History Main / AFoolForAClient

7th Feb '17 5:33:34 PM TheAmazingBlachman
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In general, most legal professionals consider a person going to court without the aid of an attorney to be a really bad idea, even when the litigant ''is an attorney themselves''. Not all attorneys are versed in all forms of law; how many alleged murderers does the average tax lawyer defend in their lifetime, after all? Furthermore, even if said attorney ''is'' an expert in that precise field of law, being that close to the matter at hand is a great way to lose sight of the big picture.

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In general, most legal professionals consider a person going to court without the aid of an attorney to be a really bad idea, even when the litigant ''is an attorney themselves''. Not all attorneys are versed in all forms of law; how many alleged murderers does the average tax lawyer defend in their lifetime, after all? Furthermore, even if said attorney ''is'' an expert in that precise field of law, being that close to the matter at hand is a great way to lose sight of the big picture.
picture. There is a reason why adage in full often reads as some variation of "The man who represents himself has a fool for a client ''and an ass for an attorney.''"
1st Feb '17 5:16:19 AM MoPete
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* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'': Referenced in one strip: after Calvin nearly hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "''I'' didn't do it! You can't prove I did it! [[AccidentalPublicConfession Besides, I missed, didn't I?]]" Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").

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* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'': Referenced in one strip: after Calvin nearly hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "''I'' "I didn't do it! I never threw that! You can't prove I did threw it! [[AccidentalPublicConfession Besides, I missed, didn't I?]]" Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").
15th Dec '16 12:41:10 PM DavidDelony
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* Dylan Roof, the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, attempted this in 2016 and was quickly found guilty of nine counts of murder.

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* Dylan Dylann Roof, the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, attempted this in 2016 and was quickly found guilty of nine counts of murder.
15th Dec '16 12:40:36 PM DavidDelony
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* Dylan Roof, the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, attempted this in 2016 and was quickly found guilty of nine counts of murder.
6th Dec '16 8:55:39 AM Lloigor
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* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues The Regina Monologues]]": Homer represented himself instead of hiring a barrister. Marge allowed it because she didn't think Homer's chances were good enough to be damaged by the decision. Not surprisingly, Homer managed to offend the judge, jury and British public at large even further (he was on trial for crashing into the Queen's carriage)-ending up in [[RuleOfFunny the Tower of London]].

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* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues The Regina Monologues]]": Homer represented himself instead of hiring a barrister. Marge allowed it because she didn't think Homer's chances were good enough to be damaged by the decision. Not surprisingly, Homer managed to offend the judge, jury and British public at large even further (he was on trial for crashing into the Queen's carriage)-ending carriage) -- ending up in [[RuleOfFunny the Tower of London]].
5th Dec '16 5:45:15 PM Lloigor
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* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode [[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues The Regina Monologues]]: Homer represented himself instead of hiring a barrister. Marge allowed it because she didn't think Homer's chances were good enough to be damaged by the decision. Not surprisingly, Homer managed to offend the judge, jury and British public at large even further (he was on trial for crashing into the Queen's carriage)-ending up in [[RuleOfFunny the Tower of London]].

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* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode [[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues The Regina Monologues]]: Monologues]]": Homer represented himself instead of hiring a barrister. Marge allowed it because she didn't think Homer's chances were good enough to be damaged by the decision. Not surprisingly, Homer managed to offend the judge, jury and British public at large even further (he was on trial for crashing into the Queen's carriage)-ending up in [[RuleOfFunny the Tower of London]].



* Pornographer Larry Flynt was known for defending himself occasionally, and to cause quite a spectacle when doing so, as portrayed by Woody Harrelson in Film/ThePeopleVsLarryFlynt. In fact, Flynt's most outrageous antics were in response to the U.S. Supreme Court not allowing him to appear ''pro se''.

