15 Lawyers Dish on the Worst Way They’ve Seen Someone Screwed over in Court

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They may not be able to share a ton of details, but these lawyers have seen a thing or two in court (and outside it) when it comes to people being willing to throw each other under the bus. Of course, everyone has their reasons…

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether they’re good enough.

Because these 15 stories will really make you think twice about who may know where your bodies are buried.

15. Reason 10005 why you don’t lie to your lawyer.

Too many criminal client situations to count of them screwing themselves over. One of the very few family law cases I handled as a young atty sticks out to me though.

Young woman and Young man have Child. Young woman seeks divorce from young man because he enjoys the “thug life”, he had recently been arrested and charged for possession w/ int to distribute meth (felony) and in possession of a firearm (unlawful carry). Young man doesn’t like her leaving him. He hires a local big name top divorce atty (granted, very rural area). Gets temp divorce order entered saying she can not have overnight guests of the opposite sex (common in rural conservative areas, think it’s mostly a thing of the past in more urban places).

Young woman starts seeing someone new. Young man is very upset about this. Has his fancy lawyer ask for a hearing accusing her of violating court order and seeking full custody, on top of atty fees. Young woman, on advice from a mutual friend, hires me for this hearing. I sit down with opposing counsel, and she basically tries to strong arm me w/ her experience and lays out egregious terms…mother must not only give up primary custody, but must have visitation with a supervisor and pay child support and atty fees. She knows I’m a new baby atty in town (fairly certain I had been licensed for less than a year). I balk and she says she’ll see us in court.

I go into hearing with a copy of his probation arrangement on his Poss w/ Intent to sell & unlawful carry. He hasn’t told his atty about this, and she is unaware. She calls him up establishes how my client had her new bf over on x,y,z nights. Judge is VERY conservative, not pleased.

Then, opposing counsel passes the witness. I ask him if he has a job. No. What do you do for money? Things here and there. Oh? Ms. opposing counsel is awfully expensive…Do you sell meth?”,”…What?”, “Have you ever sold drugs to make ends meet?”, “Uhhh no.” Introduce a copy of his guilty plea and straight probation sentencing. Judge is now staring daggers at him. I lean over to my client sitting next to me, and whisper, “if you took a drug test today, be honest, would you be completely clean?” “Yes.”

I ask the Young man, “When was the last time you did meth”, atty objects, but Judge overrules…I know this judge will drug test people on the spot as he is also the misdemeanor drug court judge. “It’s been years, I’m clean.”, “So, if you were tested, you’d be clean?” “Yes.” Opposing counsel asks the same of my client, we agree. Judge has them both tested. He tests positive for meth. My client is clean.

Judge denies his motion, and asks me to send in new temp orders where young man is required to maintain employment and start paying child support and places him on supervised visits.

Icing on the cake, opposing counsel actually calls me and leaves me a voicemail congratulating me on, and I quote, “handing her ass to her for the first time in a long time.”

14. When you show up and try the same story on the same judge…nothing goes your way.

Not my case, but my dad’s. 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.

TL;DR- Perpetual drunk that drove drunk gets a chance to leave town and not face charges, gets drunk at a going-away party in his honor, drives, goes to jail. Faced the same judge both times.

13. People who mess with the elderly have no souls.

I’m currently representing a sweet old lady on a case. I’ll be sparse in the details in case anyone figures out who I am.

Long story short, this lady’s neighbour convinces her that her house is basically unsellable, that her house requires all sorts of repairs, the repairs to the house would bankrupt her, and that she should just sell the house. To him.

He shows up at her house the next day with documents to sign. She has no idea what’s going on. Doesn’t read anything (actually has an eye condition) and signs everything.

When she finally sees a lawyer to close the deal, he says wtf you can’t do this. You see, the price of the transaction was about 36% of what the house is actually worth and there weren’t any repairs that needed to be done that would justify the price. Not kidding, it was stuff like fixing a faucet in the bathroom.

