Understandably, people will say pretty much anything to try to avoid going to jail.
AskReddit asked lawyers to share the most ridiculous arguments they’ve ever heard in court, and believe me, there are some gems in here.
“As a corporate lawyer, the most ridiculous argument I come across almost monthly is as follows: fortune 500 company signs a garbage contract and is going to lose a lot of money due to the plain language of that contract; fortune 500 company argues unconscionability — specifically that said company was not sophisticated enough to read the contract and no reasonable person would ever agree to the term or terms in dispute.
In sum, multi-billion dollar firms claiming they’re incapable of reading contracts.”
2. Didn’t go well
“Law student, former professors story:
Defendant busted for possession of narcotics, they were in the pocket of his leather jacket. He argues the search was illegal because with his buttery smooth leather jacket, there’s no way the officer would have felt the drugs in his pocket during a pat down, so he shouldn’t have reached in the pocket to find the drugs in the first place.
Judge asks if the jacket is the one he was currently wearing in court; it was. Judge asks to feel this jacket and the pockets. Defendant hands it to the bailiff. Judge finds more drugs in the pocket. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for him.”
3. Great story
“I was a juror, but this was a hell of a defense.
Defendant ran through a red light and crossed against traffic in front of an officer. She was over twice the limit. It wasn’t her fault. She had a cut on her arm that her dog licked. The yeast from the dogs saliva entered her blood stream and converted her blood sugar into alcohol.”
“An opposing attorney the other day said I should not cross-examine his witness at a preliminary hearing because it would only hone the witness’s testifying skills to be cross-examined at trial. I laughed out loud.”
5. Where do I start?
“Oh geez where do I start. I mean I could tell plenty of these about my own clients but I like this one:
A lady has an injury/Comp case. It’s for her upper back and of course complex regional pain syndrome.
She decides she needs the insurance company to pay for a special mattress for her. Like a $6000 memory foam, with heat and massage and a thousand other features. And not just a twin, she needs a California King because of course her layabout unemployed boyfriend needs to sleep there too.
We spend months litigating this damn thing. Finally, she buys it herself and my client agrees to give her $1500 just to be done with it. The judge takes myself and opposing counsel aside and says he’s gonna kill us if we ever say the word mattress in his court again after wasting all this time. It was that ridiculous.
Not three months go by and the case comes on for another hearing. After exhausting all the chiropractic care allowed under the law, her doctor was seeking a variance to get some additional chiropractic.
We get to court and I’m arguing it should be denied, etc. Judge turns to her and says, “ma’am, why do you feel you need more chiropractic care?”
She pauses for a minute then says, “I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping on my mattress.”
I think I saw smoke coming out of his ears.”
6. Restraining order
“In family court hearing a motion for entry of a restraining order for an abusive husband. Husband’s lawyer argues that in a marriage, there is implied consent for a certain amount of abuse/violence.”
“I have a brief encounter (personal injury prospect) :
Old lady slipped & fell on an icy driveway which was not salted or maintained, so she wanted to sue for damages. After hearing the story, turns out the lady fell on her own driveway which she did not salt / maintain. She was wanting to sue herself.”
“Had a pro se litigant argue that she didn’t owe the credit card company because Jesus.
The basic argument was that debt is a sin (or maybe not paying the debt was a sin). And Jesus died for all of our sins. Therefore Jesus died to pay off her debt. Brilliant.”
9. “Prove it”
“This is a story that my grandpa always tells, so some of the details are fuzzy but this is the gist of it. My grandpa was a public defender, and this was a defense he used for one of his clients, who was being accused of attempting to break into a car.
How it happened: Man #1 is sitting in his house, and he looks out the window and sees Man #2 next to a car parked in the street. Man #2 is out there fiddling with the car door for like 10 minutes, and so Man #1 realizes he’s trying to break into the car and calls the cops. Man #2 runs, and eventually Man #3, my grandpa’s client, is picked up nearby because he matched the description of Man #2.
So my grandpa is meeting with his client and telling him what he’s accused of. Client asks, “Wait, what kind of car was it?” Grandpa tells him. Client says, “I can prove that it wasn’t me.” Grandpa: “How?” Client: “You said the guy was out there for 10 minutes — I can break into that car in less than 20 seconds.” Grandpa: “Prove it.”
So he finds one of whatever kind of car it was, and the client proceeds to pick the lock in 12 seconds. Grandpa gets the judge out there, and the client does it again for the judge, who makes him do it one more time and then dismisses the case.”
10. Be prepared
“Several years ago I was doing a civil trial (personal injury), defending a woman who (allegedly) hit a bus matron with her car.
