"This happened when I was working in a firm many moons ago. A group of our clients was suing their landlord because he went into their apartment, changed the locks and evicted them for no reason, then proceeded to steal most of their stuff. Then the landlord had his goons dump the rest of their stuff on the street.
He then sued them for eviction and perjured himself in court about the damage done to the property and the amount of rent they owed. He also never served them when he filed the complaints because he somehow finagled it so that he could use a friend as a process server. The friend would then would lie about serving them. The end result was that he got massive default judgments against these people and got to keep a bunch of their stuff. When we searched through the court records, we found that he had filed at least 100 lawsuits like this since the early '90s. It was the most enraging thing I've ever encountered. These people lost everything."
"As a law student, I was an intern at a Public defender's office. I thought I would be shadowing a PD. Turns out the PD I'm assigned to doesn't have the time and gives me a 'loser' case to handle on my own (reporting back to him).
Client/Defendant is charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and aggravated crimes against nature.
I had to go to central lock-up to interview him. He was built like Mike Tyson. We were locked in a tiny interview cell. He could have reached across the table and snapped my neck long before any of the guards down the hall could have possibly opened two sets of locked doors, run down the hall and got to me.
I explain to the client that I am going to be working with him on his defense. He starts yelling that he doesn't want some terrible law student; he wants a real lawyer (fair enough). I have to explain to him that due to the backlog and lack of funding, it will be months before he sees a real lawyer. At this point, the veins on 'Mike Tyson's' neck are bulging, I can see the muscles in his jaw pop out, he is yelling and flecks of white spittle are coming out of his mouth while he is pounding the table telling me he wants a real lawyer. I have to tell him I'm all he's got and talk him down. He refused to talk to me, so I had to go back and tell him nothing was happening unless he talked to me. The second time, the guards joked about my coming back for more and called me a 'do-gooder white boy,' so I was even less convinced they would be of any help if 'Mike Tyson' decided to snap my neck, or worse.
I've never been that scared since (including the time I was held up). I worked the case, his defense was that it was a consensual encounter with a working girl he had known since high school, but there may have been an issue about payment. He pleaded out to lesser charges."
"Shortly after I started practicing, I was asked to assist a partner with a case involving a man killed in a bar fight. We were representing the bar owner in a lawsuit brought by the decedent's family.
The bar in question is an upscale brew-pub in a nice part of town. It's not the kind of place where fights break out. The guy killed went out that evening with his some friends and his sister. They bar hopped for a while and ended up at our client's place. That night there was a big group of fraternity guys out celebrating someone's 21st birthday, so they were all loud and quite wasted. One of the guy's friends got into it with one of the fraternity guys, and then it all broke loose. This bar only serves draft beverages, so glasses started flying everywhere in the fight and most people hid under tables or behind the bar. The guy tried to pull his friend out of the fight and get out of there, but somewhere in the chaos, the guy had his throat cut. This didn't look like a little cut from some flying glass, it looked like someone attacked him with a knife. I can still picture the autopsy photos. He wound up dying in front of the bar with his sister right there. She was heartbroken over the whole thing, and the guy who died had a young son too.
Aside from the autopsy photos and the devastated family, the truly disturbing thing about the case is that everyone knows who the killer is, but there was never enough evidence to prosecute him. We hired a private investigator who interviewed a bunch of the fraternity guys and their friends. It turns out everyone who was there had an idea who cut this guy, but no one actually saw him do it. Supposedly the fraternity brothers got together that night and swore they would never talk about it, but it was the worst-kept secret on campus. Our investigator was certain as to the killer's identity, and I imagine the police knew as well, but no one could prove it. It's frightening that someone can just kill another human being in cold blood and get away with it.
