My Worst Day in Court

my worst day in court
2024 Feature Nominations

In the latest READERS RESPOND, we asked attorneys to tell us about their worst day in court – the funny or embarrassing stories from their early (or later) days as a litigator. 

In my one and only trip to first-appearance criminal court, as a young lawyer, a business client asked me to go to court to assist an employee’s son who had been arrested the night before on a minor offense. I did as told, and when the judge agreed to release the young man on bail of $1,500, I pulled out my wallet and offered my credit card, which – to say the least is not the proper procedure. The bailiff remarked, “You’re going to be very popular down here.”

Mike Freed, Attorney at Gunster

When I first began practicing, the court appointed me to represent a defendant. There are specific things that must be said in front of the judge during the proceeding. I had little idea what I was supposed to say, so I turned to another attorney who was also relatively new and asked him what to say. Unfortunately, he gave me bad advice and when I went to repeat the misinformation, the judge was kind enough to correct my mistake in front of an open court with many people.

— Dr. Louis Patino, Founder of Patino Law Firm

Besides standing for an adverse jury verdict, my worst day in court goes like this…  One day, my law partner wanted to go with me to a hearing in a civil case.  After the hearing was over, my partner and I were walking out of the courthouse with opposing counsel, engaging in some friendly conversation.  When we reached the point that we needed to head in separate directions, opposing counsel patted my partner on the shoulder and told him to buy me a nice suit like the one my partner was wearing.  When I got back to the office, I realized what my opposing counsel was talking about. The seat of my suit pants had a giant rip in the middle, right down the seam. I have no idea how long it was like that or how many people in the courthouse saw it. I’m still haunted by that experience.

— Galen Bauer, Attorney at Spohrer Dodd 

I have some great stories, but I do not think of them as funny or embarrassing at least to me. I once had my waiter arrested. He had been arrested earlier and had lied to the judge to get out of jail. The judge had locked him into his story in order for him to be released from custody. I got down from court and his brother had called the office and ratted him out saying the information that he told the judge was a lie. We conducted an investigation based on the very thorough statement the judge had him sign. I was then out to lunch with my colleagues from the office and who was our waiter but this individual.  He recognized me and hid in the kitchen. The police were called, and he was arrested on the charge of perjury.

Heather McManus, General Counsel of American Kennel Club


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