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Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Law and Lawyers

Trial Lawyers and Judges

Canadian judge threw out a court case because the witness was too boring - judge reckoned he was the dullest man he'd ever had to listen to - even the court reporter fell asleep "Three days of this drone is all I can take. I can't face the prospect of another 14 indictments. It's probably unethical but I don't care."

Prisons Law and Lawyers

British prison had to spend £100,000 replacing all locks after a TV program showed a close up of a warder opening a door and the prisoners copied the key.

American Laws

The City Commission of San Antonio, Fla. (population 1,052), passed an ordinance in January restricting, to a tiny portion of town, where registered sex offenders could live. However, San Antonio has only one sex offender, and that man is exempt from the law because he already lives there.

Court dialogue everywhere can be keenly serrated. Three of these are English instances but which one is from the US? (a) COUNSEL (to witness) So, you were as drunk as a judge? JUDGE (interjecting) It’s “sober as a judge”. You mean as drunk as a lord? COUNSEL: Yes, my lord. (b) JUDGE: I am becoming tired of your jewels of Chancery learning. COUNSEL: If Your Lordship will bear with me, I am about to cast my last pearl. (c) JUDGE: I am told that when summoned, you said “the judge can kiss my arse”. Is that right? DEFENDANT: Yes. But now I have met you I revoke that offer. (d) JUDGE: Please come to the point. COUNSEL: I shall speak as long as I please. JUDGE: You have already spoken longer than you have pleased.

American Police

“Primarily it’s raging incompetence that we find too often in police departments that we go into,” said Tom Dart, the Cook County sheriff, who has found untested rape kits in other towns besides Robbins. “It’s a combination of raging incompetence and just not caring.”

(Dart says that Robbins once hired a police officer who supposedly had worked in the Los Angeles Police Department. His evidence of previous employment was a photocopy of an L.A.P.D. badge — and only after he was hired did someone look closely and see that it was just a printout of Sgt. Joe Friday’s badge from the television show “Dragnet.”)

American Police

U.S. courts increasingly allow customers to sign away state and federal rights by agreeing to contracts providing private arbitration for disputes rather than access to courts--even if the contract explicitly requires only religious resolutions rather than secular, constitutional ones. A November New York Times investigation examined contracts ranging from Scientology's requirement that fraud claims by members be resolved only by Scientologists--to various consumer issues from home repairs to real estate sales limited to dockets of Christian clerics.

Police Training

Female police recruitdescribed her firearms training where had to fight simulated attackers in a 'house'. She managed to dispatch two attackers before her goggles fogged up, then noticed movement in the corner. Got in four shots and left house feeling satisfied. "Did I pass?" "No you failed. See this" said examiner, waving his clipboard. "It's stationery, not a lethal weapon. I didn't wear protective gear bc I was only there to mark, and you put four shots into me."

Copyright Law

Is This a Great Country or What? There's hardly a more "generic" song in America than "Happy Birthday to You," but to this day (until a judge resolves a pending case) Warner/Chappel Music company is still trying to make big dollars off of the 16-word ditty (15 original words plus a user-supplied 16th). Its original copyright should have expired, at the latest, in 1991, but amendments to the law, and technicalities in interpretation (e.g., did the copyright cover all public uses or just piano arrangements?) bring Warner at least $2 million a year in fees. A federal judge in California is expected to rule soon on whether the song is in fact uncopyrightably "generic"--125 years after the Hill sisters (Mildred and Patty) composed it.

Defining The Law

Michael Robertson, 31, argued via a lawyer before Massachusetts's highest court in November that his arrest for taking "upskirt" photographs of a woman on the subway should be tossed out--asserting that he has a constitutional right to take pictures of anything that is not covered up in public. Said his lawyer (a woman), noting that the victim's skirt provided only partial covering, "If a clothed person reveals a body part whether it was intentional or unintentional, he or she cannot expect privacy." (Robertson's case had been suspended at the trial court while he seeks a ruling on his legal interpretation.)

Enforcing Laws

Taiwan tabloid Apple Daily profiled a 27-year-old man who said he has tripled his previous salary by becoming a public snitch, turning in videos of litterers and spitters violating Taipei laws that reward informants a fee of one-fourth the amount of any fines. In the last two years, the man ("Chou") said he has had 5,000 cases result in fines, for which he has been paid the equivalent of $50,000. He said he now teaches classes in snitching.

Enforcing Laws - The Christmas Spirit

Magistrate Hector Graham was sitting at Luton Magistrates’ Court before Christmas in 2000. A downcast convicted man stood before the bench about to be sentenced for a property crime when the courtroom rang out to the tune “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Mr Graham agitatedly began fiddling with his musical novelty Santa Claus tie. The magistrate’s tie then burst into “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” before stopping, at which point the defendant was jailed for four months.