As for our client, it's tough to hold a bar owner liable for something like this. There are laws that hold bar owners liable if, for instance, they continue serving someone who is clearly wasted and allow that person to drive home and harm someone else on the way. The bar owner could also be held liable if the place is prone to violence and they don't take steps to prevent it. None of that stuff applied in our case. We were able to get the case dismissed on summary judgment, and I think we wound up settling on appeal for a small amount. It was a victory for our client, but the whole thing just sucked."
"I do employment law for Uncle Sam. So many messed up stories.
A woman brought a tape recorder on a date with a co-worker. Taped her entirely consensual encounter with a co-worker. Tried to use tape as evidence of harassment. She was partly successful; the co-worker was transferred, and she got money to go away.
In another case, a federal cop claims he was fired in retaliation for whistleblowing about the misuse of a government vehicle. All his co-workers claim it was because he had taken out his weapon and pointed it at the phone when angry with the person on the other line. The cop claimed that they all made up this story to cover for someone else misusing the vehicle.
In yet another, a woman repeatedly slapped her co-worker with a ruler while he was on a conference call with his boss. She was angry because he had joked that she was late even though everyone knows she's first in the office. They were non-law enforcement, but their boss was a Special Agent in Charge and he refused to officially discipline her because she might challenge it. SAC's typically spend their days throwing violent criminal gangs into prison, but he feared an admin person with a ruler.
The funniest was a government scientist is angry that a co-worker wears too much perfume. Discovers perfume lady has a phobia of fish. Chases a screaming-cursing-perfumed lady around the office with dried fish. Assault charges filed by both parties. The federal judge was very upset at the time wasted in fish/perfume dispute."
"There is a federal law, VAWA, that makes it illegal to evict a person from public housing for being a domestic violence survivor.
My first reaction: Why would you ever need a law like that? What kind of monster would evict someone because they'd been a victim of a crime?
Then I got a case that showed me that, oh yes, this does happen. It really brought home the point that sexism often takes the form of paternalism and stereotyping rather than outright dislike, e.g., by framing women as 'natural victims' who have only themselves to blame if they get beat up or assaulted. The housing authority staff kept going on about how this was all for the person's own good, and how she was just trouble because she let men take advantage of her, and she needed to learn to 'respect herself' (and then, of course, this guy would stop beating her up). So they decided to throw her and her kids out on the street. The guy didn't even live with her. (Not that it should matter: VAWA provides for, e.g., evicting the abuser but not the other people in the household.)
Real eye-opener. Deeply disturbing.
A related domestic violence case that also shocked me: a domestic violence survivor escaped to a convenience store and called the police. They made fun of her because, hey, what's the big deal? You escaped, you're fine. It's not our job to take care of your boyfriend problems, don't call us unless it's really serious, like if he's got a knife to your throat or something. As she put it, if it gets 'really serious,' he might kill me before I can call for help. I was appalled to hear that the police officers had blown her off like that."
"I'm from a pretty small town. Through a connection of my parents, I was able to 'shadow' the District Attorney for a summer during college. I expected to be going to an awful lot of DUI, statutory situations, and burglary trials since that's most of what showed up on the police blotter. The night before I was to start, I went to bed early. What can I say, I was excited. My parents were off on vacation, and I was just home with my big brother.
After I had been asleep for a short time, my brother came into my room. 'The phone is for you. It's the police.'
'Hi, it's [the District Attorney]. I know you're not starting with us until tomorrow, but how would you like to get started tonight? Wear jeans and boots, if you have them.'
I didn't even really say anything to my brother, I just got changed and went to the police station.
Turns out, a woman in town had set her home on fire with her two children inside, killing both of them. I was up all night with the DA during the initial investigation. He took me to the home and I had to climb up a ladder and onto the roof to get into the girl's bedroom. They shared a room but had separate beds. I was told by the police that, when they found them, both were in the same bed. Meaning they were awake when the house was on fire and crawled into bed together, terrified.
The neighbor was a police officer. He saw that the house was on fire, ran over to try and help, and was told by the mother that the kids were still inside. He couldn't get in to save them and was just devastated.