Also she didn’t understand that she would have nowhere to live afterwards. Old lady thought she could just stay in the house until she died.

To make matters worse, she’s living off a modest pension and the other side is suing for the house. They’re essentially trying to get her to cave because her legal fees are getting exorbitant.

I hate people.

Edit: to answer a few questions:

We do have a lot in our favour, but there are a lot of steps to get to trial. By the time we get there, she’s going to have to spend a lot of money. Money she doesn’t have.
She has an eye condition (uveitis), but it isn’t bad enough to qualify as a defence (non est factum). At the time she was driving.

She’s a terrible witness. Her evidence is all over the place. When she was examined (deposed for you Americans) she denies being taken advantage of. Not great for our position.
In Ontario, where I practice, contracts for the purchase of real estate don’t have to be notarized.

Edit #2: thanks for all the interest everyone! Just thought I’d provide a quick update – we literally just settled this afternoon, so my client can live in peace. In a little more debt than before, but nothing that will bankrupt her. Thanks for all the love. ❤️❤️❤️

12. You can’t expect to win if you don’t show up!

Not someone else, but himself.

The guy and his lawyer missed court appearances, sometimes one of them, sometimes both, with little or no warning and with suspect excuses. It started getting ridiculous and we kept pointing out holes in his story, like he said he left for another country without knowing about the appearance, but his lawyer stood in court and said he told him beforehand. Or all of a sudden he was in a former Soviet Bloc country for fertility treatments and it would ruin everything if he came back now. Or when he was visiting dying relatives on another continent. Or he was going to the airport when he had to rush to the hospital and showed us an admitting form in another language that we translated – it showed he was there but also that he was discharged. He also tried firing his attorney and saying he needed more time to brief a new attorney – who at the next appearance would say he hasn’t been able to talk to his client so he needs to adjourn. Or that he hasn’t been paid and his client is basically an ass and he needs to be relieved.

We kept saying to the judge he was doing it to stall but the judge kept giving him the benefit of the doubt. We even showed him other cases where he skipped appearances and the judges threatened sanctions. Until finally he didn’t show up for an appearance where the judge had specifically told him, I don’t care if you’re meeting with the Pope, I’m ordering you to be here. Boom, his answer was stricken, default judgment in full was granted to our side. Neither he nor his lawyer showed up for the hearing where the judge determined exactly how much of a judgment we should get, and then had the nerve to file a motion that the judgment was unfair because he didn’t get a chance to dispute anything.

11. Sometimes honesty just isn’t the most prudent policy.

Sitting waiting for my client and the judge is giving a mass colloquy for an alternative program on a DUI. Basically probation.

Question – Has anyone consumed alcohol or taken drugs in the last 24 hours?

Obvious answer aside, one dude proudly raises his hand – “I smoked some dope last night…”

He did not get probation.

10. This is a stone cold response to being fired.

I am being sparse on details here due to confidentiality, but:

I had a client who was accused of a very nasty sexual offence. He had an alibi–he was at work, where he was the boss. He had an employee who could absolutely vouch for his being there. I talked to the employee, employee confirmed this.

It gets closer to the trial, and around the time when I need to send in an “alibi notice”, which is advance notice to the Crown so that they can investigate the alibi and determine whether or not it’s true. But, I am being careful, so I call the employee up again.

Turns out my client fired him in the interim, and so the employee quite candidly tells me, “Oh, yeah, he was definitely at work. But that’s not what I’ll say in court. Fuck that guy, he is going down.”

I did not call him as a witness, or file the alibi notice.

Still won the trial, but if I hadn’t thought to call the guy, or if he’d been less candid, my client would have been fucked hard. Sex offender registry, jail time, the works. Completely innocent.

9. How dumb do you have to be to think that normal people are going to count this in your favor?

Not a lawyer but 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.

8. Remember, social media is forever.

Well, not my story, but 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.

