The 22 Funniest Court Cases of All Time
Lawyers actually have a lot of fun doing what they do, and I should know. I'm a lawyer. Check out these hilarious stories from lawyers and judges. You'll never look at a court of law the same way again!
The “Hairy Hand”
A young man named George had surgery to correct an ugly scar on his hand. The surgeon grafted skin from George’s chest onto his hand… except George had a hairy chest…so now he had a hairy hand as well. George sued the surgeon and was awarded “the difference in value between a 100 percent good hand… and a hairy hand.”
Judges have latitude when it comes to how they write their opinions and some run with it. For example, here’s how Justice Goldberg (a federal appeals court judge in Texas) began his 1986 opinion in the case of United States v. Batson:
Some farmers from Gaines had a plan.
It amounted to quite a big scam.
But the payments for cotton
began to smell rotten.
T’was a mugging of poor Uncle Sam.
Justice Goldberg keeps up the hilarity right until the very end, even as he breaks the bad news to the farmers: they’re still in big trouble.
Party on, Garth
“After an extreme close-up review of the record and excellent authorities, the court enters the following order.” So begins the opinion of Federal District Judge Paine in Noble v. Bradford Marine, a clear shout-out to the hilarious film, Wayne’s World. The first section is captioned, “Hurling Chunks.” The last: “A Schwing and a Miss.” In between, Judge Paine calls the defendant’s case “bogus” and “not worthy” and ultimately denies the defendant’s motion with a curt, “Party on.”
The ole stiff shoes excuse
More legal hilarity comes from Frank Caprio, Providence’s Chief Municipal Judge in Rhode Island and now the star of Caught in Providence, who, “judging” by the stories he recently shared with Reader’s Digest, has clearly has heard everything. For example, a man charged with speeding actually told Judge Caprio that he didn’t realize he was speeding because he was wearing a stiff, new pair of shoes and couldn’t feel how hard he was pressing on the gas. If you don’t laugh at these lawyer jokes, you might be held in contempt!
Another man accused of speeding seemed really, well, anxious, as he stood before Judge Caprio. “Is there something you want to say?” Judge Caprio asked the man. “Actually, yes,” the man replied. “My wife and I are trying to have a baby, and she’s ovulating right now.” What could be said beyond, “Thank you for sharing”? Actually, these might just be the funniest lawyer jokes ever.
The Heimlich “maneuver”
Another man stood before Judge Caprio defending himself for having parked in a handicapped spot, despite not having a sticker or a visible handicap. The man claimed he’d meant to park for just a moment to go into a restaurant to bring his mother a glass of water (she was dehydrated, he explained). But when he was on his way out, he saw someone choking and felt obliged to administer the Heimlich maneuver. The only problem was when Judge Caprio asked him how one does the Heimlich maneuver, the man had not a clue. Guilty as charged!
Well, that was awkward
In the “Only in Rhode Island,” category, Caprio tells Reader’s Digest that everyone knows everyone in the tiny New England state, and sometimes it gets super awkward. For example, one time a guy came in for a hearing on a parking ticket. So far so good… until his lawyer showed up. The lawyer, who was the husband of the defendant’s ex-wife, was also the former governor of Rhode Island. Spoiler alert: it turned out the parking ticket was issued in error, so everyone went home happy (except the police officer who wrote the ticket).
“The dumpster made me do it”
Judge Caprio recalls the time a woman argued against a parking ticket she’d received for parking in what had clearly been marked a loading zone. Not only was the sign clear on that, but the woman said she typically parked legally in an adjacent spot.
“So why not park legally this time?” the judge asked.
“Because a dumpster parked in that spot. So I took the spot the dumpster should have taken.”
She had to, hm? She also had to pay her parking ticket…obviously. Here are some smart tips for fighting parking tickets.
Speaking of funny judges, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina had us in tears when she told us about an exotic dancer who, having pleaded guilty on a drug charge, was sentenced to wearing an ankle monitor. Just a few days after sentencing, however, the woman was back in the courtroom, seeking an exception because the ankle monitor was kind of “ruining her vibe” at the strip club. In response, Judge Aquilina offered a veritable Solomon-esque solution: “Bedazzle that thing to match your outfits. Motion denied.”
Up the down hairdo
Attorney Allison Margolin, partner at Margolin Lawrence, has her own rather amusing drug-related story, only her is from the other side of the bench. “I was defending a criminal client on a drug charge,” she tells Reader’s Digest, “and I smelled pot in the courtroom.” Weirded out, she kept looking around trying to determine where it was coming from. She even looked in her own purse to see if her client had used her as a “mule.” No dice… until Margolin got home and took down her hair. “My client had stuck a joint in my up-do,” she realized.
