If the facts are against you, pound on the law. If the law is against you, pound on the facts. And if both are against you, pound on the table!The case is going against the defendant when suddenly, the defense attorney starts making penguin noises, discussing his sex life with The Judge, pulling vegetables out from under the defendant's chair, or calls the witness's pet parrot to the stand to testify. As zany stunt upon zany stunt piles up, expect the prosecution to be shocked speechless and The Honorable J. Gavelbanger to be utterly powerless to calm the proceedings or even hold people in contempt of court as the behavior of everyone quickly reaches levels that would embarrass even Judge Judy. The more desperate the case, the more likely the defense attorney uses such antics. Perhaps he's stalling for time while an associate tries to find the evidence that will show who the real killer is, or maybe he's finally just flipped under the strain of the case. Either way, expect him to be allowed to go on making a mockery of the legal system for far longer than any reasonable Judge in Real Life would allow without having him jailed for contempt. To say nothing of the high chance he would be severely disciplined if not disbarred as soon as the nearest Bar Association ethics panel heard about it. Expect The Judge to tell them they're "on thin ice" and "looking at contempt" if they don't get to the point. Often, this antic will result in a Penultimate Outburst. Typical Courtroom Antics:
— Legal aphorism
- Accuse the Witness
- Chewbacca Defense
- Disregard That Statement
- Exact Words
- A Fool for a Client
- Make the Dog Testify
- The Perry Mason Method
- Smoking Gun
- Surprise Witness
- That Was Objectionable
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Anime and Manga
- The Smurfs: After Smurfette casually mentions that Gargamel made her, Papa immediately has her arrested and holds a trial, with Brainy as the prosecutor and Jokey defending her. However, his attempts to have a fair trial keep going Off the Rails, as none of the smurfs want to testify against her, Brainy's attempts to take his job seriously keep getting undermined, and Jokey ultimately accuses Papa of being the one really responsible for what happened.
- New Warriors: In the trial of Vance Astrovik for killing his abusive father, the prosecutor takes out what turns out to be a cap gun and fires it at Vance in court, to make the point that if he can freeze a gun he has more than enough control to have stopped his father without killing him.
- In one issue of The Simpsons, Homer and Comic Book Guy are on trial for indecency, because Homer used horror comics he bought from the Android's Dungeon as the basis for a report Bart was making. Things look bad for the men, until Bart happens on an idea; in court, he moves that Homer and Comic Book Guy are not being tried by a jury of their peers because the jury does not have any comic geeks. Judging from Bart's reaction to the judge's response, he was probably moving for a mistrial.
Judge Snyder: In accordance to the Springfield "Play it by ear" Act...okay, we'll give it a shot with the geeks.Bart: Buh?Of course, this has mixed results; the geeks get Homer and Comic Book Guy off the indecency charge, but convict the two of charges the geeks themselves cooked up- namely, price-gouging and giving the jury wedgies. The men are sentenced to a public hanging...which amounts to holding up a sign for a comic book convention while being suspended in the air alive.
- In Legion of Super-Heroes, Matter-Eater Lad gets assigned as the lawyer for former teammate Polar Boy's trial on Earth. Polar Boy was held in jail for two years after inciting a small rally in a pizza parlor against the corrupt Earthgov. ME Lad tries all kinds of antics to get the charges dropped, from calling in witnesses to assert Polar Boy is such a wuss he'd be more of a danger to his own friends than to Earthgov to dressing him up in a stupid costume and claiming he has identity issues. The judge finally gets pissed off with these attempts at stalling and declares any attempt to disprove Polar Boy's competency or sanity is a self-evident mistrial. This backfires badly when ME Lad then correctly points out Polar Boy was in jail for years waiting for his trial because they were determining his competency, which of course leaves the judge stammering and the prosecutor happily dropping all charges.
- In Astro City, when Vince Oleck starts to make his case, that equally damning evidence has been found wrong in superhero cases by such tropes as Evil Twin, the prosecutor tries to object on these grounds. The judge looks grave but does allow it.
- In The Kentucky Fried Movie, a court skit features a prosecutor who pulls out a large, floppy dildo and waves it threateningly at a witness, inquiring "Are you aware of the penal codes in this state?"
- Chicago: This is Billy Flynn's entire law practice. Courtroom antics, press conference antics, and probably an example on every sub-page of this index.
As long you keep them way off-balance
They'll never spot, you got no talents
And they'll never catch wise.
- Duck Soup has a version in which the Marx Brothers are performing courtroom antics not to prevent/assure convictions, but simply because their characters are...well...who they are. Cases in point: offering the witness bets on whether there's a conviction; objecting on the grounds of "I couldn't think of anything else to say"; sustaining objections on the grounds of "I couldn't think of anything else to say either"; and a pun or two.
- The Dark Knight:
- Not expected or intended, but deliberately played on: an accused gangster tries to shoot Harvey Dent in the middle of the trial. Dent promptly delivers a cross to his face and disarms him, stunning the entire court. When the judge calls for a recess, Dent hams it up: "Your honor, I'm not done yet".
- A straight version happens later in the movie, when Dent intends to try most of the Mafia roll call (549 criminals) in one sitting. There's a hilarious scene where the judge reads off the list of transgressions, then asks "How do the defendants plead?" Change to the courtroom, packed with mobsters and their attorneys, and all of the attorneys jostle above each other trying to be heard while the stenographer drops his hands, confused.
