I recently represented a man in a contested divorce and child custody case. The facts were strongly in our favor, partially due to the woman's questionable conduct during the marriage. During the trial, things continued to go in our favor and against the woman, and it was obvious to everyone in the courtroom that her frustration level continued to increase.
Upon direct examination by the woman's attorney, she began to list her many complaints against my client. After several minutes of this, she proclaimed that he was "the devil." She paused for a moment, and she then said that the person sitting beside him (me) was "the devil" too.
Now, I have been called many names during my professional career outside of court. In fact, I dare say that I have been called pretty much every name under the sun. Practicing in an adversarial system, people typically either love me or hate me — depending on whether they were my client or the opposing party. However, this was the first time that I have been called a name like this on the record.
Of course, word has quickly spread of this new moniker, and I had another attorney greet me last week by stating "well, if it isn't the devil himself" (followed by a quick grin and chuckle). I have warned the court reporter that she might be inundated with requests for that portion of the transcript. My wife has also enjoyed this new "title" for me at home as well.
When the trial judge was announcing his decision at the end of the trial, he listed the wife's demeanor during trial and her obvious intense hatred of her husband as reasons that he awarded custody to my client. In fact, the judge stated that he believed that if custody was awarded to the wife, she would take steps to insure that the children were alienated from their father and that she would work to destroy their relationship with him.
There are two morals to be learned from this story:
- Your bad actions and/or misdeeds can (and usually do) come back to haunt you at trial. I typically advise my clients to assume that they are always being recorded and not to do or say anything outside of court that they wouldn't want the judge to see/hear.
- Even if things go against you during trial, you should remain calm, cool, and under control. It will never benefit your case to call the other party names from the stand. Instead, it will almost always backfire and result in you looking worse in the judge's eyes.