The “end” of a promising career
Alex Ozols, founder of Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego, fervently hopes that this anecdote did not prove to be career-“ending” for the intern it involved. “I was working in criminal law and had a case where a man had set up cameras to watch women go to the bathroom,” he tells Reader’s Digest, “and oh, by the way, what he really liked was to watch them making… Number 2.” The D.A. provided Ozols and his team with videos, which went to an intern to review. “Poor kid had to watch four hours of bowel movements,” Ozols explains. Hopefully, the story had a happy “ending.”
The Ex Files
Jonathan Rosenfeld, founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, tells Reader’s Digest, “I get a ridiculous amount of correspondence from people wanting to sue their exes for allegedly giving them STDs.” Oh? Do tell, Counselor. “I always tell them it’s difficult to prove they contracted it from a specific person, and their response is almost inevitably to send me a photo of the affected area.” As if that would establish the connection!?
There’s a difference between an actuary and a psychic
When Arkady Frekhtman, founding partner of Frekhtman & Associates, had a personal injury case involving an injured young man, winning a big judgment hinged on the young man having a life expectancy of 87. So Frekhtman called in an actuarial expert. When all was said and done (and won), the client asked to be put in touch with the expert. Why? Because he wanted to know exactly when he would die and how… as if the expert were a psychic and not an actuary.
Against attorney advice
Scott Trout, a leading divorce attorney with Cordell and Cordell, had a client who claimed he wasn’t making enough money to afford to pay spousal support. The thing was, the guy was a CEO of a big company and clearly could afford it. Nevertheless, the guy insisted on making the claim, and the day of the trial, he came to court dressed in dirty work clothes and testified he worked as a landscaper and barely made ends meet mowing lawns for a living.
It did not go well. Find out the 38 dumbest criminals of all time.
Nothing like getting a Christmas delivery from a gang member
Sheryl A. Sanford, a partner at Black Marjieh & Sanford LLP, has done quite a bit of criminal defense, which has led to some rather funny scenarios. For example, she once received a Christmas card with a puppy dog…from a Bloods gang member. Another time, she received an urgent message from a prisoner at Rikers. The only problem? He called himself “John Doe,” making it impossible for Sanford to call back.
Is a gourmet lunch an inalienable right?
Sanford’s partner at BMS, Lisa J. Black, has had some pretty out-there exchanges with her criminal defense clients as well. “This one guy thought the Department of Corrections was trying to turn him into a cyborg. Another came to me claiming the jail was violating his Constitutional rights by serving bologna sandwiches for lunch.” Here are the unluckiest criminals we’ve ever seen.
There’s performing, and then there’s “performing”
Personal injury attorney Byron Browne tells Reader’s Digest of a woman who’d been injured in an accident and claimed she could no longer perform at work. While it may be true that there were some activities she could no longer perform, a private investigator unearthed a treasure trove of professional adult films the woman had shot since the accident, proving there’s performing, and then there’s performing, and this woman was performing just fine, apparently.
James Gray Robinson, a third generation trial attorney and self-proclaimed “cattle enthusiast,” was once hired by an insurance company to defend a farmer who was being sued for rear-ending a vehicle…with a bull, thus putting a whole new meaning to the notion of rear-ending.
He really tied one on
Attorney David Reischer, founder of LegalAdvice.com once had a client who was not into wearing business clothing. Not even business casual. This doesn’t always go over so well with judges, so Reischer tried to convince the man to at least wear a tie. Just this once. The client obliged…he showed up the next day wearing a huge clown tie! Find out the dumbest laws in every state.
Ever hear the one about the voir dire?
Voir dire, the process of jury selection, isn’t always “funny,” but here’s an exception. “I always ask the jury pool if they know of my law firm,” explains Adam Funk, a partner at the Potts Law Firm. This one time, an elderly woman raised her hand and volunteered she’d worked there as a secretary, albeit decades ago.”
That shouldn’t be a problem, Funk thought, but still had to ask if the long-ago job would in any way impact her ability to be impartial with Funk representing the firm.
“Well, I know your boss, and he’s a real jerk,” the woman said sweetly.
Juror, dismissed. Don’t miss the weird laws you probably break all the time.
A family affair
Family law attorney, Russell Knight, still chuckles over this story of a woman who wanted help in proving who was the father of her child. What should have been a no-brainer, unfortunately, was a bit more complicated. Turned out, the child was the result of a one-night stand. The problem, however, wasn’t that she couldn’t locate the father. The problem was she could.
“Do you know any of his relatives,” Knight asked her.
“I know his brother.”
“OK, how do you know his brother?”
“He’s my husband.”
The “I Love Lucy” defense
Randolph Rice, founder of Baltimore’s Rice Law Firm, always appreciated slapstick comedy but never thought it would turn up in a case he was trying. “I was defending a woman on criminal charges, trying hard to convince the judge to sympathize with her, when the woman went to pour herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the defense table,” Rice tells us. “As she poured, the pitcher’s lid fell off… sending water everywhere.” At least the judge had a good laugh!