The rest of the day is a blur. An exhausting and traumatizing blur. I went to the autopsies. I got dizzy and had to leave the room.
Honestly, the case was so devastating that I tried to wipe it out, and didn't follow it much once I went back to college. A quick search tells me that the mom pleaded out to avoid the death penalty, which I knew the DA was going to fight for. She will be in prison for the rest of her life."
"I'm not an attorney, but I graduated from law school. One year in college I worked for the Bexar County DA's office in Texas. One day, my boss offered to let me go down to the courtroom and watch some cases. The first case I ever saw was a 60-year-old man with AIDS who had assaulted two 12-year-old girls. He was ultimately convicted but watching his sleazy lawyer cross-examine the girls was the most painful thing I've ever watched. This piece of trash tried to make them say it was consensual and that they were lying to get money out of him. THEY WERE TWELVE. The judge was not happy with him."
"I had to call a nine-year-old as a witness to testify about how her father assaulted her when she was seven. We did so much prep with the child, social workers, her mom. I had DVDs of forensic interviews where she made a full admission. She was ready to put it all out there about how her father touched her private parts and made her pleasure herself in front of him, how something came out of his private area, etc. I get her on the stand, and she denies everything. I rephrase the questions as much as I possibly can but still couldn't get anything. Her jerk of a father is smiling at counsel table the whole time. We lost. Maybe the guy didn't do it. I'll never know. That was a tough day."
"One of my latest assignments was to go over discovery on a federal conspiracy charge. Now, this is a daunting task because it involves pouring over a giant box full of statements made about your client, from your client, and from your client's co-defendants. Inside the box were also rap sheets and incident reports for everyone. After about half-way through all this, I read the one thing that really stuck in mind. It was an incident report.
One of the co-defendants had a child with a woman. Then they burned the child and disposed of the body. The accident report never stated whether or not the child had died before or as a result of the burning."
"First case I ever tried went like this. A 48-year-old man had gone to a drinking-in-the-woods party with a bunch of teenagers. After some hearty drinking, he spots a 12-year-old passed out, wasted. So he urinates on her face. For a long while. How long? Well, before going to the party, he had had 'a little' to drink. How much? Oh, just a few adult beverages. How many? Oh, maybe 30! Such was his testimony. Which was delivered while he wore a muscle t-shirt with a skull on it and the text 'Bonehead.' You can't make this stuff up.
He went to prison."
"In my state, after your first year of law school, you can shadow a judge for a few weeks during the summer. I signed up to do that, and the judge waited until he had a pretty good case to call me in. A man was on trial for criminal conduct with a minor. It was a gym coach who tried to have 'relations' with one of his 13-year-old students. Thankfully, it didn't go any further than that.
As the case goes on, we learn how he gave her a cell phone and that he called her and texted her all the time. At the cracking point, he grabbed her and pulled her into a room back room at the gym, kissed her, and groped her before she ran out. She never told her parents or any of the other trainers, nobody. It just didn't make sense to me. Why did she allow this to happen? I'm not saying it's okay to do this to a minor, I'm just wondering why she didn't tell her parents. As a lawyer, I know that doesn't matter, but in my mind I know it would to a jury.
Then she got on the stand. It was horrible. I'm sitting directly behind the judge on all of this. She couldn't even make it to the stand the first time. There was a partition between the stand and the back area where you enter the courtroom. Where I was sitting, I could hear her bawling, sobbing, and pleading not to go on the stand. We had to take a recess for her to get herself together. There was no DNA evidence, and the only evidence to stick it to this guy was her testimony, so she had testify. Finally, she gets on the stand, and although she's 13 years old, she's small and very undeveloped because she's a gymnast. She looked like she was eight or nine years old. She tells her story between tears, all of this with me about 10 feet away from her. Still, there wasn't really an answer to why she would let this continue for months without telling anyone. Then the accused takes the stand and I find out why.
