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Courtroom Antic

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Perhaps the ancestor of another Wright?note 

"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!"
Legal aphorism

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 Stern Old 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.

Specific Types of Antics:



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gintama episode 95 shouts out to Ace Attorney series, so naturally plenty of courtroom antics ensue, including but not limited to watching porn submitted as evidences during trial and having the judge abuse his power to rewind his favorite scenes in slow motion. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig, Togosa is on his way home when he sees a woman being attacked by her ex-boyfriend, who murders her when Togosa tries to stop him. During the trial, the defendant's attorney tries to turn things around and make Togosa look like some sort of raging anti-cyborg bigot. The Major ends up ghost-hacking Togosa in the middle of the courtroom and have him make a reference to some dirty affairs that Section 9 had uncovered on the attorney. Then after the defendant was acquitted, they forced the attorney's car off the road, severely injuring him and the defendant.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, Asterix and Obelix are put on trial for attempted assassination of Julius Caesar, and face being sentenced to the lions in the arena. Since Caesar will most likely be there, the two actually want to be sentenced to the circus. Thus, they make no attempt to defend themselves, and when their lawyer asks for the trial to be postponed, Asterix himself stands up and holds an impassioned plea to get himself and Obelix sentenced to the circus. His speech moves the entire courtroom to tears, and both their lawyer and the delator congratulate the Gauls afterwards.
  • Captain America: A really bizarre case when Freedom Force are laying a sting operation to lure some bad guys into the open so they can nab them. They're pretending to put Quicksilver (actually Mystique in disguise) on trial. The 'defense' starts trying to cite what he saw on TV when asked just what he's even objecting to. He falters, then points out it's a fake trial in any case. He can say whatever he wants! Even more bizarre since everyone in the room is a member of Freedom Force or a guard, so they all know it's fake anyway. Evidently they just got really bored waiting for their enemies to show up.

  • 22 July: Anders takes advantage of the captive audience of the court by doing Nazi salutes and using his platform to speak as an opportunity to call for further terrorist attacks and to brag about how many people he killed. He did this in real life too.
  • The entire courtroom scene from Alice in Wonderland. The Queen bosses everyone around everyone during the trial and tries to give the sentence at the start of the trial instead of the end. Witnesses who had nothing to do with the case are called and their testimony is treated like it is vital evidence. And the whole trial gets derailed into an unbirthday party for the Queen which devolves into chaos when the Cheshire Cat appears and causes the dormouse to panic leading to the Queen accidentally getting smashed on the head with a hammer, which Alice gets blamed for. She then defends herself by turning herself into a giant and frightening the court, causing the King and Queen to try to get her to leave by citing Rule 42, "All persons more than a mile high, must leave the court immediately." Alice refuses to go and gives the Queen an epic verbal beatdown, not noticing until too late that she is shrinking back to normal size.
  • 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
    Razzle-Dazzle 'em
    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: a gangster witness 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 David E. Kelley's penchant for writing irresponsible courtroom activity. The first half of the film plays the Courtroom Antic and Bunny-Ears Lawyer tropes straight — often cringingly so. Then the second half goes on to brutally deconstruct them.
  • 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 in The 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 Curly is subject to a bit of abuse), and chase a parrot around the courtroom with a fire hose.
  • Justified in Miracle on 34th 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. Presented with Bags of Letters addressed to Santa and delivered to Kringle, he ruled that the Post Office recognized Kringle as Santa and that was good enough for him.
  • 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.
  • The final and probably best scene of Big Eyes is full of this, as Walter loses his lawyer team just before Margaret's lawsuit is reviewed and chooses to represent himself instead of asking for the trial to be postponed and get someone else. Eventually he and Margaret end up shouting at one another, leading to an exasperated judge declaring that they'll have a paint-off to resolve the issue once and for all. Walter proceeds to fake an arm injury to try to get out of it.
  • The trial in Witness culminates in the defense attorney (played by Cher) calling the presiding judge to the witness stand.
  • In Laughter in Paradise, Deniston's secretary Sheila — who is secretly in love — insists on being a witness at his trial. Her passionate defense of him contributes almost nothing to the case (save to prove that he does actually have an occupation), and confuses and frustrates the magistrate no end.
  • In Bee Movie, Barry objects to the honey companies using a bear as their logo (which isn't really relevant to his case), and brings in a live, aggressive bear to demonstrate why this is inappropriate. While demonstrations in court are common (there is even a term for items used in demonstrations; Demonstratives), needless to say, a dangerous animal is not allowed in a courtroom.
  • A mild case in The Lady from Shanghai; Arthur is called on by the prosecution to take the stand as a witness. Once the prosecution is finished Arthur lightheartedly tells them that since he is also the defense attorney he must now cross-examine himself, and does so briefly.

