Lawyers of Reddit were asked: “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve seen take place in front of the judge?” These are some of the best answers.
1. Saw one defense attorney demonstrate twerking during closing arguments of an “assault with intent to kill” trial.
2. A guy was getting sentenced for stealing and the judge asked him if he had anything to say before sentence was passed. These are the words he chose to utter: “Your honor, if I’d known they was watching me, I never would have done it.”
3. DUI/DWAI/Drug defendants show up to criminal court with beer/weed/[screw] the police t-shirts constantly.
4. I’m doing jury selection on a civil case in California. It is going to be a long trial 6 weeks so the Judge is giving jurors a lot of latitude if they claim any hardship for serving that long.
After about 30 minutes of voir dire (which ended up taking 3 days and several panels) one guy stands up and says in very broken English that he can’t follow. The Judge asks him if he speaks English well enough to render a fair verdict and he looks confused and says, “No”.
The judge thanks him for his service and dismisses him from the panel. In perfect English (accent now gone) he says, “Thank you very much your honor. Where should I put my badge before I leave?”
Judge found him in contempt and ordered him to stay for Jury duty for the next week.
5. People finding religion in front of a judge at sentencing. The judge would always respond with, “God may have forgiven you, but the State has not.”
That judge was a boss. Firm, fair, and a total [champ].
6. We had an elderly local attorney introduce an exhibit into a divorce hearing. Of course, we object to it. Somewhere in his argument into why it should be admitted, he got turned around and started objecting to his own evidence.
7. I was working for the DA’s office and we had a guy scheduled to appear for a vandalism charge. The guy had a long history of minor offenses, but the judge was in a lenient mood that day, so the guy was probably going to get off light.
At the scheduled time, he hasn’t shown up. His lawyer tells the judge he hasn’t heard from the defendant that day. We wait. 10, 20, 30 minutes. At the half-hour mark, the judge is furious. She angrily tells the lawyer to get out and find his client and get him before her, no matter what it took, or she’d rain hell down upon the defendant. An hour later, the lawyer slinks back into the courtroom. The judge sees him and interrupts another lawyer to call him up to the podium. The poor lawyer proceeds to tell us that the defendant didn’t show up because he was actually sitting in jail two counties over, having been caught trespassing the night before.
Needless to say, that defendant got the book thrown at him.
8. At the end of a DWI trial (involving a pretty major wreck) in which the defendant was found guilty, the judge asked the defendant if he had anything he wished to tell the court during the sentencing phase. The guy thought for a second and said, “Your honor, I’m real sorry, normally I drive a lot more careful when I’m drunk.”
9. I was in front of a judge for oral argument and the other side (pro per) failed to show up. The judge called him and made him argue against our motion while driving and on his cellphone.
The judge spoke for a minute setting up the arguments for the guy (basically leading him to the core argument and what he should be saying if he wanted to get our motion denied). After a few moments of silence, the guy responds: “Judge, I’m too stupid to understand what you just said.”
That ended the argument quickly and in our favor.
10. We all forget to turn off our phones in court, but I once faced off against a lawyer whose phone rang right while he was in the middle of making his final submission to the Judge.
Even that might have been forgivable if he hadn’t interrupted his submissions to take the call.
11. We once had a client who was arrested for fraud. The problem was his arrest warrant was riddled with errors; half the time his name was changed to someone else’s, the dates were wrong, and it ended by declaring the arrest warrant on the basis of robbery, not fraud.
The client was actually (egregiously) guilty of committing fraud, but he walked a free man because here the arrest warrant has to be written with the accused’s full name, the exact crime he is being accused of and the date and place of said crime.
12. Attorney: When was the last time you did drugs?
Defendant on stand: checks watch
13. Seconds after being served with a Protection from Abuse order, opposing party flipped off the person who had obtained the order, and, seconds after that, approached her and asked if they could at least talk about it. Promptly arrested.
14. Client said to judge: “Well that’s your opinion.”
It went as badly as you’d expect.
15. During the direct examination of the defendant the PD kept asking leading questions. After five or so sustained objections in a row the judge had enough and sent the jury out of the room to yell at the PD.
About 10 minutes later during the cross, the judge again sent the jury out to yell at the defendant for trying to tell his story instead of just answering yes or no questions (not to mention he was clearly lying through his teeth).
Also, the defendant was recorded committing the crime. So yeah, he was later found guilty.
16. A lot of clients want to speak up and say, “But judge, you don’t understand”, but giving them the look of death and a jab in the ribs usually shuts them up pretty quickly. They’re usually pretty okay. I found this gem doing some research one day (quoted from the case):
“As is evident from the foregoing excerpt from the transcript, the judge would not permit the appellant to speak to the issue of judicial bias. The appellant was agitated. The judge was, no doubt, frustrated. This exchange culminated in the appellant choosing to disrupt the proceedings by commencing to disrobe. The appellant described her actions to the judge as a form of non-violent protest which would continue until the judge would hear her motion for judicial bias.”
Wish I was there for THAT one!
17. Had a client toss his car keys on the defendant table moments before sentencing for his fourth OWI. Judge asked how he got to court. Without blinking said, “I drove, why?”
Good way to get a quick bail jumping charge for violating his ‘no driving’ bail condition.
18. I had a case where I was suing a lesbian on behalf of her former lesbian partner (it was a relationship property case). The one who was being sued put in issue whether they had even been lovers, or whether my client was just a flatmate or boarder in her home for the several years they lived together.
