Before he entered politics, Richard Nixon practiced law. Mostly, he did stuff like handle leases and oil contracts—very little of it was exciting enough to find its way into any Nixon biography. And yet he still managed to bungle his first case so hard that the judge admonished him with the following words: "Mr. Nixon, I have serious doubts whether you have the ethical qualifications to practice law in the state of California. I am seriously thinking of turning this matter over to the Bar Association."

Nixon's client had lent her aunt and uncle $2,000 and now wanted it back, plus interest. Nixon sought the sum by foreclosing on some property the aunt and uncle had bought. This was not the bad part; apparently, this was the normal thing for a law firm to do. 

At the foreclosure auction, Nixon bid on the property on his client's behalf. As the only bidder, he was supposed to offer the minimum $500, get the property in his client's hands, and then keep suing for the remaining sum. Instead. He bid $2,000. The client was now no longer allowed to sue for anything more, not even for the outstanding interest.

Then it turned out that some other owners had a share in the land as well, and when they pressed their legal claim, they got the land back, leaving Nixon's client with nothing. His firm made no money off the case, and they in fact had to pay the aunt and uncle $4,000 (almost $80,000 in today's money) because of how Nixon had mishandled the foreclosure. As for the client, she sued Nixon personally. And when defending himself, Nixon submitted a fraudulent affidavit. 

Sorry we don't have details on exactly what made the affidavit fraudulent; even if we did, we'd probably need a lawyer on hand to explain it for us. What we do know is this early bit of fraud from Nixon led Judge Alfred Paonessa to say the lines we quoted earlier. In the end, though, Nixon sure proved the judge wrong. He became president of the United States and is today remembered for his unwavering devotion to ethics and the rule of law. 

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For more on Tricky Dick, check out:

MYTH: Nixon Won the Radio Debate, but Kennedy Won on Television

Richard Nixon May Have Saved The Environment

Nixon's "I Am Not A Crook" Speech Was Given At Disney World

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Top image: White House

 

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