13 Lawyers Talk About Worst Way They’ve Seen People Get Screwed Over in Court

©Unsplash,David Veksler

I’ve said many times in my life that I really hope I never get in trouble with the law or have to go to court for any reason whatsoever because the whole justice system pretty much terrifies me and I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

So far, so good on my end…

But the fact is that a lot of people get royally screwed over in court. Sometimes it was their fault, sometimes it wasn’t

Here are some interesting answers from AskReddit.

1. You blew it!

“My client screwed them-self.

I’m doing landlord tenant stuff and my client was facing eviction over non-payment, but the client was withholding rent payments because of habitability issues in the apartment, no heat, high lead levels, vermin. This is gonna be an easy win for me.

Told my client continually to make sure they don’t spend the money, keep it but don’t spend it. Because if you show the judge you still have the money it looks real good for you in terms of making the judge believe that you’re withholding for good reasons.

We get up in front of the judge, landlord doesn’t have an attorney so I’m dancing inside, there’s no way I can lose.

I make my arguments and the landlord makes his.

Judge asks my client if they still have the money.

Client goes “nah I blew that shit at the casino last week”.”

2. That was fast.

“My wife is the lawyer.

Info: When children reach the age of majority if they do not continue studying and start working, it is not necessary to pay alimony.

Info: My wife’s client found a new lover, which unleashed the wrath of the ex-wife, who started asking for more alimony for her children.

Well to win the case, it was necessary to prove that the children were working, but they could not get any proof of it.

There was not much chance of winning, but they still went to court hoping that with the interrogations they could find information that would put them in evidence.

On the day of the trial the children did not go, only the mother and her lawyer were present.

Judge: Madam, tell me why your children could not come.

Mom: they could not get permission at work.



Mom: …

Another few seconds of silence.

Judge: well, that was fast.”

3. The truck is yours.

“I had a client who was trying to get away from an abusive ex and filed for a restraining order. He shows up to the final hearing and is making a big fuss about a truck that they bought during their marriage. He said it was just his, and she had no rights to it because their marriage was void.

I asked him on cross examination what he meant by that, and he said that he had already been married in another state when he married my client. He said that my client had no idea, but that it means their marriage is invalid and the truck was all his.

Not only is that legally inaccurate, the transcript of the hearing was promptly turned over to the police, who were actively investigating him for bigamy.

Oh, and the judge gave my client the truck along with a two year no-contact order.”

4. Major facepalm.

“I’m a lawyer, saw someone screw himself.

I work as a public servant in a criminal law judge’s office, and since I have a law degree I don’t normally do administrative work, though I get to be with the judge in some of the hearings.

Last month we had a huge drug trafficking case (I’m talking about 20 or more people involved, months of investigation, undercover agents, videos, audio, the whole ordeal). Hearing lasted three days.

Anyway when it was time for one of the defendants to be on the stand so the prosecutor could read the charges he was accusing him of (He was pleading not guilty, as he very loudly stated from the majority of the hearing, up until my boss -the judge- told him to shut up or he would be admonished, to which he replied “what are you gonna do, arrest me?” which, to be honest, was actually a bit funny).

The prosecutor, as part of the facts of his case, told him that “he was being accussed of selling, traficking and carrying x amount of x drugs, with the base of his operation being his house, where he lived with his partner” (Mind you, said partner wasn’t even in the hearing, she wasn’t arrested or anything as there was nothing tying her to the case) he said “wait up, I was the one selling the drugs, she didn’t do anything”.

His lawyer (a state assigned public lawyer) facepalmed so hard it’s actually recorded in the audio of the hearing.

He still pleaded not guilty.”

5. Happens more than you’d think.

“A witness for the plaintiff in a civil suit, who was a co-worker of the plaintiff testified very strongly against the company and in favor of the plaintiff. I questioned her about bias toward the plaintiff, if they knew eachother well, were friends, etc. She said, no just friendly co-workers, “work friends” at best. I pinned her to it.

When I got a chance to cross-examine the plaintiff, she had no choice but to burn her witnesses credibility, because no only were they very close friends, but they had become sisters in law just a few years before. (no, they did not have the same last name or anything, but I had done my homework).

I still don’t get why people want to fight small bias, by destroying their credibility, but … it happens more than you’d think.”

6. The age of consent.

“More of a case of screwing himself over, but here goes. This was a case another prosecutor in my office had a few years back. 30 year old defendant was charged with sexual assault of a child after he got his girlfriend’s 14 year old sister pregnant. She actually kept the baby so the police just waited and got a paternity test. No surprise, defendant was the father.

Defendant wanted probation; prosector refused to offer it. He decided to plead guilty and have a jury trial on punishment (here in Texas, you can choose to have the jury set punishment). Evidence mostly proceeded as expected. The victim testified to having consensual (aside from not being old enough to consent) sex with the defendant, getting pregnant, etc.. Paternity test introduced.

Defendant took the stand. His version of events was that he snuck into victim’s room at night, covered her mouth, and held her down while he forcibly had sex with her against her will. It seemed like his own lawyer had no idea that’s the story he settled on.

The jury deliberated about fifteen minutes before returning a verdict of 17 years (the maximum possible as charged was 20). When interviewed by the attorneys afterwards, one of them said they decided on 17 years so the defendant would never forget the age of consent in Texas again.”

7. A terrible story.

“A prior boss’s story:

They had a drunk-driver-kills-a-car-worth-of-people case at the time when they were a general practitioner. My boss was representing the family that got hit (one where the two kids and the wife had died, but the father had not) and wanted the college guy’s drunk-driving skin to be mounted on a wall.

This was back before Facebook was commonly used in Court proceedings and before tons of people realized that shit is too great for any attorney worth their weight in salt to pass up.

