Lawyers Share The Most Laughable 'I'm Not A Lawyer, But…" Claims They've Ever Heard
You can't handle the truth!!
Just because one may know every episode of Law & Order: SVU, or is a Dateline NBS aficionado, doesn't mean one should think they know anything about the law. And it certainly doesn't mean one should represent themselves in court.
Redditor u/bigfoot1291 wanted to hear from the "sort of" legal eagles out there by asking.... Lawyers of reddit, what's the most laughable "I am not a lawyer, but..." claim you've ever read
50. I Declare.
As a lawyer I love seeing all of the Facebook posts telling Facebook what they do and do not consent to. It's the online equivalent of Michael Scott "declaring" bankruptcy. thekickassduke
49. You need help Sir.
This wasn't online, but a guy was representing himself pro se against a client of the legal clinic i worked at at the time.
She had a semi-public job doing promotion for a local pro sports team. Some dude did a brief fan interview with her at a game, and that lone interaction sparked a 5 year stalking saga (during which she got married and had kids with someone else) that culminated in the stalker making the following claim:
he wanted a paternity test for her children, because he was convinced she had paid someone to follow him, find out when he masturbates, break into his home, steal his semen, and deliver it back to her. apparently she had then impregnated herself with his kleenex semen and her two small children were actually his. i've never seen a judge looked as shocked, or as tired, as i did on the day that motion for paternity was denied. mutherofdoggos
48. I Rebuke You!
When I was a judicial intern I saw an arraignment where the defendant claimed the court had no power over her, because she was a sovereign citizen who did not recognize the federal or state governments.
Later learned that her sole source of income was Social Security. BAM521
47. Guilty & Stupid!
I once saw a defendant argue for a not guilty verdict because there was no "Mr or Mrs commonwealth" who testified.
Obviously the charges were commonwealth v defendant. He doesn't understand that. He was found guilty. The judge did not appreciate that. Super_C_Complex
46. Oh Reddit...Giphy
I've found that Redditors are absolutely obsessed with correcting each other with the idea that assault and battery are often confused, and that assault only ever means to put someone in fear of imminent harm. To the point where if I even point out that that is only true some times, in some places, I will be downvoted. Roughly a third of States define assault as some version of "purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another." DoctorBaby
45. We're the Commons.
I'm a lawyer in the U.S. and for some reason people are obsessed with common law marriage. I see people on Reddit and even hear them IRL warning other people about how "You've lived with her for more than X years, you're common law married so you have to take that into account!" or "Well, we've been living in the same apartment together for X years, so we're common law married now."
Common law marriage is only a thing that can be done in a small handful of U.S. states now, and there are requirements to it. You have to hold yourself out as being married, live together, present yourselves to the world as being married, etc. You're not going to wake up one day and accidentally be "common law married."
ETA: Guys, I never claimed to be talking about the law in Canada or Australia. I'm aware that it's different in those places. SaltySolicitor
44. I Guess we'll see....
I had a non-lawyer try to tell me that testimony was not reliable evidence and that a judge could not rely upon it in making a factual determination. This was in the context of a small claims case I was helping my client prepare for. It was my client's word against the opposing party's, plus some photographs he was planning on introducing. I told the opposing party that "I'll guess we'll see what the judge does...." Spoiler: the judge found my client's testimony much more compelling and ruled in his favor. FRE802
43. Confused? Us too.
Nearly every time patents come up on reddit, people say something very wrong. Most commonly confusing patents, trademarks, and copyrights. But reddit is very anti-patent in general, so people hate on them for all sorts of misinformed reasons. Even most lawyers know very little about patent law because it is very niche and not a topic on any state bar that I'm aware of.
Also, saw a sovereign citizen represent themselves in a tax evasion case where they tried arguing something about the government only being able to tax his corporate self and no his personal self, so he had no obligation to pay taxes? I had a hard time following his arguments because it was so non-sensical. CougarOnAComet
My favorite is "if you ask an undercover officer if he is a police officer he can't legally lie to you."
Yes. Yes he can.
