The Big Q

What’s the most embarrassing thing one of your clients did during court proceedings?

Posted Aug 1, 2004 11:07 AM CDT
By Chris Zombory

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PASCAL BRUIJN

Nix Holtsford Gilliland Higgins & Hitson
Daphne, Ala.

I was a state prosecutor handling a domestic violence case. The wife had assaulted the husband after he’d come home drunk.

Over my objections and throwing rules of evidence to the wind, the judge let the wife display a white robe (reportedly found in the husband’s clos­et) with Ku Klux Klan insignia. The victim husband whis­pered in my ear, “It ain’t mine—it ain’t. She’s lying.” Em­bold­­ened by his protesta­tions, I confronted the wife. She stood up and showed the robe to the judge, who said, “Sir, your full name is sewn into the collar.”

JOHN WUNDER

Solo practitioner
Muscatine, Iowa

When I was a public defender, I had a defendant charged with breaking into a business and calling in a bomb threat to prevent his ex-girlfriend from going to a concert with another man.

At the deposition, the investigating officer described noticing footprints in the alley, as well as on the back door that was kicked in. He admitted he couldn’t match them with any footwear found during a search of my client’s home.

All of a sudden, my client blurted out while pointing to the shoes he had on in jail (minus the shoelaces), “These are the shoes I was wearing.” They matched.

SUSAN BECKER

Assistant professor
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

My most embarrassing moment was based on the statement a client made by his choice of footwear. My client was a production line supervisor for an automobile manufacturer, and he was accused of assaulting a subordinate. The alleged assault occurred when the plaintiff was bending over installing headrests inside a car and my client goosed the plaintiff with his foot. We admitted the contact but claimed that it was just routine horseplay, and that the minimal force used could not have caused the injuries the plaintiff complained about.

My client showed up for his deposition wearing a nice shirt and pants accessorized with the most severely pointed cowboy boots ever seen in Ohio—probably the most pointed boots in the history of Western footwear. My guess is that any contact with the tip of those well-worn boots would approximate a thorough exam by a proctologist.

I thought about trying to find my client another pair of shoes, but none of my male colleagues were in the office before this 7 a.m. deposition. Amazingly, plaintiff’s counsel never inquired about the type of footwear my client was wearing when the incident occurred, and the case was dismissed on summary judgment about a year later. I am now a law professor, and I use this incident to stress the importance of dressing clients appropriately from head to toe.

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