- The Judd Nelson vehicle "From The Hip" showed future Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley's penchant for this trope.
- The title character of My Cousin Vinny does things that would put a real lawyer in contempt of court. He's put in contempt of court.
- In Interstate 60, when Neal realizes that the whole town is in on the sham trial, and that everyone is conspiring to defraud him, he calls in a character witness: Bob Cody, a dying ex-advertising executive who always has dynamite strapped to himself. If Cody ever discovers someone lying, he starts the countdown timer on his body bomb. Needless to say, when Neal's witness discovers that the whole town is in on the courtroom con, he threatens to blow everyone up.
- Airplane II: The Sequel. Played for laughs as both sides indulge in these during Ted Stryker's trial.
- Fatal Instinct. Both the prosecution and the defense indulge in these tactics during Lana Ravine's trial.
- Parodied to the hilt in Bananas. Among his other antics includes Woody Allen's character conducting his own defense, with results in cross-examining himself as a hostile witness.
- The prosecutor in 1951's A Place in the Sun (loosely based on a true story) uses this tactic to intimidate the defendant as well as to impress on the jury the violence of the crime. The defendant was accused of drowning his fiancee, so the prosecutor brought in the boat they had been in, stood in it, and proceeded to loudly and violently break an oar against the side to demonstrate how the defendant supposedly hit the victim in the head before drowning her (the film leaves it up in the air whether or not the drowning was intentional, but he never hit her).
- Amanda Bonner in Adam's Rib practically turns the courtroom into a circus.
- A number of these occur inThe Three Stooges short "Disorder In the Court", which is to be expected when characters like the stooges enter a courtroom. While trying to clear an innocent woman of murder, they proceed to re-enact the events of the night of the murder, including an unrelated musical sequence, get perhaps a little too realistic when re-enacting the murder itself (no one dies, but Larry is subject to a bit of abuse), and chase a parrot around the courtroom with a fire hose.
- Justified in Miracle On34th Street in that the proceeding is a judicial inquiry, not a criminal trial, and Judge Harper was fearful of the political fallout of committing Kris Kringle to a mental institution, so he gave Fred Gailey considerable leeway to allow him to make a reasonable argument to let Kris go.
- In Serial Mom, a character pulls down a not guilty verdict by a series of ridiculous antics. Getting away with them requires a practically blind judge and DA.note
- Liar Liar puts Jim Carrey in a courtroom at his... erm... Jim-Carrey-ist. True to form, he runs amok.
- The People Vs Larry Flynt shows a few of the antics Flynt performed in his many lawsuits. Given it's based on true facts, no wonder Columbia Pictures didn't invite him for the Academy Awards afterwards (his on-screen portrayer Woody Harrelson had to give his agent's seat).
- Greyfriars Bobby has two scenes that fit this trope.
- Invoked in the Forgotten Realms novel Tantras. Storm Silverhand, the prosecutor against the protagonists who stand accused of murdering Elminster, makes an absolute mockery of the court. She uses horribly leading questions, badgering of witnesses, whipping the audience into am emotional frenzy with screamed accusations, and claims the defense attorney has been magically charmed by his clients when he protests this behavior. In the end her behavior is not only allowed, she actually wins the case without a shred of solid evidence.
- The Discworld novel Making Money has a trial in which the hero, Moist von Lipwig, currently acting chairman of the bank, is on trial for the unexplained disappearance of nearly ten tons of gold. He's very nervous about a former accomplice of his threatening to reveal that he is, in fact, a former con artist who had been hanged under an assumed name, and has a slightly guilty conscience as he submits to questioning, when he sees a small dog (the actual chairman) wander in while sitting down and wagging its tail. These are both happening at once because the dog is holding in its mouth its favorite toy - a huge chewy vibrator - which has turned itself on and whose vibrations are propelling the sitting dog backwards across the courtroom floor and out of sight while everybody tries desperately not to notice and offend the Patrician. Lipwig reasons that a world in which this can actually happen in the middle of a court is a world which can handle him acting as chairman of a bank, and proceeds to confess everything about his backstory.
- Several chapters of Brian Clevinger's novel Nuklear Age are devoted to a lengthy courtroom fiasco. For starters, the heroes' (who are being prosecuted by their arch-nemesis) lawyer happens to be their nemesis' boyfriend, the entire jury is made up of people whose lives the heroes have ruined, and the judge is a bloodthirsty man named Hangemall Letgodsortitout. It needs to be read to be believed.
- The murder trial in Little Fuzzy, starting even before the trial begins, with two murder cases being combined into a single trial, the appointment of the defense attorneys as special prosecutors, and key witnesses being seized as "evidence." It goes on to mutate from a civilian trial into a court-martial and an academic seminar, with two flavors of surprise witnesses, and the continued prosecution of a dead man after one of the defendants commits suicide. And there are in-universe precedents for most of this: "You could find a precedent for almost anything in colonial law."
- John Scalzi's reboot novel Fuzzy Nation has a much more cynical version; Jack Holloway is a lawyer who was disbarred when he punched his client in the middle of a trial. He claims to have done it in a fit of outrage at what the guy was trying to get away with, but it is strongly implied that he was actually paid a huge sum to do it, in order to force a mistrial.