Had an undercover in on a deposition once and he had been wearing a wire for part of the investigation. He was asked if he was undercover by a codefendant and his response was :
"Yea, obviously, I'm here buying drugs from you guys cause I'm an undercover police officer. I have a wire hidden under my beard and everything you moron." He said it with such immense sarcasm they didn't think twice about it and sold him a trafficking amount. cawlaw84
Copyright infringement. "All you have to do is change three things."
That's called a derivative work. Still copyright infringement. What you actually have to do is not copy. sam_l_clemens
40. The Freemason.
My favorite: "the judge cannot determine this matter because he is a member of the freemasons, and the freemasons do not believe in the concept of private property." This case ended with the non lawyer accusing everyone of being a freemason.
The same non lawyer also ran an appeal in that case based on the fact that the judge was not a real judge, because the judge had not taken his oath of office. The non lawyer had dug up a transcript of the judge's swearing in ceremony which read judge Smith takes oath of office, when the judge took his oath, instead of the actual words of the oath.
The non lawyer referred to outdated and repealed laws from 1730, which said all oaths had to be transcribed word for word, as a basis for the fact that the judge was not a real judge.
If his interpretation was correct, I think no current judge in Australia is a 'real judge.' thatdogoninstagram
39. It Depends.Giphy
My answer is actually basically all of the "I am not a lawyer, but..." claims.
The funny thing about being a lawyer is that the answer is almost always "it depends." Sure, the laws generally stay the same but the outcomes are so contingent upon the facts that you can never know with certainty how something will turn out. Thus, my answer for 90+% of my clients is it depends on (who the judge is, who shows up to testify, what the witnesses say, what theme opposing counsel goes with, etc...).
More importantly, we are not allowed to guarantee results and for good reason - the simple fact of the matter is judges, juries, prosecutors, and opposing counsel can make different decisions based on identical facts and laws.
I think the only time "I am not a lawyer, but" would be appropriate is if someone is saying "I am not a lawyer, but you need to consult with an attorney." hostilecarrot
One of my clients was told by someone on the staff of the nursing home where her mother lives that if an Enduring Power of Attorney (basically a power of attorney made in contemplation of future mental incapacity that unlike most powers of attorney does not become invalid if the donor becomes incapacitated) is voided if the original staples that held the pages together are removed.
I can see a tiny grain of truth to this in that if the validity of the document was contested the fact that it had been taken apart and stapled together again might be some evidence to support that but there is no way that evidence alone would determine the issue.
And don't even get me started about people who use the term "hearsay" but don't know what it means. This has become an epidemic. Kenn1121
37. Be Reasonable.Giphy
My favorite was on advice for home invasion. According to the poster, you could shoot to kill anyone who comes in uninvited.
Absolutely not the case, because self defense by definition requires "reasonable force." It's more lenient in some states and even more lenient in rural areas, but it's just irresponsible to spread this kind of misinformation. Reddit
36. The Sovereign Citizen.
The "sovereign citizen" stuff is my favorite. "The United States is a corporation and the law of the seas applies! Just look at the fringe on that flag! I do not consent to jurisdiction!"
Runner up is "you can't show me any law that requires me to pay federal income tax!" HeartsOfDarkness
35. The Patenter...
I'm a recovering patent attorney who now works at a major research university doing work in autonomous vehicles, AI, and a number of other high-tech fields. The number of people who don't understand patents, particularly on reddit, is astounding.
And the number of people who comment as if they know what they are talking about is also unreal. I shouldn't be surprised by the comments alone because it's reddit, but I'm the number of upvotes that follow are mind boggling. I stop myself from submitting a response to those types of posts on a daily basis because it's just not worth my time.
34. It's just coffee....
My two favorites are when people talk about the McDonald's coffee case as an example of greedy plaintiffs taking advantage of the system or, conversely, when they say "X Company has an army of lawyers on staff to fight the case."Notsureifsirius
33. The Actors...
A tale from back in my public defender-ing days:
Sovereign citizens are a special kind of stupid. Percentage-wise, I don't know how many of them are true believers and how many think they've just found some clever loophole or another. At any rate, they were always the most interesting clients.
One of them was a young gent who decided to represent another buddy of his to spin his nonsense to the judge. Unfortunately, the fellow who would become my client was a regular defendant in that same courtroom—and everyone there knew he wasn't a lawyer.