In 1999, at Cardiff crown court, Alan Rashid was sentenced to two years in prison because a juror coughed as the jury foreman said the “not” in “Not Guilty”. Judge Gibbon, thinking that Mr Rashid had been found guilty on the charge of making a threat to kill, jailed him for two years. The puzzled jurors assumed that Mr Rashid was being sentenced for other offences of which they were unaware, until, on the way out, one juror asked an usher why Mr Rashid had been imprisoned after being found “not guilty”, and the truth was revealed.

In the mid 1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.

Prison Lawsuits

An American prisoner sued government for infringing his religious rights, but because they were secret, he couldn't actually explain how they were being infringed.

Prison Lawsuits - you gotta know when to quit

Anthony Watson, sentenced to prison in 1992 for crimes that included rape and robbery, became a notorious jailhouse lawyer (even drafting a book, "A Guide to the Plea Circus") and through successful challenges had reduced his 160-year sentence to 26--and a release date of 2018. However, he filed one appeal too many. A court ruled in his favor on that final appeal and ordered a new trial altogether (vacating the convictions and sentence but also the reductions Watson had worked so hard for). At the retrial in March 2011, he was found guilty again and this time sentenced to four consecutive life terms.

Other Lawsuits

Donnell Battie was in a Walmart two years ago when a teenage boy commandeered the store's public address system and, as a prank, ordered all black people to leave. The boy was arrested days later on harassment and bias intimidation charges, but Battie, who is black, claimed in May 2012 that the boy's announcement still haunts him. He filed a $1 million lawsuit against Walmart in Camden,N.J., claiming that he has required medical care due to the "severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm" of the boy's words.

Tax Laws

29 US states have imposed taxes on marijuana - in NY it's $3.50 a gram. Virtually no dealers buy the tax stamps (only stamp collectors do) but cops use the law to confiscate dealers' assets

Law and Lawyers

In 2004, a German lawyer, Dr Juergen Graefe, acted for an elderly pensioner from St Augustin, near Bonn, who was sent a tax demand for euro 287 million, even though the woman's income was only euro 17,000. Dr Graefe fixed the problem with one standard letter to the authorities, but as German law entitles him to calculate his fee based on the amount of the reduction he obtained, his fee came to euro 440,234 (£308,000). It will be met by the state. There is no evidence that he pushed his luck by writing a thank-you letter.

As the court-appointed trustee seeking as much of Ponzi-schemer victims, Irving Picard has secured, according to a May New York Times report, $330 million to distribute. During the same time, Picard and his associates have billed the court (in fees that run as much as $850 per hour) $554 million.

Yarboro Sallee, suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for one year for ethical violations that included billing clients for the time she spent watching true crime TV shows as “research” for representing their interests.

The How to Win Friends and Influence Judges award for 2015 goes to Michael J Anderson, a North Carolina attorney facing disciplinary charges for his comments in pleadings about the state appeals court. “Had I known the level of intellectual functioning and maturity of this panel in advance,” he wrote, “I would have come prepared with a colouring book with big pretty pictures to illustrate my points.” He added, “I’m convinced that with the passing of each fart I dispense more integrity and legal competence than is possessed by all the folks on the panel combined.”

Law and Lawyers

Sam Sylvester was one of the leading showbusiness lawyers of his generation who represented some of the bestknown rockstars of the Sixties and Seventies, including Paul McCartney, The Who and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He practised in an era when many bands had been exploited by record companies and saddled with bad contracts. Sylvester devoted himself to changing that position. Samuel Barry Sylvester was born in London in 1933. He was educated at The Hall and Westminster School. While at Westminster he initiated an insurance scheme whereby boys paid into a fund at various levels (depending on their reputations for badness and frequency of punishment) and when they were given lines to write out as a punishment, the fund would be used to pay someone else to do this for them.

Law and Lawyers

Laura Wasser, 42, the so-called "Disso Queen" - a soubriquet earned by the glamorous attorney for her handling of the dissolution of scores of A-list marriages. Ms Wasser’s past clients include Angelina Jolie and Britney Spears and she is currently representing Mel Gibson’s wife, Robyn Moore. One of the few lawyers to feature in Vogue and Elle, she is the daughter of Dennis Wasser, another lawyer who handled divorces for Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg. He gave his daughter the middle initial "A" so that her initials spell "LAW". The first marriage Ms Wasser dissolved was her own, in 1993, when she divorced her husband in her first case after leaving law school. "Everybody should get married - once," she has said.

Lawsuits and Lawyers

A Pennsylvanian man tried to sue God. Wanted him to return his youth, but then decided he also should have have skills of pop star guitar player, and that his mother and a pet pigeon should be resurrected.

Fine Point of Law:

Thanks to a loophole recently sanctioned by the Iowa Court of Appeals, Matt Danielson and his wife Jamie now own their home in Ankeny, Iowa, outright (value: $278,000) after making just one monthly mortgage payment. Iowa law regards a home mortgage by a married couple as automatically void if only one spouse has signed it, and a thusly-voided mortgage is treated as fully satisfied. (The purpose was to prevent one estranged spouse from exploiting the other, but the voiding is automatic regardless of the circumstances.) Legislators are currently trying to change the law to leave the discretion of voiding up to judges.