We had offered to concede liability and just try damages (in other words, the jury wouldn’t hear the circumstances of how the injury happened, just that we agreed my client caused the injury, and they would only decide the amount of damages – we had evidence that the plaintiff was significantly exaggerating her injuries). The plaintiff’s attorney refused to agree to our concession, thinking that if they jury heard the circumstances they’d want to give even more money to punish my client.
So we went to trial on liability. The plaintiff called one witness, her client, who testified that an older woman in a green car hit her. They rested and I moved for a dismissal for failure to prove a case. There was literally no evidence connecting my client to this incident, just an older woman in a green car. The plaintiff never bothered to call my client to the stand.
The attorney told the judge that the bus driver had written down my client’s license plate and gave it to the police. They never bothered trying to find the bus driver. The attorney asked if she could just put the police report in and I objected that it was hearsay.
The attorney then actually said “please just let me put this in, I haven’t had work in a while and I got retained by a firm to try this case, I really need to win this.” Of course I didn’t agree, and the judge dismissed the case. I felt a little bad for her but that was maybe the worse presentation of a case I ever saw.
I spoke with the jury afterwards and they all said they hated the plaintiff, didn’t believe a word she said, and likely would have found in my favor anyway.
Moral of the story, BE PREPARED IN COURT.”
“Recovering Small Business/BK Attorney here. Was in Bankruptcy court on a motion of my own, when a very young attorney gets up to argue his position (his request was denied in pre-hearing disposition). Young Attorney (“YA”) – Your Honor, I believe your reading of the three cases you have cited is incorrect.
Bankruptcy Court Judge (“BKJ”) – You think that, do you?
YA – Yes, your honor. I don’t think the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel believed these cases would be used in this fashion, and I think you are misreading the author’s scope.
BKJ – Ok. Tell me, as those are BAP opinions – who wrote those opinions?
YA – I’m not sure, your honor. I didn’t check.
BKJ – In the future you may want to check those sorts of things – all three cases were authored by the judge you just told didn’t understand his own writing.
Court Audience (mostly attorneys) – Collective gasp
YA – Blank stare
BKJ – facepalm Jesus, son. I WROTE THOSE OPINIONS.
YA – Oh. Well I still think they’re wrong.
BKJ – Request denied. Get the hell out of my courtroom.
It was, quite possibly, the most awkward type of walk of shame I’ve ever seen as he gathered his things and left.”
12. Running a red
“Not a lawyer, but I was in traffic court and a cab driver had got a ticket for running a red. He argued that it was really difficult to see because the sun was rising (morning) right where the light was. He was traveling west.”
“Hands down the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard was a Constitutionalist, pro se defendant trying to explain why the Court lacked jurisdiction over him.
I was prepared for the standard arguments about “freeman on the land,” non-corporate natural person, admiralty court, etc… But this one was different. This particular defendant was part of a Jehovah’s Witness compound and happened to be Marshallese-American (i.e. he was black).
After the Court patiently explained to him that it has jurisdiction over all persons in the county, the defendant promptly piped up that, under the Dred Scott decision, he wasn’t a person and the Court had no jurisdiction.”
“This came in a deposition, but it’s still one of my funniest stories from this old job.
I worked part-time as a paralegal when I was in college. We had this massive case with a lot of people involved that had spun out into a bunch of little side cases. In one of those side cases, this guy was claiming our client had left him threatening voicemails related to the main case, and him and his wife sued for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium, and I swear to you this is a real thing, basically means something happened that is stopping a married couple from having sex, and they want to sue you over it. The guy was claiming that he was so scared from these voicemails that he couldn’t sleep with his wife anymore.
Deposition time rolls around, and I’m sitting in the other room, but it’s a small office and I can hear everything. My boss starts asking the wife how we’re supposed to know that it was our client’s fault they stopped having sex. Maybe she’s just not as attracted to him anymore. Maybe he’s not attracted to her. Maybe they didn’t have that much of a sex life to begin with, etc. So this woman starts yelling “I love sex!” and banging her fists on the table. Her lawyers try to calm her down and tell her to stop talking, but she keeps on shouting “I love sex! We used to have sex 2, 3 times a day!””
“Former assistant state attorney/prosecutor here.
This defendant is called up for arraignment and the judge is telling him that he’s been charged with theft for stealing a roll of scratch off tickets from a gas station. The judge informs the defendant that since the value of the tickets was over $300 therefore it’s a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
The defendant says to the judge “but your honor, to be fair the tickets were all losers” implying it’s not theft at all.
I was amazed at the futility of the argument.”