that the judge just wants to be sure my client will come back for the new court date. I had just been hired the evening before by the client’s crying and panicked wife, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with him until right before the hearing.
That morning, I asked if he had ever been in trouble before. He had some minor charges in the past but those had been resolved. He was now in his 40s and said he had been clean.
So far, we’re golden.
Me: 'Have you ever failed to appear in court before?'
Client (after some thought): 'Way back in college, I missed one court date because I was stupid. But that was it.'
Me (concerned about his pause): 'Are you sure?'
We’re good. Economic crime, established in the community, has been out of trouble for years, only missed one court date...this should work.
We get before the judge and I present my case for the bond. I go through my notes, present my argument, and the judge is patiently listening to my presentation. When I’m done:
Judge: 'So this Failure to Appear was just because he was an irresponsible college student?'
Me: 'Yes, your honor. He now understands the importance of meeting his obligations with the court, including appearing when required. That was just a youthful mistake.'
Judge: 'Very well. I understand. Can you explain the other nine Failures to Appear that also show up on his record?'
I went from calm confidence to embarrassment to barely controlled anger to what I hoped was a neutral expression. I looked at the client, and clearly, the now 10 Failures to Appear were not as surprising to him as they were to me.
Since he was pulling off the calm, confident look much better than I was, I turned back to the judge and said, 'I think he’s in a better position to explain those right now.'
We got through the hearing. The judge was mad, I was mad, and he was just as calm. Although he was finally able to get a bond, he had to borrow money from his family since he had to put down a lot more money than he expected.
Don’t lie to your attorney!"
"It was a typical appointment/interview with the Immigration Committee in order to grant my client a residence permit. He was marrying a woman in my country with my country's nationality, and this is a legitimate reason to be granted a residence permit. So it was a typical procedure.
At least that's what I thought.
The Committee is bored to death and we all want to be over with it, so they ask him all typical and boring questions, like how did they meet, where they live, etc. (They ask these things to identify white/false marriages).
At some point, they ask him if he was married before and he says 'Yes, back in my home country and I am still married actually, never got a divorce'
What the heck?
I was stunned. Double marriage is forbidden in my country. And he never bothered to mention this detail to me, neither to the other lawyer when we asked him. He later told me he said the truth because he was afraid to lie in front of a Committee.
An honest and stupid man.
I got all my money though, yet we had to find another way to gain a residence permit."