I had no idea how I was going to prove that but it turned out my client had saved all of the soppy love notes that her partner had left on the fridge, most of which were ‘I love you, you little squishy oyster’ and other ribald descriptions. That issue sunk pretty quickly once the box of those were produced.
19. During a jury voir dire for a traffic ticket a pro se defendant began by saying, “I’ve made a significant amount of money in the oil industry and decided to open a car dealership…”
I kept track of the number of times that guy lost an objection, it was 77 times during a 2.5 hour trial.
20. A guy trying to get leniency on his 4th driving on revoked told the judge, “Your dad and my dad were cousins. We are family!” Aside from the fact that that situation would also make the judge HIS cousin, in a small county, everyone is cousins far enough down the line.
21. My “mentor” and boss continually picks his nose in court. I am continually horrified.
22. A man called the judge by only his last name, which is great if you think he’ll reciprocate the upcoming “fist bump.”
23. One of my pro bono clients pulled out nail clippers and proceeded to clip her nails during oral argument.
24. On a hearing regarding a restraining order requested against him, a man raised the defense of, “B***h be trippin’.” Restraining order granted. God bless General Sessions Court.
25. During a plea hearing on a prostitution charge, the State proceeds to give the narrative of events. The SA starts to get a little uncomfortable trying to describe the specific act that led to the arrest, we all know what he wants to say, but he’s trying to find a nice way to say it for the record.
He finally goes, “Where she then, uhh, proceeded to perform, uhh, fellatio…”
As soon as he says “fellatio,” the defendant stands up and straight up yells, “I didn’t do any of that French [stuff]! I gave him a blow job!”
26. We had a defendant bussed into the court from the local jail. His case was called and he promptly walked up the podium, looked the judge dead in the eye, and [crapped] his pants (err… jumpsuit).
He knew he was going back to prison and just wanted to cause as much havoc as possible. People were gagging and there was a general sense of “did that just happen?” in the air.
27. The prosecutor’s response when the judge ruled a document would not be admitted into evidence: “But your honor…. we need that!!!”
28. My favorite was a defense attorney in our courtroom giving his sentencing colloquy. This was for a charge of sex with a minor.
The attorney claimed that the defendant and the victim started out as friends, and then “sex just broke out.”
The judge responds, “What, like a rash?” The defense attorney didn’t have much to say after that, which was surprising by itself.
29. Attorney: Did you call the defendant a busted b****?
Witness: Yes, I did because she was going to jail.
Attorney: Thats not nice, is that a nice thing to say?
30. Was in court during a sentencing and the defendant (not my client) approaches the bench with his attorney. The Judge begins to go through the sentencing colloquy and the man says: “F*** you, Judge.”
The Judge, a female, was pretty shocked and just said, “Excuse me?”
“I said f*** you Judge, ain’t no woman told me what to do in my life. Sentence me to whatever.”
She just sat there dumbfounded for a second then: “Alright fine Mr. ____ I hereby sentence you to life in the penitentiary.”
“Well that sounds f***ing fantastic.”
Defendant was already doing a life without parole sentence and had this charge pending when he received his first sentence. He knew he was basically untouchable and no matter what the Judge did his sentence could never get.
31. When I was a public defender, I represented a woman in felony DUI trial…it was a felony only because her license was already suspended when she got the DUI. Her BAC was .30 (yes, not .03) and there were empty vodka bottles rolling around her car. I found case law that said the state must prove she actually received notice that her license was suspended in order to charge it as a felony. On my motion after the state’s case, again after the defense’s case, and again after the jury verdict, the judge grudgingly had to dismiss the felony part because the state couldn’t prove the woman ever received notice that her license was suspended. The judge made a very clear record, however, that the conviction for DUI was solid and unaffected by dismissing the felony. Whatever, we beat the felony, which was the difference between 4 months in prison and 24 hours in county jail.
That’s not the dumb part. This woman was [weird] and swore she wasn’t drunk ([actually] she was drunk every time I ever talked to her), and no one would dismiss her case. She filed a lawsuit against the Public Defender’s office, my supervisor personally, me personally, the County Superior Court, and the judge personally. She would show up at the courthouse every day to “read her file” and harass the court staff. The judge eventually barred her from coming to his court without written permission. She started wearing wigs and big hats and sunglasses to skulk around his court unrecognized. No idea what happened to her after that.
32. I was arguing a case should be dismissed because a decade long delay. Sketchy opposing counsel says to me, where’s your authority to show that delay is long enough? Judge says right here, case dismissed and points to his file.
33. We had an expert witness testifying about gunshot residue. He was asked about how long such residue would remain on a given surface. His response, before the Court: “Well, I like to say it’s like the difference between love and herpes – herpes lasts forever.”
34. The dumbest thing I’ve seen is a guy show up for not doing his community service in a shirt that said, “I’m not lazy, I just don’t like to work.” Judge asked him about it and he said it was his only clean shirt.
Everybody had a good laugh even the judge.
35. I worked at divorce law firm and had a client who was a professor at an Ivy League college. He had basically bought a mail-order bride. He had a prenup drafted before they were married and then had his wife sign it without any translator present.
He was surprisingly pissed when the judge did not uphold the prenup. On top of that he unknowingly made fun of the judge’s alma mater on the stand by saying “I would never go to a place like, ::insert judge’s alma mater here:: I deserve way better than that.”
Yeah, we lost that case.