  • In A Lone Star Christmas, witness Tom Whitman conducts a Quick Draw experiment to show that the dead man had won a previous gunfight unfairly. Tom also insists that another witness wasn't even in the saloon during the shooting and proves that his memory is reliable by having the courtroom temporarily emptied and then pointing out all of the people who weren't in it earlier or are sitting in different places. 
  • 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.
  • The climax of The Luck of Brin's Five is a court case to prevent the government confiscating the alien visitor and tucking him away somewhere to study him. Moruian law and tradition being what it is, the good guys' strongest argument is that, because the alien was adopted into Brin's family, taking him away would constitute breaking up the family in a way the government is barred from doing; the First Elder's counterargument is that the adoption is invalid because otherworldly beings can't be family members. The good guys' lawyer wins by citing as a precedent the First Elder's own family, which has always claimed to be descended from a god.
  • In ''Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man: Massacre at Powder River," Clem Daggett refuses to reveal his full name to the court in an effort to delay his trial for murder. The judge just refers to him as "Clem No Last Name," throughout the trial.
  • Mickey Haller: In one case, when it was obvious that his client would get a guilty verdict, Mickey actually had his client punch him in the middle of the court room — using hidden blood packets to make the punch look worse than it was. This was all to get a mistrial (as the jury had been prejudiced at this point) and to scare the witness so that she wouldn't testify in the retrial. Manipulative Bastard indeed.
  • The Nero Wolfe short story "The Next Witness" involves a witness (Wolfe himself). Having realized that the man the authorities are trying for a murder couldn't possibly have done it while waiting to testify and being driven to distraction by the perfume of the woman sitting next to him, Wolfe flees the court (earning a contempt charge) in order to figure out who did it. Once he does so, he secretly arranges a meeting with the defendant in prison so that, when asked if he'd had any contact with the defendant, he can manipulate the prosecutor into allowing him to reveal what actually happened to the jury.
  • Star Trek: The Lost Era: The Buried Age deals with Picard being given a court martial for losing the Stargazer, in what is supposed to be a routine procedure. Unfortunately, the JAG officer against him feels it's her personal duty to take the traumatized man "down a peg", despite being warned about her behavior before the trial's even started. She promptly spends a lot of the hearing being subject to sustained objections, and nearly gets the whole thing thrown out due to her unprofessional conduct, ending when she uses Picard's own words, which she heard while they were sharing a bed, against him. She then refuses to admit she's done any wrong and quits. The rest of the hearing proceeds a hell of a lot more smoothly and professionally.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Galley Slave": Normally, robots are not allowed in a courtroom, due to the numerous restrictions placed upon transporting robots on Earth. In this rare case, Justice Shane is willing to admit EZ-27 to enter. While the Defense Attorney is interviewing Professor Ninheimer, EZ-27 suddenly begins speaking, and the witness starts yelling at it to stop, accidentally revealing his attempt to frame the robot. The irony here is the robot was about to take the blame, lie, possibly cause itself irreversible damage, so that a human "would not come to harm" -reputational harm, in this case.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "The Measure of a Man", both sides make use of this. The prosecution dismantles and deactivates Data. Then the defense steps up...
    • Also, "Devil's Due" has some, including a few not in the standard playbook:
      Data: The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear.
  • Judge John Deed: The series has many moments of these.
    • In the episode "above the law", a trio of young men accused of gang murder try everything to avoid conviction: hecking and jeering from the dock, bringing large numbers of family and friends to court to do the same, threatening the witnesses and having one killed, intimidating the jury so that they go off sick, almost causing the trial to be abandoned. John puts the dissenters very firmly in their place, sending them to the cells one by one; and when the trial is over, he orders all of them to apologise. Most of them refuse to do so, and are all sent to the cells.
    • In a family case, a mother tries to bring the wishes of her dead son into the court, by sifting through his ashes, even after John has stated that it would have no bearing in court.
      John: How would your son feel about my lifting the order entirely?
      Mother: (sifting through the ashes) He's not very keen on that.