So, the kid (drunk driving college kid) had managed to get the judge’s sympathy during the first part of the hearing by saying he was sorry, haunted, never going to drink again, this was going to ruin his life, etc. The judge seemed to really be eating it up.

Then comes my boss and immediately burns this kid’s remorse to the ground by showing numerous Facebook statuses and photos of them binge drinking, partying, and even joking about driving drunk from the date of the accident up until a night ago. The kid looked like he was being forced to swallow hot coals and the judge was absolutely livid.

Needless to say, the kid had to do way more than just apologize and be remorseful after that.”

8. Drunk…again.

“My dad’s case. He was the equivalent of a Public Defender decades ago. There was this guy that would get caught for being drunk in public, public lewdness, etc. EVERY weekend. He seemed to draw the same judges and was pretty well known to everyone in the courthouse as an absolute lost cause.

One of the “regular” judges had him appear in his court again. The judge is ready to give him a prison sentence because he was driving a car this time, but the guy starts crying that he finally got a job out of town and was trying to turn his life around. Judge tells him as long as he never makes a mistake “in my town again” he would just drop the charges.

Well sure as hell the guy shows up the following Monday. Same judge. Driving drunk AGAIN. My dad now has his case. The judge tells him he gave him his final chance, to which the guy sobs and replies “I was leaving town, your Honor.

But my friends decided to throw me a going-away party.” The judge was not amused. My dad had to do everything he could to not laugh.”

9. Custody dispute.

“I was litigating a custody dispute on behalf of the mother in an incredibly conservative jurisdiction. One of the most common ways to get custody was to allege sex or porn addiction because the threshold for it was basically non existent.

For this hearing however, we lucked out with the judge, who I knew from other cases. Opposing counsel tried to “gotcha!” Me into settling before the hearing by showing me surprise sexts between mom and her new boyfriend.

This is, of course, not law and order and you can’t introduce surprise evidence. So we go through with the hearing, I object to the sexts, but say I would allow them to be ready into the record, in their entirety.

So the uptight very conservative local attorney gets to spend the next twenty five minutes or so reading sexts in open court occasionally asking if she could gloss over parts but no, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate. I’ll never forget hearing her struggle with the word nipple. It’s not even a dirty word!

But this was like the third hearing we had to amend custody because this guy felt his ex wife having a boyfriend meant she was a sex addict. They alleged the sexts happened while the kid was in Mom’s custody. But they based that on the timestamp of the screenshots. The timestamp on the texts was clearly at a time when the kid was not even around and mom was safe to get freaky over the phone.

The judge had heard enough of his bullshit and awarded attorneys fees and put in the order, consistent with the vexatious litigant statute, that if dad would continue to be liable for her attorneys fees if he kept pushing this shit.

It was the only joy I got from practicing family law.”

10. “The most badass thing I had ever seen.”

“I was a very new lawyer, with no bankruptcy experience. A partner sent me to bankruptcy court to try to make a claim as a creditor related to a $50 million building that was being sold.

Time and lack of knowledge will prevent me from accurately describing everything that went down but I will do my best.

The Court handled my client’s claim very quickly and easily at first. The Court ruled we were not a creditor because our claim was against a tenant, which was correct. (Note, we had purchased the claim from someone merely to try to somehow wedge our way into buying the property – which was very transparent to the Court.)

So I could just set back for the remainder of the hearing and watch the 2 premier bankruptcy attorneys go at it. One represented the debtor and the owner of the building; the other represented a secured creditor with a lien against the building

They absolutely hated each other on a personal level, and were arguing with great venom about the plan to sell the real estate.

There was a small break in the action while the judge took care of another matter.

When we came back, the secured creditor attorney told the Court the following:

His client (the creditor) had purchased controlling interest in the debtor (the owner of the building).

He had been directed to fire the other attorney.

He had been directed to withdraw the motion to sell the real estate.

He then did both there in the Courtroom.

I have practiced for almost 3 decades. It was the most bad ass thing I had ever seen, and was particularly noteworthy because the courtroom was packed with other attorneys watching and those 2 attorneys absolutely hated each other.”

11. A major backfire.

“A wife filed for a restraining order because she wanted the house during divorce. Husband has good job, like 200k per year. Employer finds out about restraining order, husband is fired. He was very specialized employee so only job he can find close to to house, ex-wife, and daughter is 50k.

House gets foreclosed. Child support at less than $500 per month. Wife has to get job as waitress. Four cars get repossessed.”

12. Off to jail you go!

“Had a criminal jury trial for misdemeanor Criminal Mischief over 4 years ago. State filed charges and kept amending the Information to the point where they left the ACTUAL VICTIM out of the trial and proceeded with the two eyewitnesses.

Well, one of the witnesses was my client’s ex and the other witness was the ex’s new GF. They claimed my client vandalized the ACTUAL VICTIM’s car. Client denied everything.

Well, apparently, the State and both Witnesses had no idea that the Ex had a outstanding warrant for not paying child support to MY CLIENT which created a motive for him to lie. Asked him if he was aware that he had a warrant out for his arrest on the stand. He didn’t know. The Judge excused the jurors. The bailiffs arrested the Ex on the stand. State rested.

Judge granted our Motion for Judgment of Acquittal because we had good case law for the victim not being there. Client walked away free and the Ex went to jail.”

13. A story from the jury.

“I sat on the jury of a man who was accused of molesting his 10 year old niece. He elected to testify in his own defense and his defense was: “I did it, but it was her idea.”

It was his third felony strike so he will be spending (with luck) the rest of his life in prison.”

Like I said, I really hope I never have to go to court in my entire life…

How about you?

Have you had any experiences with the justice system?

If so, please share them in the comments.

We want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.