21 Lawyers Revealed Their "Oh Crap" Moments From Court, And Let's Just Say It's Criminally Funny
"It was the only time I truly could not control my laughter in court."
A lot of people's only perception of a courtroom comes from what they see on legal dramas and Judge Judy. While those shows may not always accurately depict courtrooms, they do get people curious about the wild things that may go down in them.
1. "I represented a woman charged with multiple 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 asked, 'Detective Smith, you had a romantic relationship with Ms. Defendant, correct?' He responded, 'What? No!' and looked visibly offended. The judge looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I started freaking out because a large part of my argument was focused on the bias formed by their prior relationship. I tried again: 'Detective Smith, have you had a sexual relationship with Ms. Defendant?' As the Commonwealth rose to object and the judge began to scold me, the detective said, 'Oh, yeah. We’ve had sex; it just wasn’t very romantic.'"
2. "The 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.' It was the only time I truly could not control my laughter in court."
3. "I sat in on a personal injury case where the plaintiff broke their leg in an accident and had a doctor on the stand as an expert. The woman's lawyer began questioning the doctor about their experience with leg injuries. He was a well-known orthopedic surgeon in the area. She asked if he'd ever treated a 'tibula' fracture (keep in mind the leg bones are tibia and fibula), to which he only answered no. Then, she started grilling him with questions about the 'tibula.' After about seven questions, she asked, 'How did you get a medical license, and how have you been able to practice medicine this long if you've never treated a tibula fracture?' She then began a small rant about his credentials, to which he simply responded, '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."
4. "One guy frequently came through our office because of drug charges. He ended up turning himself in. Here's the deal: If you show up the night before, you're given a jumpsuit for your appearance. If you show up the morning of your appearance, you stay in your street clothes. This genius showed up that morning wearing a shirt that said, 'High as fuck.'"
5. "I was representing a podiatrist in a case involving an alleged foot injury from a surgery. The plaintiff’s surgery expert had a long report outlining various degrees between the bones found in a 'healthy' foot versus the ones that were 'messed up' in the plaintiff’s foot. The morning that he was going to be called, I was reviewing the report in a diner near the courtroom, and realized that he had based his ENTIRE report off of the foot that wasn’t operated on. We also had surveillance of the guy walking around and doing everything in his normal life just fine. After confirming this bombshell with my client and our expert, on cross-examination, I had their doctor walk through his entire report again, outlining every detail about every 'incorrect' angle in the 'injured' foot. Then I said, 'Doctor, I just have a couple of final questions. First, which foot was operated on again?' He said, 'The left foot.'
6. "So, this happened to my boss. 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 robbery I'm being heard for, but also several others in the region.' He continued to admit to several robberies that were unsolved, and everyone, even the state attorney, was majorly face-palming."
7. "My client was charged with assault for biting off someone's nose. I was cross-examining a witness for the prosecution. Me: 'Sir, did you see my client bite off this man's nose?' Witness: 'No sir, I did not.' Me: 'AHA! Well then how do you know it was my client who bit off this man's nose?' Witness: 'I saw him spit it out.'"
8. "I was representing my client during a sentencing for some petty burglary. The judge asked him if he had anything to say before he imposed the sentence. My client started, 'Your Honor, I just want to apologize.' I was thinking he was going to apologize for the burglary, like they always do. He continued, 'This morning, I tried to bring a knife into the courtroom.' It was fucking on the record before I could stop him. There was no way for me to strike it from the record. I still kick myself for that."
9. "I was representing a plaintiff in a hit and run case. The plaintiff was testifying, and despite all the preparations we went through, she was doing terrible. 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 real 'oh shit' moment came during cross examination. The defense counsel pulled out a Facebook picture of my client dressed up and ready to hit the club the day after the alleged accident had taken place. I quickly objected because the timestamp referred to when the picture was posted, not when it was taken. The defense counsel showed the picture to my client and asked her when the picture was taken. Sure enough, she said it was taken the day after the accident when she was supposedly in unbearable pain. Oh shiiiit."