      John: Well, that's too bad, because that's what I'm going to do. I think you deserve each other, and you shouldn't waste any more of the court's time.
    • When an argumentative lawyer is himself a defendant, he tries everything he can to avoid conviction, including bullying his co-accused sister into pleading not guilty.
  • 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.
    • ADA Rafael Barba, the regular prosecutor from season 15 to mid Season 19, was usually much less prone to this than his predecessors Cabot and Novak. However, his Establishing Character Moment (of all things!) certainly qualified; he goaded the defendant into strangling him with a belt in front of the judge, jury, and entire gallery in order to prove that said defendant certainly did strangle his victim well beyond the point of Casual Kink. It worked. The defendant went down hard.
    • And then there's the time that Elliott Stabler fakes a Mushroom Samba as a stalling tactic.
  • 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.
  • Boston Legal, being a series about a Dysfunction Junction full of Bunny Ears Lawyers, uses it obsessively. One of the mildest examples was an episode where they debated the Iraq War by holding a battle of the bands in the courtroom.
  • 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, mix-ups 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?
    Darling: Yes.
    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 defense 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 defense 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 defense, to make the Doctor look like a criminal.
  • JAG:
    • 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.
      Petty Officer Duell: Some people don’t belong in the United States Navy.
      Lieutenant Roberts: No, but the Navy won’t kill them.
      Petty Officer Duell: No, but somebody has to.
      Lieutenant Roberts: Somebody has to, sir.
  • 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 color 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.
    • Might not be true, but there has been at least one story of somebody trying to use this argument in real life with more success.
  • 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, and 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.
    • In the episode "Tribunal", O'Brien is put on trial by the Cardassians. Cardassian trials, which are intended more as propagandistic primetime entertainment than a serious form of jurisprudence, are built around the Kangaroo Court model, with O'Brien already found guilty before the trial even begins. Odo, serving as his advocate, opts to stall and raise points of procedure until it's the longest trial in Cardassian history (including demanding to know why a crime allegedly committed by a Federation citizen aboard a Bajoran station is being tried in neither jurisdiction), and thus buys time for Sisko & Co to figure out what's actually going on. In the end, the judge lets the case drop mostly because she's tired of being humiliated on live television in front of millions of viewers. O'Brien's defense counsel is rather horrified to realize he just won a case ("They'll kill me...").
  • Often happened on Amen whenever Deacon Frye was featured in his day job as an attorney. In particular, in one episode, he's defending a man accused of killing his employer. Frye genuinely believes the man is innocent, but needs to stall the trial to find the evidence necessary. He proceeds to make a complete ass out of himself in court, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.
  • In the Wings episode "Is That a Subpoena in Your Pocket", Joe is suing Helen for the damages she caused by driving her Jeep into his office. When she shows up late and on crutches, Joe assumes she's pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit and promptly engages in antics of his own, kicking the crutches out from under her and prodding at her with his foot when she falls down, angrily demanding that she get up. Until Brian shows up and informs everyone that Helen was in an accident on her way to court and her injuries are REAL. Despite having inadvertently made himself look like a downright abusive ex-boyfriend, Joe still wins the case.
  • Waiting for God: It's implied that Tom Ballad ended up engaging in this; he walks out of a courthouse saying that he got about the outcome he'd wanted, but that he was fined fifty pounds for contempt of court.
  • Nicely played with on The Grinder. Dean, who spent eight years playing a lawyer on a hit TV show, assumes he can be an attorney in real life. Brother Stewart, a real lawyer, warns Dean that his over-dramatic antics won't work in an actual courtroom. However, quite often, they do as judges turn out to be so star-struck by Dean that they'll let him act out wildly.
  • In the Here Come the Brides episode "Loggerheads," Jason, representing himself against Aaron Stempel, stalls for time by reading from a book of poetry. Judge Weems allows it as long as he sticks to American poetry, but finally tells him to stop when he tries to read from Richard II.

