Lucky Lawyers Share The Times The Opposing Lawyer Did Their Job For Them
Lucky Lawyers Share The Times The Opposing Lawyer Did Their Job For Them
It's like a courtroom drama. You don't even need to step out from your table for cross-examination because the direct is causing the defendant to dig themselves deeper, and deeper, until the jury and the judge gasp! He's guilty!
Reddit user LynxExplorer wanted some real life examples of this:
Here are some cases worthy of Law & Order.
My favorite is a story from Gerry Spence. For those who don't know, he is a famous trial attorney.
A witness on the stand was claiming that he had suffered injuries to his arm because of a city bus accident. Gerry asked him to demonstrate to the jury how far he can lift up his arm after the accident. The witness makes a feeble effort of lifting his arm. Then Gerry asks the witness to demonstrate to the jury how far he could lift up his arm before the accident. He lifts his arm much higher. The jury laughs. The case is over.
Domestic violence case where the husband beat the wife. Landlord claimed wife violated lease terms by allowing police to be called to property and causing a disruption.
My argument was that as a domestic violence victim, wife is covered under VAWA and the property is HUD subsidized. Also MD law offers DV protections too. Landlord's counsel during his opening talked about how my client was beaten and the police were called and an ambulance etc. I just stood there looking at him. When he finished, judge asked if I had anything to say. My response, no your honor, I believe opposing counsel has said everything that needs to be said.
Judge smiled and ruled in my client's favor. Landlord can't evict DV victim.
My family did foster care for a few years, and we fell in love with the last girl we took in, now my younger sister. She was required to keep in regular touch with her emotionally and physically abusive birth mom, the intention being for them to eventually reunite. This woman was a horror--every single time they interacted, she'd spend the duration painstakingly shredding my sister's self-confidence. My parents worked hard to establish a strong rapport and a supportive environment, and she blossomed under their care. She's one of the most resilient people I know.
When the state tried to return her to her mom, she didn't want to go, so my parents sued (I think? Don't really know all the legal details) for guardianship. This seemed like it would be an uphill battle--here we were, a family of randos trying to "steal" a kid from her rightful mom. We were really afraid that she would have to go back, and that her family would systematically undo all the hard work she'd done rebuilding her self-esteem.
Fortunately, her mom decided to represent herself at the guardianship hearing. I wasn't in the room, but I heard the audio recording later on, and it's incredible how thoroughly this woman shot herself in the foot.
Needless to say, we won guardianship. My sister never has to see that awful woman again unless she damn well pleases.
I worked as an intern for a lawyer.
Construction law, in France, are quite strict in regard to the neighbouring of historical monuments. The city was denying a permit for heavy modification of the house of our clients. They were arguing that because you could see the house from the church's bell tower modifications were impossible. As a support they "kindly" linked us to a 360° picture from said bell tower. We, as kindly, pointed to them that our clients house was, indeed, not visible from the top of the church. Building permit was greenlit the following day.
List Of Trustees
Not a lawyer but I am a former Insurance Fraud Investigator.
We were at a hearing before the WCB. I had something like 18 hours of video spread over a two week period of a claimant doing roofing work.
The problem, for me, was that the video didn't get a clear face shot. Normally what we liked to do was get in close, show the face for a positive identification and then zoom out. Bonus if the claimant was wearing distinctive clothing that could easily be tied to him.
Because of where this guy lived, all I could do was show someone who matched his description getting out of a truck registered to him every morning. He wore a hat, he had a beard and he had neither at the hearing.
So the company lawyer is prepping me and basically letting me know to be on point because the claimant's attorney is almost certainly going to challenge the fact that it is his client in the video. If the video got tossed, the case was lost.
About two minutes into the hearing, claimant's attorney agrees to stipulate to the fact that it is his client in all of the video. All of it. Our attorney was shocked. That was pretty much the only leg he had to stand on.
Claimant attorney was incredibly smug right after this like it was no big deal. Evidently, his strategy was to show that his client wasn't really a professional roofer since he was doing the roof the wrong way. He tried to get me to answer questions about roofing, I refused as it was beyond the scope of my work. And he just wouldn't let it go.
