9 Insane Cases that Prove the US Legal System Is Screwed
In the old days, whoever had the biggest stick won. We've evolved to the point that, now, whoever has the highest paid lawyer wins, with the advantage that no matter how much you use a lawyer, it won't snap into pieces.
As long as the legal system has been around, people have been trying to find ways to fuck with it. From plaintiffs to lawyers to judges, it looks like we've perfected the art.
Exhibit 1: The most expensive pants in the world
Power corrupts, and absolute legal power makes you retarded. Thus, Judge Roy Pearson launched a lunatic legal siege on a dry cleaners over a lost pair of pants, claiming $67 million compensation. If you just said, "$67 dollars? Those must have been some nice pants!" then you should know that you skipped a word.
Clearly these $67 million pants were stitched from the Turin Shroud using threads picked from the canvas of the Mona Lisa. To reclaim his loss, Pearson adapted the legal system into a game of "hunt the poor people," pursuing the immigrant owners of Custom Cleaners for over two years.
Pearson claims the cleaners lost the pants to a $1,000 suit. They claimed they found them later that week, but he disagreed. They then offered him $12,000 compensation, but he demanded the more reasonable figure of $67 million, which we've repeated a number of times now in case your eyes blocked it out before to protect your sanity.
Photo altered by Cracked
After two full years of everyone on the planet telling him he was totally insane, he lowered the claim. To $54 million. You might recognize that as 50,000 times the cost of the original item, which he claimed accounted for his inconvenience and mental anguish. The legal fees ($80,000) nearly drove the cleaners back to South Korea until a community effort raised the money to pay the bill. Which means that, holy shit, Roy Pearson is the villain from a Disney movie.
He lost the case, lost his job as an Administrative Law Judge, was divorced by his wife, and faces bankruptcy. Upon realizing he'd become the star of a heavy-handed parable, Peterson apologized to the world and said he'd learned valuable lesson about the evils of materialism and the availability of more pants. Ha, no, not really. He filed for the court to reconsider the decision, and when they refused, he launched a full appeal.
Exhibit 2: Softcore porn apparently illegal in court
North Carolina lawyer Todd Paris was charged with criminal contempt, fined $300 and given a 15-day suspended sentence for reading Maxim during a court session. It wasn't clear whether the penalty was meant to punish his disrespect, his poor taste or was based on suspicion that he's too stupid to really be a lawyer.
Now we understand the urge to look at boobies is a powerful and primal. It's why we work so hard here at Cracked. We know every word is a pitched battle against your urge to say "Fuck it" and head over to "HOT-RACE-GENDEROFCHOICE-XXX.com." But if you work in a courthouse and expect to see boobs, your name had better be Attorney-At-Ass Dick Long, and you better be starring in a court-themed video for the aforementioned website.
On appeal, he got the charge reduced to civil contempt with no sentence, by agreeing to pay an extra $200 fine. The fact that this amount likely wouldn't cover one-tenth of the court costs of the appeal proceedings, which raises a salient question: Who gives a shit? Wouldn't it have been easier to just tell him to put the magazine away and call him a dumbass?
Exhibit 3: Dartmouth professor sues students for being mean
Professor Priya Venkatesan accused students in her French narrative theory class of "anti-intellectualism." For Ivy League students interested in what the French are saying about narrative theory, this is probably on par with accusing Bruce Willis of being unmanly (though with an infinitely lower chance of getting dropped out of a skyscraper for your error).
She hired lawyers to sue members of the class, claiming the way they kept complaining about her inability to teach constituted a "hostile work environment." She also sued her superiors, apparently unaware that even being allowed to call "talking about French narrative theory" a job was already a huge allowance on their part.
She complained that during lectures on expository argument, her students argued with her. So either she's the world's master of irony or doesn't understand what those words mean. Some might say that a lecturer who needs expensive legal professionals to deal with student questions is not a very good lecturer. Others might say she probably needs trained assistance and a four-man safety team to open a door.
Students aspiring to work in the lucrative French narrative theory industry
In a sane world, the judge would hand Venkatesan a shovel, point her toward a hill-sized pile of manure and say, "Your sentence is to try a real job for a while. Fill that shit truck over there. When it comes back empty, do it again, for the next 20 years or until you get some fucking perspective."
Though her lawyers should be digging right beside her for even taking the case, so that their "Shoveling shit for money" hours are less metaphorical and more useful to the community.
Exhibit 4: Mr. Loophole (TM)
Lawyer Nick Freeman has legally and on record made a mockery of the entire judiciary. He's trademarked his nickname, "Mr. Loophole," so not only is he admitting he screws the system, that system is now legally obligated to protect his right to do so. Presumably his next suit will be, "The right to wave my dick in the judge's face is a fundamental civil liberty."
He's cleared people of speeding over 100 miles an hour based on laws from the days of the Model T, when the only way to get a car moving that fast was throw it off a cliff. He refuses to meet clients before proceedings in case he'd be compromised by any extraneous details they might reveal. Translation: "My clients are so guilty that I can't risk even being in the same room as them."
Even the blind are able to sense Freeman's douchebaggery
His high-profile clients include a soccer player who killed a father of four by ramming a Mercedes into his Renault. Luckily this was one case where Freeman couldn't derail due process by doing something like claiming a man with nine double-vodkas in his system was sober, arguing that needing to piss is more important than "the law," or accusing a magistrate of winking (all of which he's pulled off in other cases).