  • 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.

    Recorded Comedy 
  • 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: 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!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Battletech, Nicolai Malthus, during his imprisonment after the Clan Invasion, happened to catch an episode of a cartoon series in which a fictionalized version of himself was the villain (the in-universe equivalent of the real-life cartoon). His outrage led someone to inform him that he couldn't declare a Trial by Combat in the Inner Sphere, and that his only recourse would be to hire a lawyer and sue for slander. Which he promptly did. The case was thrown out after Malthus attempted to challenge the judge to a fight.

  • 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 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
    Razzle-dazzle 'em!
    How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
  • Brooke Wyndham's trial in Legally Blonde concludes with the entire court relocating into a bathroom to prove Elle's theory. note 

    Video Games 
  • 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.")
  • Neverwinter Nights: In act three, you can agree to help defend Rolgar, a tribesman charged with murder. The prosecutor of the trial is Igland of the Swift Sword, who upon introducing himself loudly declares that he's never lost a case. Which is kind of hard to believe, because he's absolutely obnoxious - constantly speaks out of turn, makes spurious accusations in order to sway the jury (which unfortunately works), and repeatedly interrupts your questioning of the witnesses to put his own spin on the statements. He's repeatedly ordered by the judge to stop his disruptive behavior, but ignores it (and the judge doesn't back up his warnings). If you manage to win the case (mainly by sticking to the facts and avoiding questions that gives Igland something to twist) he'll throw a massive tantrum over the fact that he lost, acting like you cheated somehow, and leaves in a huff.
  • In Saints Row 2, Johnny Gat mouths off to the judge and blatantly threatens her when she asks if he has anything to say. As he points out, the hearing is for his sentencing after he's been convicted of 300 murders; being held in contempt of court isn't much of a threat for someone who's getting an automatic death sentence.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The point and appeal of the 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; in the fourth game, prosecutor Klavier Gavin is a literal rock star who plays Air Guitars during trials; 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.
      • Even prosecutors from the past aren't immune to goofy quirks. Barok van Zieks will throw a chalice of wine at a lamp, or a throw a whole bottle into the gallery, or slam his leg on the table. Amusingly, he has many animations for performing dramatic antics with his wine, but none for actually drinking it.
    • 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 the aforementioned 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 color for every appearance, or an astronaut who sets off a parachute and flies up to the ceiling, or a mayor claiming to be possessed by a yokai who also has a double life as a masked wrestler, or a teenage reporter hiding in a cardboard box, or a grumpy veterinarian with a baby penguin living on his hair, or a pirate who disses the defense attorney through a rap song, or a heavy metal-playing hippie monk, or a drone which fires a gatling gun and missiles in court while being remote-controlled by a 12-year old who acts like a Drill Sergeant Nasty...the list goes on (and this is not even counting how every lawyer and almost every witness has a "shocked" animation where they react to contradictions as if they were struck by physical blows or gusts of wind), and in almost every case, the witnesses 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. And considering how many of them unashamedly lie through their teeth for reasons as silly as being excited over the prospect of being a murder witness, the courts must have perjury cases lined up for the next couple decades.
  • Parodied in Daughter for Dessert at the protagonist's trial, and also one of the few examples when the prosecution uses this trope. When questioning Mortelli on the witness stand, they double-, triple-, quadruple-, quintuple-, and sextuple-check Mortelli’s answers before the judge puts a stop to it.

    Web Comics 
  • 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!
    Judge: Objection overruled, go fuck yourself sustained.

