1. The girl who was caught red-handed:
"I had a client who was accused of taking a young woman's car, crashing it, and fleeing the scene. The girl said that she gave him the keys that night because she was drunk and 'would never, ever drink and drive.' Apparently she was not aware that I obtained a copy of her driving record, which showed she received a DUI a month after the incident. I still remember the look on her face when I handed it to her and said, 'Except for that one time you got caught a month later, right?'"
2. The kid who gave it away:
"I was reviewing the transcript of an interview where a child made incriminating statements against my client. At one point when discussing the allegations, the child used an odd word, but I didn't think much of it. A few days later, I was watching a video of the child interacting with their grandmother (who hates my client) from about a week before that interview. The grandmother used the exact same odd word in the exact context the child later used it. At that moment, it became clear that child had been coached."
3. The voicemail that sealed the deal:
"I was representing a mom in a petition for a restraining order against her boyfriend. Ten minutes before the hearing, my client says, 'I'm glad I'm going through with this. I can't deal with it anymore, and he's just getting worse. To top it off, he left me a drunken, ranting voicemail on Saturday.' We play the voicemail and it's a full two minutes of the ex-boyfriend screaming shit like, 'I should have fucking killed you when we were together. You were always such a bitch. I hope you burn to death in a fire.' Bingo. We sit, the judge asks if either side has additional evidence, and I ask for permission to play the voicemail. Ex-boyfriend — who didn't have an attorney — didn't object, so I played the whole nasty, two-minute rant in open court. He knew he was fucked. We settled the whole damn case then and there."
4. This sloppy, sloppy criminal:
"I got robbed at gunpoint in my home. He would have gone to prison anyway, but the kicker is that the shoes the guy wore to court were the same shoes he stole from my house. The judge asked if I wanted them back. I said yes. Judge made him take them off in court and walk back in socks. I donated the shoes, but it was more about the principle."
5. This cop caught on film:
"My favorite was probably a DUI where the cop was watching a fight in a Buffalo Wild Wings with my client. Like, the cop was standing at the bar in full uniform and followed my client out when he left. My client was actually only going to his car to grab his phone charger because he was going home with the bartender. The cop arrested him and charged him with DUI for opening his car door, then fabricated this story for his report about how he got in the car, turned it on, and began to pull out of the space to leave the parking lot. He also — on the stand, under oath, to my face — denied being inside the bar himself.
"Surprise! I talked to the bartender at the bar and got the security tape. It very clearly (like, surprisingly good quality) showed the cop standing at the bar, following my client, and my client barely touching the door handle before he was stopped."
6. The ~key~ to this case:
"A friend of mine was defending a guy who was asleep in the backseat of his car while intoxicated, and a NYS trooper arrested him. On the stand, the trooper testified that he visually saw 'the key in the ignition.' My friend gave him like three chances to walk it back before he dropped the hammer, saying, 'You are aware that my client drives a Toyota Prius, right?' They do not require a physical key in the ignition."
7. This very expensive noodle:
"I took my old landlord to court when I was in college. They stole my security deposit over bullshit claims that I trashed the place. Little did they know, I took pictures and video when I moved in and out. Their 'evidence' was a VHS-quality recording of going through a perfectly clean apartment in better condition than it was when I moved in, but then they opened up the top of the stove and found a single piece of elbow macaroni under it, holding it up triumphantly. That was the crux of their 'argument.' The judge was not amused, and I got all my money back plus my lawyer fees and the filing fee."
8. The ex that can't do math:
"My ex abused my kid. I withheld visitation and hired a lawyer. I offered supervised visitation with a plan to integrate regular visitation once he completed anger-management and parenting classes as well as had six months clean of all substances. When he was on the stand, he mentioned that he had been taking prescription meds for 10 years, to illustrate that he’s been on meds for a decade and never had a problem being a 'good' dad. Lawyer asked what meds, and he listed off a bunch (methadone, Klonopin, Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.). She asked why he began taking those particular medications, and he replied by saying he 'messed up [his] back last year riding [his] quad.' She asked him to repeat himself. He said it again. The look on her face was amazing. She said, 'So you’ve been taking large amounts of meds for 10 years? Due to an injury that happened two years ago?' The judge agreed with my request for supervised visits pending his completion of all the necessary steps. Ex never completed any steps, and kiddo hasn’t had to see him in four years."