He proved his absolute lawyerality by once saying, "Morally, I can't (justify it), but ethically, I can." If that makes any sense to you then congratulations, you're either Buddha or psychotic.
Exhibit 5: Judge fucks up walking, the world must pay
New York State Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia slipped on a mopped floor and fractured his knee. As a respected member of the community and a seasoned legal professional, he completely understands the reality of the situation--and how he can sue the city for $1 million.
Wait, there's more. He's also suing the janitor. Yes, a $136,000-a-year judge looking to collect from the lady who literally cleans up after him ... because she got the floor wet while mopping it.
Battaglia defines a wet floor as "a dangerous and hazardous traplike condition," because as an experienced judge, he knows other judges aren't allowed to go, "Oh shut up you cash-grubbing asshole." They have to act like he's an entirely reasonable human being and patiently explain that the city did not ambush him with a bucket of water.
This same man could sentence you to jail
If it turns out this guy is living in the same Disney movie as Roy Pearson up there, then it's just a matter of time until some genie or angel or cursed bracelet causes him to swap lives with the janitor. After a few months as a minimum wage worker struggling to make ends meet while rich assholes prance around like the lords of creation, he'll gain a new understanding of the real values that matter in life. Then after that realization he'll wake up and still be a janitor, because fuck him.
Exhibit 6: Gambling lawyer sues casino for making her gamble
In a tragedy of retardation that could be given a soundtrack and entitled The Death of Personal Responsibility: The Musical, lawyer Arelia Taveras gambled with client money. In an unsurprising twist, she lost it.
In fact she lost over a million dollars, her legal practice, her home, her parents' home and claims she even tried to kill herself, so she clearly lost at that too.
Of course, none of it is her fault, which is why she's suing seven major Atlantic City casinos for a $20 million jackpot. Because God knows her last attempt to get money out of them worked so well. Since refusing to give money back to the losers is pretty much the foundation of the gambling industry, and they have large mountains of money to hire their own lawyers with, we don't like her chances.
Taveras with NY Mayor Bloomberg, who we're guessing is not taking her calls right now
At first, it's hard to know who to root for in this contest between two businesses based on weaseling money out of stupid people. But then you remember the casinos have a buffet.
Related: Nicolas Cage Says He Only Gambled Once, Won $20,000, and Immediately Donated His Prize To An Orphanage
Exhibit 7: Playground battle goes to the courts
In a case sure to make every professional involved question their lives, profession and the state of the human race, two Honolulu kids have escalated a playground squabble to full courtroom status.
It all started when, after a game, soccer pro David Beckham signed and handed his jersey to a pair of friends, ages 9 and 10, neither of whom wanted to let go of it. A dispute that should have been resolved by upper body strength, a ripped jersey and an important moral lesson about sharing, turned legal when the parents brought in lawyers to decide exactly which kid grabbed the jersey first.
Judge Dredd, where are you and your humorous ability to punch through civilian heads when we need you?
When a nine-year old comes home complaining about not getting an autograph from their football hero and the parents hit "SPEED DIAL-LAWYER," any functional legal system would immediately deport both kids and parents to another country, preferably one without quite enough food.
Exhibit 8: Unruly teen in an adult's body angers judge
Adam Reposa, an Austin lawyer who apparently cleared the bar late one night while nobody was watching, made the sarcastic "jerking off" hand gesture to a judge in court. The judge in turn made the "take this man to jail" gesture to the bailiff, thereby winning this particularly high-stakes version of rock-paper-scissors.
The lesson? Don't piss off judges. And if that has to be explained to you and you're not Ralph Macchio's cousin Vinny, than maybe you should think about a career other than "lawyer." In the real world being sent to jail takes a while--you need police and, for long sentences, court proceedings. When you're already in those damn court proceedings, the guys are standing right there. Hell, they probably get paid extra. It makes it a lot harder to get away with shit.
We refrained from animating this
Worse, he was only representing a DWI client at the time. When you're dealing with somebody else's traffic offenses and you manage to get yourself jailed, you might just be the worst lawyer in the entire world. That's like a pyromaniac becoming a firefighter.
Exhibit 9: A pyromaniac becomes a firefighter
Mary Wolski was firefighter! Mary set house on fire! Now, Mary not firefighter.
This story, which could not be simpler if it was printed on chewable pages with thick-lined drawings, still leaves enough of a sliver of gray area for the legal system to play with. Wolksi's attorney is arguing that even though she admitted she burned down her father's house, she should have her job back and to deny it to her would be discrimination.
We have only one question: How did this lawyer escape from Gotham, and who's representing the Arkham Asylum inmates in his absence? Discrimination is not automatically bad. For example, discriminating against firefighters who set houses on fire. That's some pretty damn good discrimination there. She would have better luck appealing that, in a purely literal sense, she was obeying the job description of "fireman."
Wolski tries to drum up some business
The appeal forced the Civil Service Commission to actually write down, on real paper, the phrase "The act of establishing a fire in a residence is wholly incompatible with the role of the fire fighter" which makes you wonder if a system that has to put that into writing at all has any chance of survival.
If you enjoyed that, but are tired of reading about people you want to kick in the groin, check out Luke's article about The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science. And then watch the video that shows how Once Jesus Got Famous He Changed, Man.