- Basil Grant of The Club Of Queer Trades was forced to retire from the legal profession when he wouldn't stop pulling these. He was the judge.
I sentence you to three years' imprisonment, under the firm, and solemn, and God-given conviction, that what you require is three months at the seaside.
- In Angel's sole courtroom episode, Gunn defended an arms dealer who threatened to detonate a bio-weapon over Los Angeles if he was found guilty. Gunn's unique strategy was to ask the judge to recuse herself, as she owned stock in a shell company owned by the defendant. Check and mate.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Star Trek The Next Generation S 2 E 9 The Measure Of A Man", both sides make use of this. The prosecution dismantles and deactivates Data. Then the defense steps up...
Data: The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear.
- Also, "Devil's Due" has some, including a few not in the standard playbook:
- Law & Order had Jack McCoy go off on an increasingly hostile rant made up mostly of revealing evidence that was inadmissible so he could get a mistrial and try the case again if/when the body was found. He did get in trouble for it (contempt of court) so it was a bit of a falling on his sword moment.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- An episode had the prosecution trot out a child witness (whom they had no intention of actually forcing to testify) for the sole purpose of having him dramatically react to the defendant's (his own father) presence. The judge let it fly without so much as a jury instruction to disregard.
- In a completely opposite and somewhat deconstructed example, a judge orders a child witness in a rape case to testify in person. The prosecutors ask for, and are denied, the option of having the girl testify via closed-circuit television in order to spare her from being in the same room as the accused. Although they tell the girl to keep her eyes forward and not look around when she enters the courtroom to avoid contact with her attacker as much as possible, when she enters, she glances up and sees the defendant seated at his table. She stops and stares for several moments before the prosecutor withdraws any questions she has and ushers the girl away. Immediately after, the defense accuses her of orchestrating a Courtroom Antic; by letting the girl come out and stare at the defendant, she gives the jury the impression of recognition and therefore guilt, which they feel counts as testimony, while denying the defense the opportunity to cross-examine.
- An episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent put more work into this. It was Detective Goren rather than the ADA who pulled this. He played the fool in order to keep the antic going longer and ended up getting thrown off the stand anyway.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: The Season 4 episode "Coltrane vs. Duke" featured Rosco suing the Dukes for the mortgage to the farm (valued at $50,000) after claiming to have suffered serious injuries in his latest pursuit of the Duke boys. Of course, there's plenty of Courtroom Antics on hand, most notably Boss Hogg hiring one of his many corrupt associates as a surprise witness ... a doctor who can prove that Rosco's "injuries" were directly the pursuit of crashing his squad car when Bo and Luke refused to stop for Rosco. And yes, Rosco overdramatizes his injuries as well, lending to plenty of the show's humor. In the end, the Dukes have plenty of aces up their sleeve to expose Rosco's injuries as fake.
- Ally McBeal had one of these per episode.
- The Practice used it somewhat faithfully.
- Boston Legal, The Practice's spinoff, uses it obsessively.
- A rather amusing version from The 10th Kingdom has Virginia exclaim, after Wolf has practically incriminated himself while being grilled by the Judge, "Your Honor, my client is suffering from post-menstrual tension!". Wolf's memorably existential self-defense: "Ohhhh, I'm twisting everything I'm saying!"
- The point of This Is Wonderland. Courtrooms have seen arguments (not always in English), violence, spoken-word poetry, a fake heart attack, car theft from the courthouse's parking lot, mixups with defendant's names, shouts of "Boo!", the outbreak of true love, and the occasional Freudian Slip. Judge Maxwell Frasier, who has been known to threaten arrest for this sort of behavior out of anyone other than himself, would often yawn loudly while people he didn't like were talking, call a recess because he was hungry/bored, or go crazy and scream.
- Inverted in an episode of Frasier: a mental competency hearing for a wealthy old man, in which Frasier is appearing for the defense, is going very well for Frasier, who is acting like a consummate professional — until the defendant's senility kicks in and he chooses that moment to start acting like a train conductor, including punching 'tickets' (the judge's notes and Frasier's tie) and announcing arrivals. However, a milder example of this trope played straight appears with Niles, who is appearing for the plaintiff and, as the proceedings are being televised, is playing up to the cameras outrageously. The judge is still quick to tell him off about it, however.
- In an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, George, as a defense lawyer, calls the prosecution lawyer as a witness.
George: Do you believe Captain Blackadder is the sort of man who habitually disobeys orders?
George: Oh. I was rather hoping you'd say "no".
- The incompetence of George's Courtroom Antics doesn't make much difference though; given that he has already been found guilty of wasting the court's time for bothering with a defence at all and Darling later calls the judge as a witness (with a lot more success, since he's also the wronged party), this is Kangaroo Court at its most blatant.
- The Witchsmeller Pursuivant episode of series one has the Witchsmeller bring in Edmund's horse, Black Satin and first decide its silence means it has something to hide, and then when it says "Neigh" he doesn't believe a word of it, bring in a dog which he claims is Edmund's son, and accuse Baldrick of being a witch for saying that carrots don't grow on trees. Maybe it's just because he was playing a sick man, but BRIAN BLESSED isn't the biggest ham in that episode.
- Lost: Kate's trial in "Eggtown" hinges partly on Surprise Witness (Jack) and more on Surprise Lack-of-Witness (when Kate's mother is not available to testify).