When he was arrested—which is to say immediately—the judge was not swayed by his argument that he was "acting of counsel" rather than "practicing law without a license."
The operating a motor vehicle charge which would follow was only semi-related. Silentclock1
On a first appearance for a criminal matter, the defendant going pro se (representing himself). Note: he is not incarcerated and only has to check in with the court once per week over the phone on release.
I demand this case be dismissed pursuant to my fourteenth amendment right not to be deprived from liberty.
Judge: counselor, do you have a response?
Me: Without due process of law, which is why we're here for you to read Mr. Defendant his rights, Your Honor. WholeGrainMustard
31. Just Sue....
I browse /r/PublicFreakout a lot and it never fails to make me laugh when people are being filmed throwing a tantrum and they start screaming about how it's illegal and they are going to call up their lawyer and sue them. Makes me think of this video from Wonder Shozen -eDgAR-
30. Zip Code Please....
In general people arguing for an hour before realizing they live in different countries. not-a-bear-in-a-wig
29. You're a Dog.
"I'm not a lawyer but I'm fairly certain that I could frame a dog for murder." human_of_reddit
Oh I've framed animals before. I framed a raccoon for opening a Christmas present. And I framed a bear for eating out of the garbage. bfelification
28. Phoenix Wright.
Guy claimed he could lawyer himself because he played Phoenix Wright ace attorney. cacmonkey
This is similar to an Arrested Development episode. Michael is convinced he can represent his family because he played a lawyer in a play in grade school so he reads up on maritime law. It didn't go well. Jarvicious
27. I Know it All.Giphy
Met someone who said they knew everything about the law and was studying to be a lawyer. Turns out she was temping as a paralegal for the better part of a week. kushasorous
26. The Gubment!
Anything on /r/legaladvice. DO NOT GO THERE FOR ACTUAL LEGAL ADVICE. I go there to laugh because come on.
In real practice, though, we get those nutty Pro Per Plaintiffs suing for millions or billions because of some slight, or because the Gubment doesn't have jurisdiction over them as FREE MURICANS Coolest_Breezy
25. Count the Chords.
Am (legally but I quit) a corporate lawyer. Basically no one understands fair use and copyright. I keep seeing people analyzing songs and art and calling everything plagiarism and copyright infringement; I'm not talking songs, but stuff like chord progressions or character names. Just because something exists within a work doesn't make it the author's exclusive property. Vaaaaare
24. Separate Counsel Please....
I once had a person claim that within there was no such thing as the adversarial system and that we were just trying to inflame a contested divorce.
Should mention we live in a common law system and both parties had retained separate counsel. SweatCleansTheSuit
23. You're Out.
I work a lot in Real Estate law and I generally enjoy reading anything that comes up related to Landlord-Tenant laws. Generally speaking, Reddit loves to jump on the "illegal" and "don't pay" bandwagon. These are terrible pieces of advice.
I have seen plenty of people recommend solutions that would likely result in eviction. I usually hop in, politely inform the poster that laws vary from State to State and that OP should review local LL/Tenant laws. xemp1r3x
For whatever reason, a lot of people do not understand that only the government, not private citizens or corporations, can violate your rights.
The most obvious example is that Facebook, Twitter, etc. are well within their rights kicking Alex Jones off their platforms.
A more complicated example involves the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure rules. The police are not allowed to unreasonably search you. There's nothing in the Constitution barring a private citizen from unreasonably searching you and handing over any evidence to the police, though. Bigcat95
21. Not Evidence.
There seems to be a general misunderstanding that testimony is not evidence. For example, I see this a lot in assault cases. People will say the victim has no evidence; that it's just a he-said/she-said. What a witness says on the stand is evidence. It's just up to the trier of fact to decide whether it's credible evidence. marksy_momma
20. The Deflate.Giphy
Absolutely the best IANAL arguments I saw on Reddit came during the "Deflate Gate" scandal in the NFL. For those who do not know, Tom Brady, the superstar quarterback for the very successful New England Patriots, was found to have deflated footballs in violation of league rules. That's kind of a minor thing, but it was against one of the best players in the league's history, and Brady fought it like crazy. The issue resulted in litigation in the Southern District of New York and, later, the 2d Circuit Court of Appeals.