After about an hour of back and forth over this the judge finally said "Counselor, it doesn't matter if your client is doing the work well. What matters is that he has stated, numerous times and under oath, that he cannot work. Whether he's doing it for free, for cash or for fun has no bearing on the fact that he's doing roofing work while collecting compensation benefits which he was awarded because he couldn't do roofing work."
The guy lost and had to repay a bunch of benefits.
After a few of those hearings I began formulating a list of lawyers I would never hire and ones I would absolutely want on my side.
I had to go to court over a financial f-up when I was a student. Took advice from the university legal support team who said I didn't need a solicitor, so I went in alone. The judge didn't like this, and postponed it for another date so I could prove I'd had more counsel first. The other party's solicitor caught me outside the court and said "I didn't tell you this but ..." and pointed out a huge error in the financial paperwork that made it very obviously come out in my favour. Went back to legal support, got confirmation that it was right, went to the second hearing alone and got the entire thing thrown out. The other solicitor winked at me as he left. Saved me about £9K. Nice chap.
Not a lawyer, but took my BIL's landlord to small claims court. (He's on SSI and I'm his conservator.)
We sued her for over $4000 after she just decided she didn't like him, and changed the locks on his apartment door. She also stuffed all of his belongings into trash bags and dragged them out to the curb. This was all done the day after she cashed his rent check.
It all started because she was letting herself into his apartment, with no notice and was going through his stuff while he was gone. When I found out about this, I told him to let her know that was NOT ok. He did, and that's why she kicked him out.
I'm very organized, and presented the judge with a folder containing photos, receipts, short videos on DVD and the sheriff call logs, as well as a concise timeline of events.
The landlord showed up with her son and counter sued for the exact same amount we were suing them for. Claiming that the apartment was trashed, there were holes in the walls and they would have to repair everything before being able to rent again.
During the hearing, the judge asked for evidence of the damage to the room. The son whipped out his cell phone and showed a video panning and walking around the room. The video showed my BIL's apartment obviously still being lived in (his stuff was all still there) and no visible damage, but there were a lot of posters and things hung on the walls.
When the judge looked at the video he asked, "Where is the damage?" The son replied, "You can't see it. It's behind all of the posters." The judge frowned and looked at the video again, and then said, "Did you take this video when he was still living there at this time?" The son replied, "Yes." This was the clincher, the judge then asked, "Did you ask his permission to enter the apartment to take this video?" Silence.
We were awarded the full amount.
I had a misdemeanor possession case I was defending. Client was driving his mom's car. He gets pulled over for playing the stereo too loud. There are pills in the center console. In a prescription pill bottle. The bottle has his moms name on it. Client gets arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
Case is obviously bull but the dumbest DA I've ever met in my life won't dismiss. We go to trial.
During closing arguments the DA says "This case is a circumstantial evidence case."
During my closing I slap the jury instruction on the projector that says if a case is based on circumstantial evidence and there is one factual scenario that points to guilt and one that points to innocence the jury must find in favor of the defendant and acquit.
My client was acquitted.
When I first started, my firm had me on a case where the client claimed he lost because of ineffective assistance of counsel. Basically saying that the old lawyer didn't do his job. So we prepare an argument based on not asking the right questions, not communicating, etc. We think it's going to be a tough case, but not unwinable.
Then we get the response to our complaint where the old lawyer argues that he was only ineffective because he didn't have time to prepare for the case and only reviewed it the morning of the original trial. He had known about the case for months by the way. The judge saw this and during the trial we had essentially asked "isn't this the definition of ineffective counsel? Not giving enough time to your client?" The silence from his side of the court was amazing.
Needless to say, the trial didn't last much longer than that. Thanks opposing counsel! I guess you were ineffective for both of you!
We were tubing down a small river in rural Ohio. We had only been in the river for a quarter mile, when we get stopped by Rangers doing checks on who knows what, probably for people drinking. They stop us, and after 30 minutes, tell us that we have to leave the river, and give us a ticket. When my dad asks why, they say it is because the "boat" that my 4 year old brother is using is not licensed by the state, and that it does not have the mandatory safety equipment on board: being life jackets, medkit, and fire extinguisher. I'm on mobile so I can't post a link, but the "boat" is something you get from a Toys R Us for your pool.