7. I mean sure, you had to die first, but who’s laughing now?

I can’t remember the specifics of the story, but my mom is a lay magistrate but was working for a domestic violence service at one stage and had a client who was terminally ill and she advised them to change their will so their (possibly separated) abusive partner wouldn’t be entitled to anything when they passed away. Client passed away, abusive partner stormed into the law firm dealing with the will demanding to know where their share of the finances etc were and was simply told they’d been written out of the will and the case couldn’t be discussed with them.

ETA: best way to screw someone over rather than the worst, but hey

6. Proof that some people have zero shame.

Not a lawyer but this story always gets me. My biological grandmother died 20 years ago of ovarian cancer, she left all her money, trusts, bonds to my grandfather to use (while alive) and disperse (after death). My grandfather remarried something like 15 years ago to my step-grandma. My grandfather ended up dying first a few years back.

My step aunt is a greedy bitch who lives on the opposite side of the country, she’s lived off of her mother and my grandfather for all of her life. She’d come over and take them on “vacation” where she’d use their money to buy herself things and get a free skiing trip about 8x a year.

After my grandfather passed, my step-grandma had to move where her children live to get care for dementia. My step-aunt has access to not only her own mother’s estate but my grandfather’s as well to take care of her needs.

That wasn’t enough.

She decided to try and sue my dad and uncle for their dead biological mother’s estate.

My dad is bilaterally paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

My uncle is a triple bypass survivor with a pacemaker and multiple stints. Both are on fixed disability income.

The court date came and I literally wheeled my dad in while my uncle walked with a cane.

My step-aunt is entirely able bodied and rolling in the millions my step grandma and grandfather worked their whole lives to earn.

The judge took one look at the whole picture and she was absolutely denied access to my biological grandmothers estate. We were there for less than an hour.

5. They must have thought you were a pretty bad lawyer.

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.

4. It’s really too bad that this guy decided to procreate.

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.

3. He just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

Someone I knew had a pro deo case where she had to defend a person who had been charged with a criminal offense (don’t know what, confidential and whatnot).

Even though the police and DA could pretty much pinpoint the crime to her client, there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, circumstancial at best.

She had instructed him to shut up and let her do the talking during the trial, as from experience the client sometimes does not know how to answer a question properly. She pleads and can show that the court has nothing on her client, she feels that for once, a pro deo case is going her way.

After her plea, the judge thanks her for her plea and turns to her client. He asks if the client had something to add to the plea. Client looks at her, back at the judge, tears well up in his eyes and he blurts out: “I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again!”

She threw her notes and everything else she had in her hands at the client (now convict) apparently. She basically got screwed by her own client, who screwed himself even worse.

Edit: “pro deo” is the old term in our jurisdiction, same connotation as “pro bono”.

2. Talk about dropping the hammer!

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.

1. Some people don’t deserve forgiveness or grace.

Not a lawyer but this happened to my family. My husbands kids asked us to fight for full custody after years of systematic abuse from their mom.

My stepdaughter was sexually assaulted and mom decided to marry a guy who was best friends with the guy who assaulted her. Mom never told us what happened never got her counseling. Never reported it to the police.

In mediation she brought up a conversation I had with her which she denied ever happening until then. She started saying lie after lie and all my husband had to say was “my wife had that conversation with you to explain how uncomfortable my daughter is living with this man because he is connected to her sexual assault “

The mediator was not amused. She said “you have someone living in your house who is connected to your daughters assault. Your relationship with your children is broken”

She spent the rest of the session sobbing and signed away custody because this was just the tip of the iceberg that we had on her and she knew it.

Hearing her sobbing made me so happy after all she put these kids through. I had to walk my step daughter into the police station to report her sexual assault.

I usually don’t want people to suffer but after warning her this guy was coming between her and her kids and then her lying about the context of that conversation ill make an exception. I tried to stop her from the chain of events that lead us to court and she tried to use it against me.

It’s hard to believe that people out there can be that petty, but the proof is in the pudding, I guess!

Would you be willing to sell someone out if the price was right? Let us know in the comments!