- Night Court practically runs on this trope, starting with the Judge of all people. Then there's the plaintiffs, the defendants, the peanut gallery, the staff... it's not if there will be an antic, it's when and who.
- Harm shot off a sub-machine gun in a courtroom once in JAG. He actually lost that case, though boy did it get referenced a lot after that.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Justice", Rimmer is arrested for the murder of the entire crew of Red Dwarf barring Lister (including himself, if you think about it. Kryten is his lawyer at the subsequent trial, and his defense involves proving Rimmer is too stupid and incompetent to hold enough responbility for any deaths. Rimmer helps in this regard by OBJECTING to his own defense.
- It Makes Sense in Context, the evidence against Rimmer is that he truly believes he's responsible according to a mind scan; the defence is showing both that Rimmer is the kind of person who thinks it's his fault even when it isn't and he couldn't actually be responsible.
- Hardison's performance as a lawyer on Leverage was full of this. He started by bringing in a massive amount of information so boring and irrelevant that the judge was falling asleep, when by that point she should definitely have been demanding an actual justification for why it was important. Then he discredited his opposition's expert witness by bringing up the fact that he was on the no-fly list, which he only knew by hacking into their database and so had no proof of, and claiming that if the government didn't trust him to fly how could they trust his testimony. The judge ignored their objection and didn't give so much as a Disregard That Statement.
- Bones occasionally devolves into this when the characters have to actually get convicted. Notable events include Caroline objecting because she found something offensive, and Angela taking the First Amendment "which protects freedom of assembly, and that includes friendship." In the last case, though, she was actually jailed for contempt of court.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Q, acting as an advocate for the Q Continuum, is called to the stand by the advocate of another Q seeking asylum. The solution, Q puts himself in two places at once and commences to cross-examine himself.
- One House episode sees Dr. House in court for violating a Do Not Resuscitate order. His lawyer tries using a clever, albeit spurious legal ploy, which would be promptly shot down by the other party's lawyer. House stands up and explains that, while it's utterly irrelevant to the case at hand, he suspects the judge has a medical condition he should get checked for ASAP; which distracts the worried judge for the rest of the proceedings, including (presumably) the part where House's legal argument is torn to pieces.
- Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole has, in extremis, produced the occasional really impressive Courtroom Antic. In "Rumpole and the Last Resort", he secured an adjournment in spite of an unsympathetic judge by collapsing and dying right there in the courtroom. (It was the season finale, too, so you couldn't be entirely sure he hadn't been Killed Off for Real.)
- In a Whitest Kids U Know skit, the defense asserts that today is Opposite Day when faced with irrefutable evidence. Hilarity Ensues.
- Every time Lightman ends up in courtroom in Lie to Me. Given that he usually gets removed from the room, it appears that he just can't help himself.
- He also likes messing with his lawyer ex-wife, who is usually in the courtroom with him.
- The Monkees: In "The Picture Frame", Mike, Micky, and Davy make a very thorough mockery of the court system.
- Perry Mason was notorious, In-Universe, for this kind of thing. It helps, however, that he was usually reconstructing the crime, trying to get some piece of evidence admitted that he didn't actually possess, or just plain ol' demonstrating why the witness was lying. (The usual problems associated with Antics are also downplayed by the fact that many of these were pulled during preliminary hearings, where there was no jury to be dazzled.)
- One episode of Farscape has Zhaan framed for murder on Litigara, a planet where 90% of the population are lawyers. Chiana and Rygel defend her, ultimately exposing the true culprit with the "Light of Truth," a burning chair leg. That Pilot was making brighter from orbit.
- The title characters of Franklin & Bash frequently employ these — especially Jared Franklin. It's their thing.
- One of Jeff's from Community go to strategies. Fails about as often as it works. In Community episode Debate 109 when he uses it during a Debate match his team loses the first round, 50-8 (and the 8 were to Annie).
- In Just Cause, Whit gets a possibly senile court-appointed client who refuses to speak except through a dummy. So he calls the dummy to the witness stand.
- Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye: In the pilot, Sue, a Deaf woman who reads lips for the FBI, testifies in court about a conversation held in a surveillance video with no sound. The defense attorney calls her accuracy into question, then approaches the bench and tells the judge that Sue could be making things up and is unreliable. Sue, reading his lips, shouts out "I object!" from the witness chair.
- In the Doctor Who story The Trial of a Time Lord, the Valeyard altered the video evidence, including the video in the Doctor's defence, to make the Doctor look like a criminal.
- In "Heroes" (season 2), a key piece of evidence in the case was a submachine gun that allegedly failed to fire due to a malfunction. Harm proceeded to pick up the gun, which had evidently never been unloaded, and fired it into the ceiling. This did get him an epic ass-chewing, and the judge would continue to hold this against Harm for at least 7 more seasons.
- In "Killer Instinct" (season 6), the defendant is a petty officer on an Aircraft Carrier suspected of murdering a subordinate (by throwing overboard at night), because they were incompetent at their jobs. One crucial piece of evidence is not admissible in court because the ship's CO did not have probable cause for issuing a search warrant, and this necessitates a different strategy from the prosecution. Harm does the standard Perry Mason Method, knowing beforehand that the defendant will not fall into the trap and make him overconfident. And when Bud later has his turn to question him, he begins by asking the defendant several questions that Harm had asked earlier, then proceeds to make several other basic errors before dropping his notes in mid-question, and finally drives the pedantic defendant into a rage (and incriminating himself in the process), before revealing that he was Obfuscating Stupidity and it was all part of a plan.