Patriots fans vociferously defended Brady and, frankly, I would expect nothing less. But some of the legal arguments Patriots fans would make were astounding. It was some time ago, so I do not recall specifics, but it was as if every Patriots fan on Reddit suddenly got a law degree and had years of experience practicing law.
What I do remember, though, was their fans would often re-hash the legal arguments Brady's (very talented) attorneys made in court filings as if they were gospel. But attorneys are paid to be persuasive -- everything we write seems compelling at first blush. But even if we write it authoritatively, it could certainly be wrong and lose. And that's ultimately what happened to Brady. Although, credit to his attorneys, he had some success at the trial court level, which was mind-boggling to me. The 2d Circuit corrected that. Guhonda
19. Car Assault.
"If someone touches your car, it's technically assault and you're allowed to run them over in self defense." gritwoodser
18. That's New.
This random guy at the deli told me, "I'm not a lawyer but I know for a fact my baby mama ain't gonna get a dime of this child support money!" I asked him why he thought that and he said it was because she owed back taxes with the IRS and they were going to garnish the child support payments to pay it off. All I responded with was "wow that's new!" SmartyLox
I'm in real estate, Over the last year or two I've seen a lot of people try to quote the law as if they are lawyers. No Karen, misinterpreting your lease contract and the law supporting it does not mean you get to do what ever you want. "Mitigate damages" is not a get out of jail free card. GeroVeritas17.
16. Blame the Alcohol....Giphy
Just today a semi-retired police officer told us if you get pulled over while DUI, just chug an open liquor bottle in front of the officer. He claimed they can't prove anything then. Obviously I didn't have the life experience to call bull, and I'm sure a super expensive and super connected lawyer could get it down to open container, but I'm almost positive any old lawyer could easily prove you were drunk. Alcohol isn't instantaneous. Kurinkurupochi
15. Security Agreement.
Many years ago... a-hole former judge owned a company the owed my employer (I was controller) a bunch of money. He signed a "security agreement" for their receivables, meaning we could collect the company's receivables to recover our debt.
The only problem was one of his employees was a friend of my boss and brought in a copy of exactly the same agreement, but with another company, dated a month before. Now, being a CPA candidate, I was studying business law and said, well, this looks like fraud and we can sue his ass for the entire company.
My boss calls our attorney (who hated the judge with a passion) and related the situation. Yep, fraud. We went to court, got summary judgement (the judge just laughed at the crooked judge) and we owned the company. It was fun. Reddit
14. I AM HERE!!
Literally anyone who claims to be an expert on the law who obviously don't know crap. Like they've seen a couple of police procedural TV shows where they heard Miranda rights and they think they're now qualified to argue a case before the supreme court.
Where I run into this personally is whenever I'm throwing someone out of the hospital where I worked. "I have a right to be here!" No, you have the right to seek medical attention. If you're just a visitor and you're here to steal meds and pick fist fights you're out the door, fool. Patches67
13. Yellow Fringe.
Yellow Fringe Flag theory. Had a criminal defendant demand I use this in their defense. No. F No. It is a warped, bizarre melange of admiralty law, constitutional law, army regulations, and some other junk that can be summarized as "If the court room flag has yellow fringe on it, you are not constitutional [because you are now a military court without justification for martial law], and therefore, you have to let me walk."
BTW, most courts where I am at have yellow fringe on their flags as a common design theme. Wheres_my_warg
12. X vs. X
There's so many... mostly statements about the first amendment, since that only applies to government action, not private action. I would say I also see a lot of claims on how it's unfair to discriminate against X where X is not a protected class (or partially protected class). There are not as many protected classes or they are far more limited than people think. So if someone spontaneously decides to deny you service at a restaurant and it's not for a clearly enumerated reason relating to a protected class... you most likely do not have a claim against them. You can sue them but a judge will laugh you out of court.12.