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* Pornographer Larry Flynt was known for defending himself occasionally, and to cause quite a spectacle when doing so, as portrayed by Woody Harrelson in Film/ThePeopleVsLarryFlynt.''Film/ThePeopleVsLarryFlynt''. In fact, Flynt's most outrageous antics were in response to the U.S. Supreme Court not allowing him to appear ''pro se''.
9th Nov '16 5:35:44 PM MoPete
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* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'': Referenced in one strip: after Calvin hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "''I'' didn't do it! And anyway, you can't prove it." Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").

to:

* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'': Referenced in one strip: after Calvin nearly hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "''I'' didn't do it! And anyway, you You can't prove it." I did it! [[AccidentalPublicConfession Besides, I missed, didn't I?]]" Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").
5th Nov '16 11:04:29 PM CaptainCrawdad
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* In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, a drifter who had recently taken up being an electrician, was accused of breaking and entering after a Panama City, FL pool hall was robbed of some small change and beverages. Too poor to afford an attorney, he was subsequently denied a public defender by the judge (only in capital crimes did the judge have to provide a public defender). He represented himself in his criminal trial, and although observers say he did a pretty good job for a ''pro se'' defendant, he was found guilty of breaking and entering and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison, Gideon appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who (in a unanimous decision) ruled that all criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel. Gideon received a new trial, and with the aid of an attorney was acquitted of the crime.
** Which was made into the movie ''Gideon's Trumpet'' (starring Creator/HenryFonda as Gideon).

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* In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, a drifter who had recently taken up being an electrician, was accused of breaking and entering after a Panama City, FL pool hall was robbed of some small change and beverages. Too poor to afford an attorney, he was subsequently denied a public defender by the judge (only in capital crimes did the judge have to provide a public defender). He represented himself in his criminal trial, and although observers say he did a pretty good job for a ''pro se'' defendant, he was found guilty of breaking and entering and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison, Gideon appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who (in a unanimous decision) ruled that all criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel. Gideon received a new trial, and with the aid of an attorney was acquitted of the crime.
** Which
crime. This was made into the movie ''Gideon's Trumpet'' (starring Creator/HenryFonda as Gideon).



** Another case with the same outcome: Caryl Chessman defended himself in his 1948 trial for kidnapping and, upon conviction, the judge complimented him on his legal skills before sending him to the GasChamber.

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** Another case with the same outcome: * Caryl Chessman defended himself in his 1948 trial for kidnapping and, upon conviction, the judge complimented him on his legal skills before sending him to the GasChamber.



* Counter-intuitively, this trope might not be a complete TruthInTelevision. The insane Colin Fergusons aside, a recent study, [[http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=901610 found here]], argues that most ''pro se'' criminal defendants are not mentally ill, and don't generally do much worse than represented criminal defendants.
** The place where ''pro se'' is a serious disadvantage isn't actually the criminal courts so much as it is certain civil tribunals, particularly summary-eviction proceedings in landlord-tenant courts. In summary eviction cases, essentially the only defense available is that the landlord committed a housing-code violation or otherwise breached the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied_warranty_of_habitability implied warranty of habitability]]-i.e. that the leased premises aren't fit to live in in the first place. Most tenants who receive notice of summary-eviction proceedings don't know this and go up before the court pleading poverty or misunderstanding-which are most emphatically ''not'' a defense, and at best get you a delay of a few months before you have to either pay up or get kicked out. And for whatever reason, landlord-tenant courts look more kindly upon requests for such a delay when it comes from a lawyer-probably because it means the tenant is taking the problem seriously and trying to figure out a solution. ''Pro se'' representation is commonly viewed as the domain of "professional tenants", who are nonpaying tenants with frustratingly complete knowledge of landlord-tenant laws and an unrivaled ability to stonewall landlords for months if not years before eventually leaving them with a worthless judgment and completely trashed property.
5th Nov '16 11:01:01 PM CaptainCrawdad
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* One of Charles Addams' comic strips featured a man climbing over a witness stand and a caption reading something along the lines of:
-->"Mr. Smith, I have no problem with you representing yourself, but would you ''please, for the love of God, stop jumping in and out of that chair!''"



** One of creator Charles Addams' comic strips featured a man climbing over a witness stand and a caption reading something along the lines of:
-->"Mr. Smith, I have no problem with you representing yourself, but would you ''please, for the love of God, stop jumping in and out of that chair!''"