- Happens quite a few times during the series run of L.A. Law. Some notable examples:
- James Earl Jones guest-stars as Attorney Lee Atkins in two episodes ("Chariots of Meyer" and "Victor/Victorious"), a lawyer who flusters Grace Van Owen by, among other things, playing the race card and attempting to cause a mistrial by gaming the system.
- "His Suit Is Hirsute" brings us the character of Frank Pastorini, whose egregious antics (such as singing his objections and tap-dancing his way to a sidebar) would, in Real Life, result in a jail sentence. Michael Kuzak turns the tables on him by doing his closing argument in the gorilla suit with which he interrupted Grace's wedding.
- Michael himself is occasionally guilty of antics (he's jailed for it more than once). In his passionate defense of Earl Williams throughout Season 4, he bends and sometimes breaks just about every rule of courtroom procedure. In his defense of Brian Chisholm, a white cop accused of murdering a black teenager, he tries to cause a mistrial by calling the politically skewed judge a "big chicken bastard." When the judge orders Michael's co-counsel, Jonathan Rollins, to take up where Michael left off before being hauled off to a holding cell, Jonathan says, "I believe Mr. Kuzak left off by calling you a big chicken bastard worried about reelection. But he forgot to call you stupid, and ask you who you bribed to get that robe!" Jail for Jonathan and a mistrial ensue.
- In Brooklyn Nine-Nine three characters are asked to stall while giving evidence at a disciplinary hearing for Peralta. Boyle derails every question to Wangst about his recent breakup, Diaz doesn't say anything different but puts painfully long pauses between every word, and Gina starts expanding irrelevantly while dropping emoji-speak into her sentences. It probably doesn't do his hearing much good but fortunately he ends up needing to get fired on purpose.
Gina: Look I've known Jake forever, our friendship is little-boy-holding-little-girls-hand.
- Face The Facts was a short-lived CBS game show from 1961 in which contestants wagered on who was right in a small claims case, the plaintiff or the defendant (both played in extremely hokey fashion by actors).
- In Criminal Minds Episode 3.19 "Tabula Rasa", Lester Serling, the lawyer representing the episode's UnSub, tries this by giving a lecture to the court about the faults of criminal profiling in the middle of his questioning of Hotch. He would later eat his words when Hotch uses an antic of his own, correctly completing an on the spot profile of Serling based on little more than correctly identifying the colour of Serling's socks.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon gets called to a small claims court for running a red light. He tries to get out of it by concocting an elaborate defense that hinges on the fact his accuser, the traffic light camera, is not present at the trial. The judge refuses to tolerate this nonsense, and Sheldon gets locked up for contempt of court after insulting the judge.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rules of Engagement" revolves around this trope. Worf is charged with a war crime for destroying a Klingon civilian transport that had entered a battle zone and decloaked in front of the Defiant, and the Klingon prosecutor's whole case was based on the idea that Worf was acting like a bloodthirsty Klingon warrior instead of a Starfleet officer at the time and therefore should be deported to the Klingon Empire. He questions all the other officers present on the Defiant with a hypothetical "what would you do?" situation to "prove" that only a Klingon would have taken the shot, intentionally provokes Worf into a physical alteration in the courtroom. Sisko and Odo eventually find out that the whole thing was a Klingon plot and the transport was a fake that they'd used to make it look like a war crime was committed, which gets Worf off the hook, but the question of why and how the judge didn't throw the prosecution's case out well before it got to that point remains.
- Parodied in You'll Have Had Your Tea: The Doings of Hamish and Dougal episode "The Poison-Pen Letters":
The Laird: You're turning this courtroom into a circus! Get off that trapeze and call a proper witness!
- The very old Cuban radio show (later a TV show) La Tremenda Corte was all, ALL, about this trope.
- In Pigmeat Markham's "The Trial," a young man is brought in on a nudist case, accused of marching up and down the street with no pants on. When the judge queries him, asking how long he had been married. "Three years," the man answers. How many children? "Nine." When asked how he did this, the man explains that the first year his wife presented him with twins. The second year, his wife had triplets. The third year, his wife had quadruplets. The judge dismisses the case:
Baliff: Judge...you can't dismiss this case!Judge: I did, didn't I?Baliff: Yes, but this man is a nudist!Judge: This man is not a nudist!Baliff: This man is a nudist!Judge: This man is definitely not a nudist!Baliff: This man is a nudist!Judge: You heard the man say he was married three years...Baliff: Yes.Judge: You heard the man say he had nine children...Baliff: Yes.Judge: Well, this man is not a nudist!Baliff: Why??Judge: Because this man hasn't had time to put his pants on!
- Older Than Feudalism: Aristophanes' The Wasps is about the Athenian court system and its abuse.
- Defense attorney Henry Drummond calls the prosecutor to the witness stand in Inherit the Wind. This actually ends up becoming Drummond's Crowning Moment of Awesome. This was based on the real cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan by Clarence Darrow from the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925.
- The entirety of Trial By Jury which involves, among other things, the court usher telling the jury to ignore what the defendant has to say and the judge marrying the plaintiff at the end.