On a more practical matter, people also tend to very over inflate how much certain industries will be shaken up by recent legislation or appointees. People/clients sometimes assume that everything is going to change all at once. Yes, things do change, but like... the SEC is not going to stop enforcing securities regulation anytime soon. Sarbanes-Oxley is not going anywhere fast. ollieastic
11. Get a Real One!
I work for a courier service and while we don't specialize in legal work we still get quite a lot of requests. The best are the kooks trying to do pro per work. Non-lawyers trying to represent themselves are 99.9% of the time completely insane. One time I referred a pro per kook to a different legal service and 20 minutes later got a call from that service laughing telling me to not send them anymore crazies.
Hey people, if you are working with the law get a damn lawyer. straws
10. License for a Font.
"I'm not infringing on the patent, I got it from google images, which is in the creative commons."
Sadly, have heard this defense more than once. And yes, when they say 'patent' they are usually infringing either a trademark or copyright. Usually people in the graphics/design department.
Also, fonts is a big one:
"Do we have a license for that font?" "Of course, I downloaded it from fr3eFontz.ru, why?" HappycatAF
9. Hats Off.Giphy
Lawyers and other folks that work in courthouses, hats off to you for putting up with the idiocy of the clients you work with. Raging_Utahn
8. No Trespass...
There's two really common ones that come up over here in Scotland. First is 'if the price is wrongly marked on a product the seller HAS to sell it for that price.'
Secondly, because we have a general right to roam the countryside so many people spout 'there Is no trespass in Scotland.' The Trespass Act disagrees.
Also the age old 'statutes aren't law, they rely on consetn' chestnuts. jazaraz1
Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but a few clients have wanted us to "pressure" or "strongarm" the other side into doing thing or they would come forward with damning evidence.
Depending on the circumstances, their game plan often amounts to extortion or blackmail, and despite what TV seems to think, is pretty illegal. You'd think people would be more understanding when you say you won't break the law for them, but I guess not! WhiskaLifa
6. They have a Camera!
Someone threatened to sue me personally and the store I worked at because I thought her daughter and her friends stole something (if you heard a boy yell "Oh HELL! THEY HAVE A CAMERA!" And came from the back to see them all booking it out the door you'd probably be a little suspicious too).
She claimed that I traumatized and assaulted her daughter when all I did was have mall security stop them while I asked if they stole something. Apparently she had consulted some random person and said she had a "dangerously good case." She also called the police on me who ended up escorting her out all the while she threatened to sue their police department. Reddit
5. Not Liable.Giphy
This is not exactly on point, but my favorite are the signs on the back of gravel trucks that say something along the lines of "Not Responsible for Broken Windshields."
As if you can simply release yourself from liability for negligence by saying "I'm not liable." Absolutely ridiculous. jerkeejoe5
4. But I Paid for It!
Mexican lawyer here. Had an argument with my dad about the ownership of an apartment my mom kept after the divorce.
"But I paid for it. That may be so, but you put it in my mom's name and legally agreed to let her keep it during the divorce proceedings. You even signed a judicial agreement that says so. "Yeah, but I paid for it" "I understand, but that's not how property works, if you put it in her name and didn't contest it in the divorce, it's hers" "... I don't understand. If I paid for it, it's mine, that's how property works. I could have it back if I wanted." Aercturius
3. The Tax Code.
I once was told by someone who owns a wealth management company that she knew the entire tax code to memory and that it was her job to know it all, and all it's repercussions. The entire tax code! I laughed all the way home and still chuckle to this day at the audacity of that statement. millennial_dad
2. Don't Hold Your Breath.
Everything related to Trump, impeachment, etc. that you see parroted from news headlines has no basis in jurisprudence. It's usually wishful thinking or giant corporations trying to change the narrative. Don't hold your breath. DrZangief
"I'm not sure how to get the attention of someone who owes me money. Do you think it's a good idea to make a public Facebook post where i inform the public about how they are in debt to me and refuse to pay back my money? I'm not a lawyer but I think that's the best way to get their attention."
You're right, it's also the best way to be sued for defamation. DomDomBrah
When in doubt.... be a Karen! LOL
We've all seen them and at times we may have been one A KAREN! You know who that is.... a difficult person, that's describing it politely. Karen's make scenes and do all that is necessary to get anything and everything their way. Working in any form of a service job, Karens are your worst nightmare.
Redditor u/externalodyssey wanted to hear from everybody about their Karen encounters by asking.... Managers of Reddit - what is a Karen experience like ? What was you worst experience ?