Law and Crime

Why do victims get ignored? In one experiment, students filled out a market research study while a young woman went behind a curtain and then appeared to climb on a chair to get something and fell down. She then moaned and cried out that her ankle was injured. When the person filling out the form was alone, he or she helped 70 percent of the time. But when another person was in the room, also filling out the survey and not responding, then only 7 percent tried to help.

American Police

Sheriff Joe Arpaio on a controversial new series, Smile . . . You're Under Arrest!. The Phoenix lawman, who attracted international criticism for dressing his inmates in pink jumpsuits and sending them out to work on chain gangs, is once again stirring up trouble from his base in Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio's decision to cooperate with a reality series that tricks wanted criminals into appearing before television cameras - allowing the sheriff to step out of the wings to arrest them - has stirred fury among defence lawyers and human rights advocates.

Law and Police

(Which reminds you of classic Simpson's episode where Chief Wigham tricks a number of scofflaws, including Homer, to collect a speedboat they've 'won'. And of course Homer, even after arrested and fined, still keeps asking "Where's my boat? Where's my boat?"

British law that if you've lived in a building for 5 years the council has to issuea compliance cert, even if not up to code or local rules. Guy built agiant barn in green belt, with a 4 bedroom house hidden inside.

Law and Police

Vincent Morrissey's police brutality lawsuit went to trial in New Haven, Conn., in December [1997], and West Haven police officer Ralph Angelo was on the witness stand, claiming that Morrissey himself had provoked the encounter by swinging at Angelo. Morrissey's attorney, skeptical of the testimony, asked Officer Angelo to demonstrate to the jury how hard Morrissey had swung at him. Before the lawyer could clarify what he meant by "demonstrate," Officer Angelo popped the lawyer on the chin, staggering him and forcing an immediate recess

Lawsuits and Lawyers

Sears Roebuck lost a lawsuit for improperly balancing car tires. In the settlement the lawyers got $2.45 million, the customers got $2.50 each


Spanish woman sued the family of her former lover, who shot himself in her car when she told him she didn't want to see him any more. "Why should I pay to get the blood out of the upholstery" she said.

Law and Lawyers

This is the American way. Since Sept. 11, 2001, when the country's attention understandably turned to terrorism, nearly 120,000 Americans have been killed in nonterror homicides, most of them committed with guns. Think about it - 120,000 dead. That's nearly 25 times the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the most part, we pay no attention to this relentless carnage. The idea of doing something meaningful about the insane number of guns in circulation is a nonstarter. So what if eight kids are shot to death every day in America. So what if someone is killed by a gun every 17 minutes. The goal of the National Rifle Association and a host of so-called conservative lawmakers is to get ever more guns into the hands of ever more people. Texas is one of a number of states considering bills to allow concealed guns on college campuses. Supporters argue, among other things, that it will enable students and professors to defend themselves against mass murderers, like the deranged gunman who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech two years ago. They'd like guns to be as ubiquitous as laptops or cellphones. One Texas lawmaker referred to unarmed people on campuses as "sitting ducks."

Law and Lawyers

Recently the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Seattle had for two years improperly charged water customers for servicing hydrants when the city should have covered the service from general tax funds, and it ordered customer refunds averaging $45. However, Seattle then discovered it had insufficient general funds to pay for hydrant service and thus imposed a water surcharge of $59 per customer, according to a February KOMO-TV report. The most likely reason why the surcharge was higher is that the city had to pay $4.2 million to the attorneys who filed the account-shuffling lawsuit.

Law and Lawyers

From John Seligman's Authentic Happiness: Law is best paid career in US, but lawyers are the most unhappy, as measured by self-reporting (only profession where a majority rate themselves unhappy with job), and depression rates (3 times that of all other employed) and higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and marital break down. Pessimism is one of main problems - in almost every other aspect of life, the more optimistic you are, the more you achieve. But law needs people to be pessimistic - need to foresee the worst possible outcomes, and make preparations. But this job skill is the opposite to what you need to be successful in life - if you're always expecting the worst from partner kids and friends, it eventually comes true.


A columnist for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Yawm Al-Sabi proposed in March that Egypt sue Israel in international court for reparations for the 10 Biblical plagues cast from Hebrew curses, including boils, lice, locusts, and turning the Nile River into blood. Ahmad al-Gamal asserted that Israelites swiped gold, silver, and other precious items as they began their legendary desert-wandering. Al-Gamal also wants reparations from Turkey (for the 16th century Ottoman invasion), France (for Napoleon's invasion in 1798), and Britain (for 72 years of occupation).

I'vedrawn up a prenup for her to sign. We split the house 50/50. She gets the outside, I get the inside.


Book Extracts on Law