    Web Original 
  • "The Arbitration," the finale of the Shipwrecked Comedy / Tin Can Bros crossover, played this for laughs. Despite it not being a trial, as the title indicates, both sides treated it as such in the most dramatic way possible.
  • The Courtroom Episode of Outside Xbox's Dungeons & Dragons campaign has basically nothing but these. While Prudence's suggestion of putting the whole damn system on trial isn't used, they do at one point attempt to use Dob's tramp stamp prison tattoo to discredit fake witness testimony, resulting in him mooning the courtroom, and Egbert deploys the "[squidges cheeks] look at their little faces" defence and uses enchantment magic to make the judge suggest acquittal to the jury. Justified in context, though: a) the trial was blatantly a Kangaroo Court, to the point where when the judge does suggest acquittal he is immediately shot in the head and the verdict and sentence are handed down without him, so there wasn't much point trying to use coherent legal arguments anyway, and 2) they were mostly just buying time before the escape attempt could kick off.

    Western Animation 
  • 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, a fact that he himself lampshades:
    Flash (to Superman): You're asking the world's fastest man to slow things down? Won't be easy.
  • South Park skewered it with the "Chewbacca Defense" ([1]) 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. He also once won a case with an insanity plea by citing they must be insane because they hired him to represent them.
  • 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 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.
  • The Looney Tunes Show's Prison Episode starts with Bugs and Daffy getting sent to prison for contempt of court in a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome for pulling antics like spitting soda in each other's faces in a courtroom despite the judge's warnings.
  • 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.
  • One episode of Spongebob Squarepants has Plankton suing Mr. Krabs for the Krabby Patty Secret Formula with Spongebob as his lawyer. It goes as you would expect at first but he still manages to win the case in a Moment of Awesome
  • 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 & 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!
  • The Dick Tracy Show: "Court Jester" had Stooge Viller and Mumbles on trial for their crimes, only Stooge has taken it on the lam. The prosecution can't get Mumbles to admit they're guilty because nobody can understand his mumbling without Stooge there to decipher it.
  • Wander over Yonder: In "The Good Deed", Wander breaks up a fight between two Feuding Families of hillbilly aliens by staging a frantic courtroom argument all by himself, playing the prosecutor, defense, judge, stenographer, and even the balliff. The aliens are so baffled they agree to stop fighting just to shut Wander up.
    Sylvia: That made no sense whatsoever, but you did it, buddy! Good deed done and done!
  • Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! episode "The People vs. Fred Jones" uses a trial as a framing device for the latest mystery. Not only is the jury composed entirely of people they've unmasked in previous episodes (one of whom is a childhood friend of the defendant, two of whom are children, and one of whom takes this as an opportunity to escape), Daphne acts as the defense attorney after getting her law degree from a side-scrolling platform game, the prosecutor routinely storms out of the room to protest the antics before rushing back in for his cross-examination, and the judge allows Shaggy to blatantly modify his testimony (after the prosecutor accuses Fred of being the monster, Shaggy describes him slipping on a burst fire hydrant, being hoisted into the air by a giraffe, mocked by a clown, dumped by his girlfriend who drives away with said clown, and ultimately carried away by an eagle) simply because the image is amusing. Mystery Inc.'s behavior is somewhat justified as an attempt at The Perry Mason Method to get the guilty party to come forward, while the prosecutor is the guilty party trying to frame Fred. The judge and jury come down to pure Rule of Funny.