Long story short, my dad fights the ticket, and, per their request, brings the "boat" to the court room. He said he walked in with the "boat" folded and tucked up under his arm. The judge asked, "Is this the boat in question?" My dad said, "Yes, your honor. If you give me five minutes, I could blow it up for you." He also went on to say that if the safety equipment was in the "boat", that it would sink.
He won right then. The court costs were as much as just paying the ticket, but it's the little things.
Read Your Cases!
I once had a district attorney indicate to the court that "if defense counsel had included this argument in his motions, it would possibly be a valid argument..." I interrupted him with the page number and heading where it was located.
I was an attorney for the estate of a husband defending against claims for money by the separate estate of a wife over proceeds from the sale of a business back in 1996. Both husband and wife died in 2010, suit was filed early 2011, went to trial in 2014. Wife got around 10% of the business in 1996, husband got the rest (he had built and operated it for 35 years prior to marriage and sold it 7 years into the marriage). The whole case hinged on whether the valuation of the business in 1996 was reasonable or not. We say "You can't value a business 15 years later with all the documents gone and all the main people in the business dead or missing." They say they have enough info to show the 1996 valuation should have been higher.
Opposing counsels gets a big time expert to testify that the business sold of $45M based on a valuation, but should have sold for $70M and the husband hid $25M in real estate in the transaction. We get that testimony and then realize the 1996 valuation of the business was done by the same expert.
This is the absolutely most perfect Catch-22 I have ever seen! So now we ask "Okay, so was your valuation wrong in 1996 or is it wrong now?" Expert says his 1996 valuation was right based on the information he had in 1996, but his valuation now is more correct. Which then bears the question "What information do you have now that you didn't have in 1996?" Answer: "I don't know, I don't have my file from 1996. Nobody keeps documents that long." And despite this lack of records, his valuation is somehow more correct now...
Judge basically said the expert was talking out of both sides of his -ss and we won.
The Law Of The Streets
When I first started practicing I handled a custody case where my client (mom) had a problem with dad smoking around the kids. I asked him if he regularly smoked around the kids, to which he replied that he doesn't smoke tobacco, only weed in the house. Obviously this raised eyebrows as it is illegal in my state. He then went into a long diatribe about how he only follows the "law of the streets" (he actually said this) and doesn't recognize the authority of the court he was currently in front of. Needless to say mom got full custody -- especially after dad was arrested for going to the court services officer's house late at night and trying to kick her door in.
Where's That Witness?
My public defender wife (not a Redditor or I'd get her to speak for herself) was trying a case where the defendant was accused of filling fraudulent prescriptions. Now keep in mind PDs deal with a lot of shady characters who maintain their innocence with increasingly implausible stories as the evidence gets worse; so you can get a bit jaded after awhile, but you don't have to believe your client's story to represent them vigorously. So the prosecution has grainy surveillance video of someone who looks like the defendant getting the prescription filled and the ID used to fill it, which belongs to the defendant.
Defendant maintains that someone stole his ID and is using it because they look similar, but never reported the ID as stolen. Wife is skeptical that the jury will go for that, but she's always willing to go to trial if that's what the client wants, so preps that defense and heads in to trial. Prosecutor brings in the pharmacist who reported the prescription issue, goes through the usual routine of establishing who she is, where she works, was this the ID used that day, etc. Finally, the prosecutor asks the pharmacist if the person who attempted to fill the prescription that day is in the courtroom...
My opposing counsel made some off the cuff remarks about how their client had to go to another remote office to get all the records they wanted to use against my client. That let me know the witness they were trying to use to introduce the records as evidence wasn't actually familiar with the records or the records keeping process. In the jurisdiction we were in, records were exception to hearsay rule, but you needed someone familiar with the creation and maintenance of the records to get them admitted. I attacked the witness' qualifications to get the records admitted and ended up getting the records excluded. I then made a motion for a directed verdict on the grounds they couldn't prove the case without the records and won.
All because the opposing counsel complained that their witnesses had to go way out of their way to get records for the court.
I had a hearing where the opposing party offered an "updated" contract that my client supposedly signed. Except it was a horrible copy and barely readable.