9. The importance of attention to detail:
"I filed the lawsuit in January. We exchanged 'discovery' (each side sends questionnaires and gets carefully worded answers) over the next few months. The other side made a massive mistake on literally just the fourth out of 100-plus questions that I asked. It was a dog bite case, and every single time I asked about the bite, the response said something along the lines of, 'We admit to this and that, but we deny that our dog was involved in any dog attack.' Well, question four asked whether they admitted that their dog was not leashed on the day when it bit my client, and they simply answered, 'Admit.' Meaning, they admitted their dog was not leashed, AND they admitted that their dog was the one that bit my client. That was the ONE thing that was genuinely in dispute. They tried to argue that it was a mistake and they only meant to admit to the lack of a leash, but the judge held them to their word."
10. This crucial detail:
"The moment when I compared the scanned copy of the deed provided by the other side's lawyers with the original deed my client provided. The scanned copy had a witness signature, but the original did not."
11. The man who couldn't keep his mouth shut:
"In court for a restraining order, my ex was adamant that he had not nearly killed our daughter and that he did not, in fact, break into my house and point a gun at me the week prior. When he was told I was asking for a full indefinite order — which means zero contact EVER — he said to his lawyer, 'if this bitch gets that order, I'm going back to her house and I won't fail this time.' Sadly for him, his microphone was still on."
12. The woman who incriminated herself:
"We were defending a claim that had run into tens of thousands of pounds against our client (a holiday home), by a woman who had tripped over a speed bump while walking back to her caravan and had damaged her knee. The fall was genuine, but the question was whose fault this was. She claimed it was the holiday home's fault because she hadn't seen the speed bump due to low lighting, poor marking, etc. We were going through the various questions to her when our barrister asked how she knew the speed bump was poorly marked. She responded, 'Well, I remember thinking how it wasn't well marked when I was walking up to it.' Needless to say, it was a short day in court after that point."
13. The man who had no idea what he was talking about:
"I was prosecuting a parent termination case. The dad went on about how he has changed his life around and worked the AA program. I asked him what step he was on, and he proudly proclaimed step three. When I asked him what step three is, he had no idea. Then I asked him what step two was. Again, no idea. Needless to say, his parental rights were terminated."
14. This important slipup:
"My client was riding his motorcycle on a relatively calm street when this guy exited his garage without looking and ran over him. In deposition, the guy brought a witness who was with him in the passenger seat. The whole time, the witness maintained that my client was driving too fast and there was no time to brake the car. I asked him the same question a few times in different ways, making him tell the story again. In the fourth retelling, he — already a bit frustrated — let it slip, saying, 'Look, I’ve already told you. We were exiting the garage, and as soon as I lifted up from getting my cellphone on the car’s carpet'... He hadn't even seen the crash. There was no coming back from that."
15. The fractured facade:
"At a restraining order trial, it was essentially my client's word versus his regarding a sexual assault. He did a good job dressing up and acting very appropriate during most of his testimony. But then he was asked a series of open-ended questions and said something to the effect of, 'She kept coming up on me with that fucking pussy' during a lecture. As soon as he said it, a look came on his face and the judge's face, and everyone knew the ruse of respectable young gentleman had failed. I won."
16. And finally, this unforgettable mistake:
"We were in a five-week jury trial on a civil case. Big business dispute. About 15 witnesses later, the plaintiffs call their last witness — their damages expert. The whole time, the guy has a PowerPoint slide up that shows his damages figures. But as lawyers know, it’s just an aid for the jury and not actually evidence. Examination comes and goes, and the plaintiff passes the witness to us. I look at my boss. He looks at me. The witness literally never read his damages number into the record. There was no admissible evidence because even though he showed the number on the screen, he never said the number, nor admitted it into evidence.
"We didn’t ask the damages expert a single question. We moved for a directed verdict (asking the court to rule as a matter of law when there is no evidence) that they had submitted no evidence of any monetary damages. We won. It was more than $10 million, simply because he didn’t read the number."
Have you ever had an "AHA!" moment like this in court? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger as a result of domestic violence, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, you can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or chat with an advocate via the website.