    Real Life 
  • 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 1980s 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, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, and Jesse Jackson. The trial was most recently dramatized in Aaron Sorkin's 2020 film The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • 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 a loaded revolver under his robe remainder of the trial. Besides the Family themselves, defense attorney Irving Kanarek kept objecting over every little thing, often racking up a hundred in a single day, and was so notorious for having trials extended beyond belief that another attorney had once quit rather than face him again. He was held in contempt of court numerous times but never quit objecting.
  • 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 defense made against the prosecution at trial), so the fight is still active. Cochran'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.
  • In a more positive example, defense attorney David Sotomayor pulled a fast one when the prosecutor was running a case relying on in-court ID. He brought someone who looked like the defendant to his table while the defendant sat in the back of the courtroom, and when asked to identify the perp, the police officer pointed to the ringer. The judge immediately dismissed the case, but gave Sotomayor a wrist-slap fine for contempt because he didn't let the judge in on the switch beforehand.
  • State of Georgia v. Denver Fenton Allen (seen in this animated reenactment by the creators and voice actors of Rick and Morty) started off as relatively mundane (a defendant in a murder trial started out by expressing dissatisfaction with his court-appointed attorney) but quickly took a turn for the bizarre after he started accusing his attorney of trying to force him into allowing him (the attorney) to perform fellatio upon him (the defendant) in exchange for requested documents; from there, the defendant eventually began showering the judge with verbal abuse before then asking the judge to fellate him, followed by a declaration that he "[doesn't] fuck girls" and instead preferred "white boys" with "big butts", which eventually turned into a shouting match between the judge and the defendant before the defendant eventually graphically threatened to murder the judge's entire family (to which the judge responded that he doesn't even have a family), followed by threatening to masturbate and ejaculate upon the judge and the judge daring him to do just that. The judge gave as good as he got, however, telling the defendant looks "like a queer" and that he has "the constitutional right to be a dumbass." Note that none of this is exaggerated or embellished in any way; the transcript indicates that this is a verbatim retelling of what actually happened that day.
  • Some defendants will claim that the court has no jurisdiction over them, due to some ostensible peculiarity of law. In one such case, judge John Hurley took the loophole the defendant was using and turned it around on him, resulting in a sentence being leveled against him, his advocate, his physical body and his person.
    John Hurley: If you see David Hall, let him know he's also under arrest.
  • A man named Dan Marino note  sued Usher and related parties for stealing the song "Bad Girl", which Marino had allegedly written. He retained the services of Francis Malofiy for the purposes of this and it did not go quite as planned. For one thing, Malofiy's wildly uncivil, impertinent, and frequently belligerent behavior both in and out of depositions was enough to give 17 out of 20 of the defendants reason to push for sanctions to be imposed against Malofiy. That, however, wasn't the problem; while Malofiy was a massive dick, the judge abstained from imposing sanctions just for being an asshole. He did, however, find something much more actionable. You see, Malofiy had lied to William Guice (one of the defendants, who was going pro se) about being just a witness (knowing full well that Guice had virtually no knowledge of the legal process), got a bunch of information out of him, and, after Guice failed to respond to the amended complaint because he had no idea that he was supposed to, moved to have a default judgment entered against him. It was this (not the rudeness) flagrant violation of Rule 4.3 (regulating conduct with unrepresented parties) that got the court to enter summary judgment in favor of the defendants and sanction Malofiy for all the costs that he had incurred as a result of his conduct in a sanctions memorandum that can be best described as Malofiy being skinned alive; one of the attorneys representing a rightsholder for a portion of Usher's song catalog even stated that he had literally never seen a judge deliver the kind of smackdown that he had laid upon Malofiy. The judge furthermore concluded that while Marino did have a legitimate cause of action and really was wronged, only one of the defendants was to blame, and while he could have had a favorable determination with a better attorney, the shithead he retained ruined it for him, and additionally took the time to state that had anyone else had to deal with Malofiy in this situation, he very well could have found himself facing disbarment proceedings.
    Caption for one of Malofiy's written submissions: “Response in Opposition Re Joint Motion for Sanctions by Moving Defendants Who are Cry Babies.” (Emphasis in original)