Then he assured the judge that the new contract was exactly the same as the old contract, except for the party name at the top (the original contract was in his mom's name, the new one in his name) and the date of the contract itself. He made that assurance multiple times. After he exhausted himself saying how everything was the same, I then pointed out to the judge that half the provisions were different and that my client had never signed that form. The judge asked if we were really accusing him of forging my client's signature, since that's a serious accusation. I held up the guy's prior conviction for contract fraud and said "I absolutely am, Your Honor."
We won. Hands down. No further argument needed.
My dad is a lawyer- it's happened several times that the defendant submits or provides video evidence of assault or unlawful detainment, but assumes it will go unnoticed in 50+ hours of footage. My dad watches everything. He got a multimillion dollar settlement from a major casino after pointing out a moment that proved video doctoring.
My Kingdom For A Tree
Ooh, I've got one. I was about 5 when this happened, but my parents explained it years later. There were a series of trees on the sidewalk in front of each house on the street. Although they were not part of our yard, the tree was owned by my parents and they were responsible for it. Some guy "tripped" over a branch and was "seriously injured". He came after my parents for All of the Money.
The dude showed up with a mountain of evidence. Hospital bills, psychologist testimonials, a photo montage of his slow and painful recovery, etc. Apparently, his lawyer brandished this stuff like a bat before court. My parents' lawyer thought he had a good case. Until the first day of court, when he walked over with a picture and asked "Is this your tree?"
My parents looked at the photo in disbelief. "No... That's actually not our tree." The opposing counsel repeated the question. It went back and forth a few times until my parents' lawyer incredulously produced a picture of their tree, which was, even to the untrained eye, a completely different tree. At that point, the opposing counsel whirled around and started screaming at his client "YOU SAID THAT WAS THEIR TREE!" Case summarily dismissed. My parents walked out in shock, came home, and bought me ice cream. All's well that ends well.
A Wave Of Mutilation
Plaintiff was claiming insurance money because he accidentally chopped off his fingers while cutting bamboo with a machete, and the insurance company (our client) refused to pay the insured amount.
During the hearing the plaintiff attorney began to demonstrate with a rolled up sheet of paper how his client was cutting the bamboo when the accident happened. No matter how he tried, he could not reproduce the position of the fingers with the alleged cut of the machete. The only possible match would be if the plaintiff had deliberately extended his fingers over a plain surface and hacked his own fingers.
Based on this disastrous performance, the judge determined an expert opinion and later dismissed the case due to deliberate self mutilation.
Parents were being sued by their landlord, and parents had a counter suit against him. Parents were moving across country and found this house to rent. They did a walk through, looks great. Landlord wants first, last, security and $1500 because they had a dog and two cats. Fine. It was somewhere in the $8000-9000 range, no big deal for them.
They are set to move in on a Monday, so my mom flies in on Saturday, to do one final look over, sign the contract and get the key. Perfect, they are now the tenants.
Monday, they arrive and the house is f-cking trashed. The landlord has moved a bunch of his stuff into the garage, shed, and one of the bedrooms. There's s* in the toilet, urine on the floor, garbage laying everywhere. I can't really do this justice, but my mom took pictures and videos, throughout the entire house.
She calls the landlord and tells him that they are not moving in with the house in this condition. He tells her to clean the house, and he'll buy the first tank of oil for the house (it was empty).
He tells her to do it, or he's keeping all the money for breach of contract. A lot of back and forth happens, and tons of harassing texts and phone calls from him.
Court day comes, and everyone's ready to submit their evidence in front of the judge. Parents have photos, texts, the contract, videos. Landlord only has the contract. But his contract is different than my parents. He's included a section that states they permit him access to the house for his storage needs, and that tenant is responsible for all on site clean up and maintenance after accepting the key.
The best part was that the date of the signatures on his contract was the date they moved in, not the date my mom flew in and signed.
Judge tells the landlord he's a special level of stupid, and then the judges final remarks were about how disrespectful the landlord was to show up in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops, in his courtroom.
He never paid a dime, then claimed bankruptcy, and started a business under a different name. Two years later, I went to his house, let out all but 19psi from all his tires, and superglued the caps on the valve stems.
Breaking up is hard to do.
And when you get the law involved, it's even worse. But sometimes people don't need the law's help to make things overcomplicated, they just have a grand ole time making that happen themselves.
People on the front lines of human cruelty include divorce lawyers. These are their stories.