- In Chicago, Billy Flynn the defense lawyer is an expert at this. He likens the court to a three-ringed circus, where your job isn't to tell the truth, but to put on a good show.
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
- The point and appeal of the Ace Attorney series is probably best summed up by this trope. The first game alone has the protagonist cross-examining a parrot and waving a metal detector around the courtroom, and by the final case of the Trials and Tribulations you're cross-examining a dead person channeled by your assistant.
- There's a twist in that Phoenix himself (a defense attorney) maintains a level of professionalism, but many of the prosecutors do not. In the first game, Manfred von Karma practically intimidates the judge into letting him run the courtroom; in the second game, von Karma's younger daughter Franziska (also a prosecutor) tries to cow the judge, the witnesses, and the defense by smacking them with her whip, even going so far as to whip poor Phoenix unconscious after losing case 2 (See here for an excellent example of Franziska's whipping-ness); in the third game, prosecutor Godot throws his scalding hot coffee across the room in a fit of pique several times and talks in bizarre philosophical tangents, most of them about coffee; and in the fifth game, prosecutor Blackquill sends his pet hawk to attack you in the middle of a trial, not to mention showing off his sword-hand skills with that feather that was just two inches from Wright's face... despite the fact that he's a convicted murderer who no sane human being would ever allow that kind of freedom of arm movement if they knew he could do that. Sure, he was shackled to prevent that, but he continuously manages to break out of them and nobody does anything about it until much later. Ironically enough, Phoenix himself often gets berated by the judge for much less.
- The witnesses and defendants join in on the party, too. Either your witness is a professional clown who breaks into a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air parody due to nerves, or a ventriloquist who testifies with his dummy, or a ranting old lady who hits on the prosecution, or a parrot, or an orca, or a Camp Gay french chef who refers to himself as a "little girl," or a radio with an assassin on the other end, or a pretentious academic who waxes philosophical about panty-snatching, or a teacher who takes attendance and throws chalk at the lawyers, or a man who wears cellphones on his shoulders and changes his hair colour for every appearance, or an astronaut who sets off a parachute and flies up to the ceiling, or a professional wrestler and mayor pretending to be possessed by an yokai, or a reporter hiding in a cardboard box...the list goes on, and in almost every case, the defendants are pulling their stunts because they're hiding something. One of the series' running jokes is that Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth can't even get his witnesses to say their name and occupation clearly on the first try without their quirky antics interrupting him.
- Project X Zone 2 has the entire stage 31 as such with Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey as the defending lawyer and his assistant while Miles Edgeworth as the prosecutor with Valkyrie at the witness stand. Otohime is the judge while Tarosuke is the bailiff. Meanwhile, the playable characters are at the defendant's side while Kamuz, Shadow, and Sigma are at the prosecutor's side. Finally, Saya, Aya-Me, and Juri Han are the witnesses to the trial. Finally, Sylphie is the resident Big Damn Heroes person. Yes, it's absurd as it sounds.
- In Mass Effect 2, during Tali's treason trial, one of the options Shepard has to exonerate her is to rally the courtroom crowd against the Admiralty Board, exposing their political maneuvering and bringing both Veetor and Kal'Reegar to her support, culminating in loudly denouncing the Admirals, Kal'Reegar declaring that "you assholes" will have to exile him too, and the crowd getting noisy enough that they're about to start an enviro-suited riot. Normally this wouldn't work in a more formal courtroom for any species other than quarians, but the close-knit nature of quarian society means that the trial is not only fairly informal to start withnote , but that the generally loud and flagrant disapproval of so many people has a much greater effect on the quarian Admirals than it would in any other courtroom.
- In that trial, the only two 'legal' responses appear to be giving the evidence and breaking Tali's heart, or withholding it, allowing her to be exiled but at least with the knowledge that they won't know what her father did. Shepard actually has as many as three third options, and they're all antics - rather, one antic. Rallying the crowd is above, but Shepard can also personally shout down the Admiralty Board, leaning more towards viciously berating them or extolling Tali's heroism. Either way, they initially protest the antic, but as the crowd starts shouting they are shamed into dropping the charges.
- This behavior is actually subverted in the first game. In a desperate attempt to expose Saren's crimes, Captain Anderson tries to submit a dream into evidence. This makes some sense in context, since the dream is a prophetic vision. However, Anderson has no way of proving this, and if he could, the dream's content has nothing that can implicate Saren, as it's just a series of rapid images showing organic mutilation. Anderson is immediately ridiculed and punished for this behavior by being Kicked Upstairs (in Anderson's defense, he has a very bad history with Saren, and it's clear he was desperate and wasn't thinking straight at the time). When Saren is exposed, it's done with proper evidence, a voice recording that clearly proves that he was heavily involved. ("Eden Prime was a major victory.")
- Antics: In this strip, Fletcher decides to represent himself in court, and makes a surprising defense statement
- Completely Serious Comics had a lawyer play truth or dare with the testifying Defendant and daring him to plead guilty.
- Richard of Looking for Group went through something like this, with the twist that he's on trial for not being evil enough. He killed everyone.
- The following from one of Irritability's early strips:
Judge: Even if you did have your fingers crossed, you can't lie under oath!
Chappy: You don't understand you fat old bastard, I totally had them crossed!