10. "This was literally the first thing I ever did as a law student intern. This guy had a legitimate defense on a drug possession case. Drugs were found in a jacket, but the guy wasn't wearing a jacket. They were going to have a very difficult time proving the jacket belonged to my guy. I had a long meeting with my client and explained everything. The day of the preliminary hearing, the guy showed up and sat down directly in front of the officer who arrested him while wearing the jacket in question — the exact same jacket we were going to say they couldn't prove belonged to him."
11. "I was 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. The barrister started to make our case and I was taking notes about the areas we needed to further explore when I hear, 'EXCUSE ME, WHY WERE YOU SO RUUUDE TO ME?' The client, who had been told NOT to 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 three minutes while my co-counsel and I, stunned, tried to shut them up before the judge adjourned the hearing. The case did not go very well, to my client's surprise and fury. Big sigh."
12. "The judge said, to the suspect I was questioning, 'Wait a minute, a sweet, pretty little thing like you is single?' Oh shit."
13. "This happened to my former law partner. She was in court representing a client about a restraining 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!"
14. "The person I was representing was on trial for assault in the third degree and a DUI. In my state, assault in the third degree means you've assaulted an aid worker or police officer, which is a felony. The allegations were that he was very verbally abusive to the officers and, at one point, kicked one in the face. We were sitting at the defendant's table, and the officer was testifying about the statements my guy made to him, including some pretty horrific name-calling. Out of nowhere, my client screams, 'You're a fucking liar! Fuck you, you son of a bitch!' 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 shit my pants, but he laughed and said, 'I'm joking. No.'"
15. "Unfortunately I’m not allowed to say too much, but basically, on charges of growing marijuana, he stated he was growing 'herbs for medicine' (and gestured air quotes with his hands), and then whispered, 'I kid you not, Marijuana.' Bro..."
16. "I was prosecuting a drive-by shooting. I 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, and the witness said, 'Can you bring that thing closer? I can’t see all that good.' Verdict: not guilty."
17. "I was quickly interviewing one of the defendants I was going to represent, and I decided I liked him. He was a pretty cheerful, chatty dude. I figured if he kept that up, we'd be just fine. As soon as he got into the courtroom, he began telling the judge why he should be released with no bail. The judge asked him to remain quiet and to let his representative make his case for him. Immediately, my client started ranting about the First Amendment and his right to speak. I leaned forward to the little hole in the glass box and repeatedly began whispering, 'Shut the fuck up,' to him. The judge had a hard time keeping a straight face, 'You should listen to your defender.' Unbeknownst to me, the microphone in the box was picking up my frantic whispering, and the entire courtroom heard me telling him to shut the fuck up."
18. "My 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."
19. "I was a newly minted legal aid lawyer ready to ride in on my white horse to enforce a protective order for a woman whose abusive ex-boyfriend wouldn't stop calling her, despite having been court-ordered to do so in a previous case. He had called her dozens of times in a single day, called her mom, called her workplace, and called her friends. We had phone records. I presented our case, thinking it was a slam dunk. The ex-boyfriend's lawyer got up with rebuttal evidence. Earlier the morning of the phone calls, my client had driven to her ex's workplace, taken a baseball bat to his car, smashed in all the windows, and left a note taped to his steering wheel about how that was what he got for leaving her for 'that skank.' She had mentioned none of this to me in the client interview. That was the day I learned to talk to opposing counsel BEFORE the hearing starts."
20. "My mom is a public defender. She was once defending this kid because he'd been accused of stealing something. When they were walking out of the court, one of the other lawyers noticed that her phone was missing. They later found out that this kid took the phone while he was walking out of the court. When asked about it, he said that he didn't know about the phone. He even accused my mother of taking it."
21. Finally: "This was my first jury trial, and the charges were pretty serious. I was cross-examining the alleged victim, and in answering my question, she said, 'Oh yeah, I lie all the time!' Needless to say, I won that trial."
Do you work in a courtroom? Have you ever sat on a jury? What's the wildest or most jaw-dropping moment you've ever experienced? Tell us in the comments, or tell us your story anonymously using this form.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.