John G. Browning 2016-05-30 19:08:54
Don’t Get Your Legal Advice From a Plush Toy Some years ago, a client brought me a “lawyer bear”—a little stuffed teddy bear, complete with spectacles, a tiny briefcase, and a tiny blue suit. The adorable souvenir was soon appropriated by my young niece, no doubt relegated to an existence of litigating over Barbie and Ken’s divorce and who would win possession of the Malibu Dreamhouse. Needless to say, I never asked the bear to cover a deposition or hearing. Then again, I never had a client like Charles Abbott. In May of last year, a 67-year-old Abbott appeared in court in Aspen, Colorado, to answer to allegations of violating a protective order brought by his 75-year-old former roommate, Michael Stranahan. But what made this case different from your gardenvariety protective order hearing was Abbott’s choice of counsel: He claimed to be represented by Solomon, a stuffed horned owl plush toy. Abbott told Pitkin County Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely that the owl was “a very sensitive guy” and “has law degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Stanford,” according to reports from the Aspen Times. Not surprisingly, the judge ignored Solomon, who sat on the defense table for the remainder of the hearing, allowing reporters plenty of opportunity to take photos for their “Man-Uses-Stuffed-Owl-as-Attorney” stories. Hey, at least Abbott didn’t get a bill afterward. Clients whose grips on reality have become a little sweaty are hardly a problem just for American lawyers. In Edinburgh, Scotland, solicitor Roy Harley appeared in court to explain his client Paul Mount’s absence (Mount was facing charges of threatening to set bus passengers on fire). When asked why Mount himself had not appeared in court, the attorney replied: “To be frank, My Lord, when he arrived at my office he was wearing a fluorescent green Batman outfit. I think drink had been taken,” the Edinburgh Evening News reported in May 2015. Harley then explained he had instructions from his client to plead guilty, and the judge agreed to defer sentencing to the following week provided that the lawyer instruct Mount “not to dress as Batman, or Robin for that matter.” Of course, attracting clients who don’t rely on stuffed animals or run around dressed as superheroes often means advertising your services, and some lawyers do that more effectively than others. Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyer Joi McClendon adopted a skull and crossbones logo (the “eyes” of the skull are scales of justice, while the “bones” are gavels). McClendon felt that the logo was “fine,” but her landlord disagreed: The lawyer was evicted, with the landlord maintaining that McClendon’s advertising symbol was associated with “death, piracy, and poison,” according to KOCO 5 News. She has since found new digs. If you think dying will get you out of a court appearance in Greece, think again. In April 2015, a Greek court convicted a dead man of stealing electricity from a power utility. The deceased defendant’s lawyer, Christos Bakelas, informed the court that his client had died and asked that the trial be continued until he could provide a death certificate. The court refused, however, and proceeded to find Bakelas’s client guilty in absentia and to impose a six-month jail sentence. Bowing momentarily to reality, the court suspended the sentence because of, well, “death.” The next one is an “oldie but a goodie” from 2007. Kurt Husfeldt, his 13-year-old son, and 20-year-old Steven Mangiapanella of Lindenhurst, New York, appeared to have thought they had pulled off the perfect crime. The Long Island trio had broken into the Town of Babylon Public Works garage and allegedly made off with boxes that they thought contained cellphones. But they were astonished when shortly after returning to Husfeldt’s home to split up their stolen goods, Suffolk County police showed up at the door and arrested them for grand larceny and possession of stolen property. It turns out the “cellphones” were actually 14 GPS devices that the town was installing in dump trucks, street sweepers, and other city vehicles. The devices led police straight to the thieves. Crime doesn’t pay. Even a stuffed owl could probably tell you that. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and is the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS Send your funny essays, deposition and trial excerpts, cartoons, jokes, and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Humor/2498238/306771/article.html.