* ''Film/{{Fracture|2007}}'': Ted Crawford decides to represent himself in an attempted murder trial, and he does it ''[[GambitRoulette very]]'' [[GambitRoulette effectively]]. He manages to get himself acquitted despite a signed confession, a murder weapon, and motive.\\
\\
The way he was able to do this was that the investigating detective was sleeping with the victim (the killer's wife) making the confession suspect when the detective's testimony of it was undermined, and the murder weapon had never been fired (he had switched it with the detective's weapon as they were identical models). As for motive, without evidence it's useless. This was helped by the fact that the prosecutor had his foot out the door as he was about to get a job at a prestigious law firm and wasn't taking the case very seriously due to the mountain of evidence. Crawford also purposely used an ObfuscatingStupidity angle to appear like an easy win to the haughty and uninterested public prosecutor.\\
\\
[[spoiler:When the prosecutor then finds a way to try Crawford for murder, Crawford hires a defense team of 4+ lawyers. He no longer has the tricks available that got him acquitted the first time.]] Both times rely on HollywoodLaw.

to:

* ''Film/{{Fracture|2007}}'': Ted Crawford decides to represent himself in an attempted murder trial, and he does it ''[[GambitRoulette very]]'' [[GambitRoulette effectively]]. He manages to get himself acquitted despite a signed confession, a murder weapon, and motive.\\
\\
The way he was able to do this was that the investigating detective was sleeping with the victim (the killer's wife) making the confession suspect when the detective's testimony of it was undermined, and the murder weapon had never been fired (he had switched it with the detective's weapon as they were identical models). As for motive, without evidence it's useless. This was helped by the fact that the prosecutor had his foot out the door as he was about to get a job at a prestigious law firm and wasn't taking the case very seriously due to the mountain of evidence. Crawford also purposely used an ObfuscatingStupidity angle to appear like an easy win to the haughty and uninterested public prosecutor.\\
\\
[[spoiler:When the prosecutor then finds a way to try Crawford for murder, Crawford hires a defense team of 4+ lawyers. He no longer has the tricks available that got him acquitted the first time.]] Both times rely on HollywoodLaw.



* In one episode of ''Series/{{CSI}}'', a defendant decides to do this in order to delay his trial, giving him a chance to escape from custody.

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* ''Series/{{CSI}}'',
**
In one episode of ''Series/{{CSI}}'', episode, a defendant decides to do this in order to delay his trial, giving him a chance to escape from custody.



* Happens from time to time in the various ''Franchise/LawAndOrder'' shows. This can be especially uncomfortable on ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'', when it involves an accused rapist cross-examining his alleged victim.
** One SVU episode involves a man who has this trope quoted at him by the judge. This client wasn't so foolish -- he walks away with an acquittal, although he is later rearrested.
** It's actually subverted in ''Series/LawAndOrder'' Prime. Defendants will occasionally represent themselves, but rarely to their own detriment. When they are convicted, it is for the same reason the represented defendants are. Some notable cases are [[MagnificentBastard Phillip Swann]], [[OffOnATechnicality Marty Winston]], [[AffablyEvil Victor Vargas Moreno]], [[FauxAffablyEvil Richard Morriston]], [[MurderByMistake Catherine Waxman]], [[ChurchMilitant Drew Seeley]], [[StalkerWithACrush Susan Boyd]], [[RightWingMilitiaFanatic Phil Christie]], [[AmoralAttorney Harold Jensen]], [[BigBadFriend Mark Paul Kopell]], [[WesternTerrorists Mousah Salim]], [[FaceDeathWithDignity Simon Vilanis]], [[LeaveNoWitnesses Leland Barnes]], [[BungledSuicide Davey Buckley]], [[RevengeBeforeReason Gordon Samuels]], and [[InsanityDefense James Smith]].
*** James Smith had an unusual justification for him defending himself - he was a trained lawyer, but the same mental illness that drove him to kill had prevented him from actually practicing law a day in his life. He thus saw his own murder trial as potentially his only chance to do what he'd always wanted to do. [[spoiler:He takes a deal after the DA gets his sister to testify about his instability; at the end of the episode [=McCoy=] looks over the summation Smith intended to give and says it could've hung the jury.]]
*** Several more of these guys were themselves lawyers, including Marty Winston (an arrogant litigator who tended to shoot anyone that got in the way of his courtroom victories), Victor Vargas Moreno (a fraudster who was disbarred for stealing from clients), Harold Jensen (a defense attorney who framed his own clients for killing his wife), and Mark Paul Kopell (an old friend of [=McCoy's=] who joined the mob).
*** Of Susan Boyd's self-produced court documents, Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross said, "I've seen briefs written by thirty year courtroom veterans that weren't this good." Susan Boyd was a medical secretary, and had no formal legal training.
* On ''Series/LawAndOrderUK'', James Steel successfully defends himself against charges of "perverting the course of justice". Of course, James is a brilliant lawyer who spent many years in defense, so it wasn't exactly a terrible decision to begin with anyway.