- Zexion's impeachment trial in Ansem Retort was chock full of this, given how Sora tries to plead the 19th Amendment, Zex makes it clear he won't tell the whole truth, and Zex's lawyer Axel literally threatens the jury into delivering a not guilty verdict. Even the judge eventually gets in on it.
Phoenix Wright: OBJECTION!Axel: GO FUCK YOURSELF!Judge: Objection overruled, go fuck yourself sustained.
- In one Justice League episode, an alien court accuses Green Lantern of blowing up a planet so the Flash stalls for time by offering to be his lawyer. Flash is a work in progress.
- South Park skewered it with the "Chewbacca Defense" () in "Chef-Aid" (South Park is the Trope Namer for that subtrope).
- Duckman: Duckman resorts to desperate measures such as accusing a witness of being Japanese and acting generally ridiculous. "A-HA! You ASSUME! But everyone knows that when you ASSUME... (pulls out a chalkboard) uh... wait, there's some kinda trick to this..." Eventually his nonstop insanity causes the real culprit, King Chicken, to confess rather than have to listen to him any longer. What makes this particularly funny was the fact that Cornfed actually got Duckman acquitted before he used these tactics.
- Parodied in the courtroom episode of Clerks: The Animated Series.
- The trial is presided over by the honorable Judge Reinhold, and he lets Randal get away with his nonsense through open bias.
- Randal calls a series of "surprise witnesses" during Dante's trial. All of the witnesses are directors of movies Randal didn't like, and he demands refunds from each of them. After he's finished, the witnesses leave, without ever saying a single word that has to do with the trial's actual proceedings. He also calls a girl to the witness stand just to get her phone number.
- The prosecuting lawyer has Dante questioned by a pair of giggling girls, and plays the tapes of a completely unrelated prank call made by Jay and Randal.
- Subverted on Futurama where increasingly outrageous antics (the DEFENSE calling the JURY as a witness - they are later instructed to "disregard [their] own testimony") and requests ("Your Honor, I know the case is closed and you've rendered your verdict, but I want to testify") are met with the judge simply saying "I'm going to allow this."
- Double subverted in the same episode. The judge even says "I'm going to allow this" when the attorneys do things that are completely conventional, such as cross-examining a witness.
- On yet another occasion, the Hyperchicken, acting as Fry and Bender's defense attorney, introduces evidence that proves his clients guilty and then moves that he be disbarred for doing so.
- Since Defence Counsel must NEVER do this, and leads to a mistrial, and in the United States in any case would lead to a breach of due process, the Hyperchicken was actually a far more brilliant lawyer than everyone gives him credit for.
- Except that as a result he can no longer be a lawyer....
- In any case, it's debatable whether or not you can blame him for the fact that his witness, a surveillance camera, had a memory so fuzzy that he didn't see that Bender and Fry were actually hostages.
- And then in the same case, the Hyperchicken convinced his clients to change their plea from innocent to not guilty by reason of insanity mid-trial. When the judge asked if he had any substantiating evidence that his clients were insane, he replied, "Well, for one, they hired me as their defense attorney." It worked.
- Parodied on The Simpsons; while stalling for time in Bart's suit against the makers of Itchy and Scratchy, Lionel Hutz decides to call all his surprise witnesses again, to groans from people in the court; the group includes Ralph Wiggum, a Santa Claus in a cast, and Billy & Benny McCrary, the "world's fattest twins."
- The permissive judge aspect of this trope was spoofed in another episode, where Bart makes an unusual request of the judge. The judge replies, "Well, it is highly unorthodox...so no!"
- And again: "Even though reopening a trial at this point is illegal and grossly unconstitutional, I just can't say no to kids."
- Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is chock full of these.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Angelica sues her parents for feeding her broccoli. Once in court, she instantly wins over the judge, calls her doll Cynthia and her stuffed zebra as witnesses, and the jury awards her all of her parents assets without even deliberating. It turns out that the episode was All Just a Dream of Drew's.
- Lampshaded in King of the Hill when Hank is at a workman's comp hearing after being accused of faking a back injury because he was photographed after Yoga cured him. He asks permission to call in a suprise witness (his Yoga instructor, who proceeds to prance around, accuse the officials of having bad energy, and hit on the secretary) leading the chairman to remark that they'd never had anyone call in surprise witnesses before. Played Straight several times with Dale Gribble, who defends himself in a drug case by rejecting the courts authority because the American flag has the wrong trim, convinces Hank to fight his wrongfully incurred bill for renting pornography by accusing a vast artificially intelligent computer network known as "The Beast" of attempting to defraud him, and when representing himself in a case against his cigarette company calls himself to the stand as a witness in a scene that looks like a cross between Perry Mason and Gollum.
Dale: I do not recognize the authority of a court that hangs the gold-fringed flag. A flag with gilded edges is the flag of an admirality court. An admirality court signifies a naval court-martial. I cannot be court-martialled twice. That is all! Furthermore... (bailiff gags him)
- Notable that there actually are people who argue that US courts don't have jurisdiction due to flag trim (among other things). No, it doesn't work.
- Animaniacs had an episode where Dr. Scratchandsniff gets a parking ticket and the Warners defend him in court to contest. Examples include holding up a badger to the witness and when swearing the witness in, telling her "you shouldn't [swear], it's not nice".
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy being tried for trying to fake the Miseryville version of the Tooth Fairy, with this as the result.