He was a sociopath. He literally managed her life from the time she woke up to the time she went to bed. He knew where she was at all times. He knew her menstrual cycle. He had an excuse (that only he could find logical) for everything he did. He was ex-military and had a less-than-honorable discharge for some incidents that might have been assault. This guy gave me a type of fear I've never known. There was just something dead in his eyes. He was tiny, maybe five feet, six inches. I'm six-feet tall, and if this guy told me to do something, I would have. So, I finally understood why this 13-year-old girl did whatever he said.
The jury understood too. He was found guilty, but for a lesser charge - solicitation of a minor. After the verdict came in, the judge swivels his chair around and asks me how many years he should get. I'm fresh out of my first year of law school at this point. Why is he asking me? I just sat there and thought about it. After a minute or so, I told the judge I think he should get at least five years, half of the maximum the guy could receive. The judge agreed, given the evidence presented, and gave him eight years, from which he would serve five years if he had good behavior. That case really had me wondering whether or not I wanted to continue down this path."
"A federal judge called up a senior associate at my firm a few years ago and asked us to take on a case for a pro se plaintiff (self-representation). The judge's personal rule (and it's a good one) is that if a pro se plaintiff gets past summary judgment, he finds them pro bono attorneys. We took the case by applying the time-honored principle of 'don't turn down a federal judge when he asks a favor, idiot.'
Our client was the plaintiff; he was suing some cops, the town, and the county. Our client had led the cops on a high-speed chase through a fairly dense town, and he went to jail for 10 years. He was claiming that the cops used excessive force when he was arrested. No matter the crime, once the cops have you controlled, they can't just start kicking the snot out of you.
So, not a sympathetic case, but you get used to this: your goal is just to make sure they get everything the law entitles them to.
Then at our first interview, two disturbing factors came up:
When going through his life history, he mentions that one day, in his youth, he was on something and got kicked out of his class at college. Ticked off, he goes into the parking lot, finds a girl standing by her car, and assaults her. Yep, our client assaults women. He spent 10 years in jail for that.
Now, obviously, assaulters can be unfairly treated 15 years later, and everyone deserves equal protection under the law. But yeah, it's a lot harder to get emotionally involved in support of your client when he mentions that.
More specifically to this case, if you're a cynic you might have asked, 'was he wasted and driving that night he decided to lead the cops on a car chase?' So I asked, and he said, 'Well, I had one drink at 8 p.m., but this was at 2 a.m., so honestly, it had to have been out of my system.' Great. Then the summer intern said, 'Were you on anything else at the time?' 'Oh, I had done some substances that night.'
What the heck, dude! You didn't feel like volunteering that earlier when we asked about the drinking?
But more to the point, if he was on all this, how well does he remember all these beatings from years before? He didn't have any other witnesses who would speak on his behalf.
Anyway, we got him a nice settlement, probably nicer than he deserved, and forgot about him. I looked him up a year or two later, and he was on the state's Most Wanted list.
I don't even want to know why."
"My very first case was a restraining order case. Most lawyers who have ever had the 'pleasure' of doing a restraining order, know that it sucks in its entirety.
Anyway, I was representing this very old couple who wanted a restraining order against their neighbor. They were sweet old people, called all the time, wouldn't curse to save their lives. They started telling me about the neighbor, and to be honest, I didn't believe them. This chick was crazy. She got it in her head that the older gentleman was a child abuser - no history, charges, anything. She would hang huge signs in the street calling him a child assaulter. She would file police reports against him. I won't even say what she would scream at them from her house, but it would make a sailor blush. She bought a rottweiler for the sole purpose of training it to attack the couple. Rottweiler's name? Let's just say it was incredibly racist. She liked to shoot weapons and try and run these people off the road. The best part is that not only did she admit it all in court; she was proud of it. She said she would do it again. Needless to say, we won. The court ordered her to undergo a mental evaluation."
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