  • Charles Julius Guiteau, the man who assassinated President James Garfield, performed a number of Courtroom Antics during his trial. He argued with his attorneys, shouted vulgar insults at the jury, solicited legal advice from random spectators, tried to get a pardon from Chester A. Arthur as thanks for making him President, and even claimed he killed Garfield because God told him to. His attempt at the Insanity Defense failed as the court psychiatrist stated that he wasn't legally insane during the assassination, but that "he was insane his whole life, and was never anything else". Guiteau also violently rejected the idea he was insane, as this would detract from the divine mandate he thought justified his actions. He got his wish, he was found guilty and hanged.
  • Rodney Alcala (also known as "The Dating Game Killer"note ) was tried in 2010 for seven confirmed murders of minors between 1977-1979, along with dozens of other unidentified victimsnote . During this trial, Alcala chose to represent himself, and acting as his own defense attorney, he called himself up to the stand and proceeded to "interrogate" himself — speaking as "Mr. Alcala" in a deeper-than-normal voice — for five hours. During the closing argument, he proceeded to play the entirety of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" (which is 18 minutes long) on a boombox. Unsurprisingly — especially given how his "defense" of the murder charges were that he couldn't remember them, so therefore he couldn't have committed them — he was convicted of first-degree murder on all charges, and the death penalty stuck this time (though he died while on death row of natural causes in 2021).
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Roman Republic had a very detailed legal system, but unfortunately many of the lictors, assessors and praetors were so corrupt or hungry for patronage (or popularity, since these guys were almost all politicians and needed votes) that the system could often be bent. Thus, Roman trials often were the thrilling Xanatos Speed Chess portrayed by Hollywood. The famous trial of Gaius Licinius Verres by Marcus Tullius Cicero is a brilliant example:
    • To begin with, the people of Sicily moved to have Verres tried for extortion (his tyrannical misrule of Sicily was notorious). Verres, putting his stolen money to good use, contracted Quintus Hortensius Hortalus to represent him, widely known as the finest lawyer in Rome. The citizens, feeling rather apprehensive about this, spoke to an unorthodox but rising star of the Roman bar, Marcus Tullius Cicero.
    • Verres and Hortensius used all sorts of procedural tricks in order to delay the trial. These delaying tactics gave Cicero only nine days (nowhere near enough time) until the trial would be adjourned for the upcoming holidays and games of Pompey the Great. After that, the current judge, the honest Marcus Acilius Glabrio, would be replaced by an ally of Hortensius', who would be sure to throw the case out. Furthermore, Hortensius and Verres had the support of the optimates, the patrician wing of the Senate. Just to make doubly sure, they also bribed the entire jury to find in Verres' favor.
    • However, Cicero was also capable of using this trope to his advantage. He journeyed to Sicily, and with the help of a mob of angry Sicilians, totally illegally stole and copied all of Verres' records. He used his own money to bring over a hundred witnesses, and, on the day of the trial, brought every single one of them into the courtroom (again, illegally) to intimidate the patrician jury and impress the praetor. Before the trial began, he had them go into the winesinks and bathhouses of Rome and spread stories of Verres's sliminess before the plebeians.
    • It was the form in those days to make incredibly lengthy opening and closing speeches. Hortensius was infamous for using the "Asiatic style", a long thrilling Large Ham performance lasting several days, complete with florid hand gestures and Manly Tears. Cicero would be expected to do the same in his opening speech, thus using up a large chunk of his available time. Thus, Verres and Hortensius had pulled off a Xanatos Gambit: either Cicero tried to fight the case, ran out of time and humiliated himself, or bowed out and let Verres off. Fortunately, Cicero was better at the whole intrigue game. He took a third option: he made no speech at all.
    • Cicero, again bending the rules, simply presented his case without any introduction. He ruthlessly cross-examined Verres, who, not the sharpest tool in the box, ended up incriminating himself. Cicero's legal beat-down was so severe that at one point the plebeians stormed the courtroom in fury, and the bribed jury was so shamed by this and so appalled by Verres' corruption that Verres elected to go into exile rather than try to fight the charges. Tropes Are Not Bad indeed.
  • Another Older Than Feudalism example is the famous trial of Socrates on charges of blasphemy and corruption of youth. By all accounts, the trial was a complete mess; Socrates didn't offer any real defense, he just spent the entire trial ignoring or flouting courtroom procedure for the sake of insulting the prosecution, the audience, and Athenian society in general, while also tooting his own horn (such as literally proclaiming himself to be a gift from the gods) and playing dumb every time someone tried to call him out on his behavior. When he was unsurprisingly convicted, he proceeded to spend the sentencing acting even more obnoxious, like smugly suggesting that his punishment be free food for life, to the point that the court changed the sentence from a meager fine to death by hemlock poisoning. The sentence of death was passed by a greater majority than that by which Socrates had been convicted, meaning that a not insignificant portion of the jury felt that Socrates was not guilty, but was such an insufferable asshole that he deserved to die anyways.

Alternative Title(s): Courtroom Antics