- The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy episode "Keeper of the Reaper" could best be described as 20 minutes of this, most of it attributed to Fred Fredburger being on the jury and giving the poor judge a hard time with constant interruptions. It gets so bad eventually that when Fred excuses himself to use the rest room, the judge tells the other members of the jury to make their decision before he gets back!
- Jack Thompson, aside from his video game-related shenanigans, is also someone who once introduced dozens of pages of gay porn into evidence—pages which were then put directly into the evidence database. The disciplinary action against him was dismissed when he promised not to do it again, but he was later disbarred on a number of misconduct charges.
- Temple Lea Houston fired two pistols into the ceiling, scaring the jury and causing them to flee the courtroom. He said to the judge that he did it to "prove his client's fear of the victim's 'incredible speed' of gunfire". He then successfully argued for a mistrial, as the jury wasn't sequestered.
- The above example in the Scopes trial (prosecutor called to the witness stand by defense) is not unique. It happened to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in the Manson trial (this was deemed justified by Bugliosi having also been very involved in the investigation of the case).
- A lot of courtroom tropes from before the 1980's originated in the trial of Bruno Hauptman who was accused of kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh, Jr. The defense was paid by William Randolph Hearst in exchange for working half-heartedly and betraying his client's confidences (the lawyer also received nightly visits of NYC showgirls with champagne, courtesy of Mr. Hearst), a whole string of surprise witnesses who tended to contradict their own testimony and their statements to police, women fainting after pointing to Hauptman, and a judge who did absolutely nothing to rein in the prosecutor's (who was also the Attorney General of New Jersey) excesses and violations of procedure (both wanted to use the case to advance their political careers).
- The Trial of the Chicago Seven. Several scenes from the transcripts from that infamous trial, including the defendants wearing judges' robes (with Chicago police uniforms underneath) to mock what they believed was a biased court, were dramatized in the film Steal This Movie, among other works. The defense also called various countercultural icons of the time as witnesses, including Phil Ochs, Arlow Guthrie, Judy Collins, Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, and Jesse Jackson.
- A big part of the reason Saddam Hussein's trial went on for as long as it did was because he would always delay the proceedings with rants and the like. Since he was already a lock for either life in prison or death (the trial was basically to decide which he would get), what's the worst the judge could do? Throw him in prison?
- John Allen Muhammad, one half of the infamous Beltway Sniper duo, attempted to represent himself during his first trial. Immediately after delivering his opening argument, during which he did such things as attempt to call former President Bill Clinton to the stand, he decided to avail himself of his court-appointed counsel instead, not that it helped. Whether Muhammad was engaging in this trope as part of some larger gambit, or was just batshit insane, is open for debate.
- Attempted during former Governor Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial for attempting to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat when he became President. Despite the judge already having ruled that the minutiae of the FBI wiretaps was irrelevant, the defense attorney asked the very first witness several times how many hours of wiretap footage they'd collected, trying to plant the suggestion to the jury that what they were allowed to hear was heavily edited to cast his client in the worst possible light. After the third or fourth time, the judge dismissed the jury for a while and lambasted the defense for trying to play a Chewbacca Defense.
- The trial of Charles Manson and his accomplices for seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy is one of the most notorious examples. To begin with, Family members not named as defendants loitered outside the courthouse with plainly visible hunting knives plainly visible in sheaths, simply to intimidate passersby. On one day of the proceedings, Manson himself was able to smuggle in a copy of The Los Angeles Times with the front page headline "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares", and flash it in front of the jury (requiring Judge Older to issue a voir dire to the jury before they could proceed). The next day, the female defendants stood up and said in unison that, in light of Nixon's remark, there was no point in going on with the trial. (Older naturally didn't buy it.) Two months later, after Manson's request to question a prosecution witness (who had already been cross-examined by the defense) was denied, he actually tried to attack the judge; he had to be removed after being wrestled to the ground by the bailiffs, as the female defendants rose to their feet and started chanting in Latin. Thereafter, Older kept loaded revolver under his robe remainder of the trial.
- O. J. Simpson's murder trial may as well be called Courtroom Antics On Drugs. The Other Wiki has an exhaustive summary. Be dazzled by tropes inverted, invoked, subverted and played straight, with a surprise appearance by Godwin's Law in the final moments. Jurors, prosecutors, detectives, defence attorneys, and witnesses quickly put out memoirs in the wake of the case, and in 2012, the prosecution accused the defence of falsifying evidence (the same charge the defence made against the prosecution at trial), so the fight is still active. Cochan's closing statement is perhaps the most egregious example of this trope and something of a Memetic Mutation.
- One Matthew Washington was so infamous for filing dilatory motions and frivolous appeals, culminating in a "Motion to Kiss My Ass," that there was actually a court order issued forbidding him from filing any more motions unless he first posted a $1500 contempt bond in case the court decided to fine him for wasting their time. Part of the reason why this continued for so long was that, as a veteran, he received a fairly substantial disability check each month that he dipped into to directly pay the filing fees rather than seek indigent status, as litigants who regularly use the latter to file frivolous and abusive complaints, motions, and petitions can and often will be barred from using it as a quick-and-clean way of keeping them from being able to continue to waste the court's time without great difficulty. Because Washington didn't do this, they didn't have a quick, easy way to stop him and had to resort to drastic measures that were more difficult to get the court to sign off on.