to:

* Happens from time to time in the various ''Franchise/LawAndOrder'' shows. This can be especially uncomfortable on ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'', when it involves an accused rapist cross-examining his alleged victim.
** One SVU
''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'': one episode involves a man who has this trope quoted at him by the judge. This client wasn't so foolish -- he walks away with an acquittal, although he is later rearrested.
** * It's actually subverted in ''Series/LawAndOrder'' Prime. Defendants will occasionally represent themselves, but rarely to their own detriment. When they are convicted, it is for the same reason the represented defendants are. Some notable cases are [[MagnificentBastard Phillip Swann]], [[OffOnATechnicality Marty Winston]], [[AffablyEvil Victor Vargas Moreno]], [[FauxAffablyEvil Richard Morriston]], [[MurderByMistake Catherine Waxman]], [[ChurchMilitant Drew Seeley]], [[StalkerWithACrush Susan Boyd]], [[RightWingMilitiaFanatic Phil Christie]], [[AmoralAttorney Harold Jensen]], [[BigBadFriend Mark Paul Kopell]], [[WesternTerrorists Mousah Salim]], [[FaceDeathWithDignity Simon Vilanis]], [[LeaveNoWitnesses Leland Barnes]], [[BungledSuicide Davey Buckley]], [[RevengeBeforeReason Gordon Samuels]], and [[InsanityDefense James Smith]].
*** James Smith had an unusual justification for him defending himself - he was a trained lawyer, but the same mental illness that drove him to kill had prevented him from actually practicing law a day in his life. He thus saw his own murder trial as potentially his only chance to do what he'd always wanted to do. [[spoiler:He takes a deal after the DA gets his sister to testify about his instability; at the end of the episode [=McCoy=] looks over the summation Smith intended to give and says it could've hung the jury.]]
*** Several more of these guys were themselves lawyers, including Marty Winston (an arrogant litigator who tended to shoot anyone that got in the way of his courtroom victories), Victor Vargas Moreno (a fraudster who was disbarred for stealing from clients), Harold Jensen (a defense attorney who framed his own clients for killing his wife), and Mark Paul Kopell (an old friend of [=McCoy's=] who joined the mob).
*** Of Susan Boyd's self-produced court documents, Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross said, "I've seen briefs written by thirty year courtroom veterans that weren't this good." Susan Boyd was a medical secretary, and had no formal legal training.
* On ''Series/LawAndOrderUK'', ''Series/LawAndOrderUK'':
**
James Steel successfully defends himself against charges of "perverting the course of justice". Of course, James is a brilliant lawyer who spent many years in defense, so it wasn't exactly a terrible decision to begin with anyway.



* In the season 4 premiere of ''Series/TheMentalist'', Jane chooses to represent himself, [[spoiler:in a trial for a murder that he freely admits to. [[HollywoodLaw He's acquitted.]]]]

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* ''Series/TheMentalist'':
**
In the season 4 premiere of ''Series/TheMentalist'', premiere, Jane chooses to represent himself, [[spoiler:in a trial for a murder that he freely admits to. [[HollywoodLaw He's acquitted.]]]]
20th Oct '16 3:10:21 PM Jhonny
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* Like most of his revolutionary peers, George Danton was a lawyer by trade and a eloquent orator to boot, so when the UsefulNotes/FrenchRevolution (or rather, Robespierre) turned against him and put him in front of a KangarooCourt, Danton - who was denied council - was more than willing and able to handle his own defense. His death may have been pre-decided (and indeed it was) and the proceedings may be a farce, but by the Supreme Being, George Danton would not go down without a fight. He used any trick in the book and CourtroomAntics to get justice and sway the opinion of the spectators and he would have nearly gotten away with it, but when he demanded his right to call witnesses (which he clearly had according to letter and spirit of the law) the tribunal whose only purpose was a guilty verdict had enough and denied Danton and all other defendants the right to appear before court again, so the "guilty" verdict was handed down shortly afterwards and Danton [[OffWithHisHead had a date with Madame Guillotine]] shortly afterwards.
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