Courtroom Antic

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    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

    A courtroom on television tends to be a very different place from its real-world counterpart. The real courts are boring places at times; cases drag on for months or years, arguments bog down in the most tedious of minutiae and the outcome (if it wasn't a lost cause for one side or the other from the beginning) might have more to do with one side's ability to bankrupt the other in legal fees than anything else.

    For dramatic purposes, this just won't do. To hold an audience's attention for anything more than the briefest trial, there needs to be courtroom drama... which only gets played one of a few common ways.

    One common trope is the Crusading Lawyer who makes grand, idealistic and oratorical discourse to appeal to the emotions of judge or jury; instead of sticking to the finer parts of the law, counsel instead focuses on how one particular outcome will allow the corporate raiders to take over and close the town's only factory, while reminding the jurors that they too grew up in that same village and inviting them to recall in fine detail all of the memories of their childhoods in that community, before returning to explain how, if the factory closes, the town dies and nothing will be left of those precious memories but tears and sorrow.

    The opposite side of this trope is the Amoral Attorney who, with an evil laugh, insists that he doesn't care what happens to the town, as long as Mega Corp keeps making enough profit to keep paying his outlandish fee.

    Sometimes that isn't enough to differentiate this case from a thousand others in a thousand other broadcasts or films. Enter the Bunny Ears Lawyer, who will usually be incompetent enough to make a complete mockery of whatever passed for "due process" in even the Hollywood Law of a fictional court, but whose antics are worth more laughs than a barrel of monkeys. The trial may well be doomed, but the audience will be kept entertained to the bitter end... for all the wrong reasons.

    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.

    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.

    Often, this antic will result in a Penultimate Outburst.

    This is the Super-Trope to the following tropes:

    Examples of Courtroom Antics include:

    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 porns 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 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.

    Billy: As long you keep them waayyyy 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; sustaining objections on the grounds "I couldn't think of anything else to say either"; and an Incredibly Lame Pun or two.
    • Not expected or intended, but deliberately played on: in The Dark Knight, an accused gangster tries to shoot prosecutor Harvey Dent in the middle of the trial. Dent promptly punches and disarms him, stunning the entire court. When the judge calls for a recess, Dent hams it up: "Your honor, I'm not finished!". A straight version happens later in the movie, when Dent intends to try most of the Mafia roll call (~500 people) in one sitting.
    • 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.
    • All of Me has a lawyer (played by Steve Martin) mishandle his employer's divorce trial badly enough to be physically thrown out of a courtroom, as one final step toward leaving the legal profession entirely, because he'd rather be a professional musician.
    • Airplane! 2: 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 the Woody Allen film 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.
    • The Three Stooges had the short "Disorder In the Court", which was one of their most hilarious episodes.
    • 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.


    • Invoked ever so hard 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 our 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."

    Live-Action TV

    • 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.
      • An episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit 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 CI 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.
    • Ally McBeal had one of these per episode.
    • The Practice used it somewhat faithfully.
    • A rather amusing version from The Tenth 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!"
      • Not to mention Wolf's memorably existential self-defense: "Ohhhh, I'm twisting everything I'm saying!"
    • Pretty much the entire 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?
    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 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 even more on Surprise Lack-of-Witness (when Kate's mother is not available to testify).
    • Night Court practically runs on this trope, from the Judge of all people.
    • Harm shot off a sub-machine gun in a courtroom once in JAG.
    • 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 truely 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 literally 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 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 we couldn't be entirely sure he hadn't been Killed Off for Real.)
      • Leads to the punny line, "It must have come as a huge relief for those who heard Rumpole had kicked the bucket, to hear he had just turned a little pale."
      • You know that standard "We had our differences, but respected each other" speech people give when their worst enemy dies? Rumpole actually stood up and said thankyou after this was delivered by Judge Bullingham the Mad Bull.
      • This was also part of a larger Batman Gambit to get payment out of a particularly sleazy solicitor with a known penchant for disappearing until a barrister was dead before offering to pay a small fraction of the bill to his widow. He was also, incidentally, a material witness in the case at trial, and he was served with his subpoena when he went to try and pull his scam on Mrs. Rumpole.
    • The Three Stooges short Disorder in the Court runs on this trope. Calling the stooges to the witness stand qualifies as this trope on its own, but it gets even sillier.
    • 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.
    • 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 and Bash frequently employ these—especially Jared Franklin. It's pretty much their entire 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 FB 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.


    • 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!



    • 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.
      • Which kind of fails, as Courtroom Antics are generally for the benefit of the jury. In the Scopes trial there was no jury. It's the reason it never made it to the Supreme Court. The judgment was overturned because the fine assessed was an amount that required a jury. His conviction was overturned, so there was nothing to appeal. The case was, wisely, never refiled.
      • Sometimes antics are for the jury, and sometimes they're for the press. Darrow got exactly the publicity he wanted when he cross-examined Bryan, in newspapers across the country and in history books.
    • 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.

    Video Games

    • 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 Phoenix arc 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 even 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); and in the third game, prosecutor Godot throws his scalding hot coffee across the room in a fit of pique several times. All of Godot's responses tend to consist of bizarre philosophical tangents, most of them about coffee. Also, whenever the judge mentions that he's ready to render judgment or something like that, Godot cuts him off with 'I'll be the one to pass judgment, old man!' ... Yeah. Ironically enough, Phoenix himself often gets berated by the judge for much less.
        • The tradition continues into the fourth game, which has an entirely new cast. Of note is the main prosecutor, who doubles as a rock star. At one point he even doubles the 'penalty' (damage) the player will receive by air guitaring.
      • In fact even the more normal lawyers are inclined to bash the table to bring their point home, shout at opponents (OBJECTION!) and excessive pointing. Such activity might well intimidate witnesses and would hardly be tolerated given the emphasis generally placed on proper court etiquette.
      • It doesn't help that the judge is halfway senile, easily manipulated, and a general Cloudcuckoolander.
      • Even better, in the first game, Phoenix actually has to accuse the prosecutor of the murder. Correctly. And in Apollo Justice, you have to accuse your own defence aide, also correctly. And unlike the prosecutor, he actually takes the stand and testifies.
      • This is all completely subverted in Investigations, a spinoff series with Edgeworth as the main character. You have to use pure logic from various pieces of evidence you've gathered and knowledge of various events. You're punished if you fail to make a correct connection, and the characters will even lampshade this trope by telling him to stop these tactics.
    • 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. Note that 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 with, 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.
      • 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 even if he could, the dream's content has nothing that can implicate Saren. 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.")

    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!


    Western Animation

    • In one Justice League episode, an alien court accuses Green Lantern of blowing up an entire 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" ([1]) in the episode "Chef-Aid" (hell, 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.
      • 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 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 refuse to recognize the authority of a court that hangs the golden fringe flag. The golden fringe flag signifies a naval court. A naval court signifies a court-martial. And I cannot be court-martialed twice for the same crime; 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 thing). 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 telling another witness that they "shouldn't swear, it's not nice," after having asked if they swear.
    • 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.

    Real Life

    • By today's standards Bartholomew Chassenee's case facing off against the catholic church to defend rats would have definitely counted. His arguments would have been reasonable if his clients were human, and so, out of fairness, the court allowed ordered certain accommodations. This went on until the court was so fed up with Chassenee's defense, they dropped the case [2].
    • 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. Subverted in that he actually got disbarred for it.
    • 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 Monkey 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 pretty much already a lock for either life in prison or death, what's the worse the judge could do? Throw him in prison?
    • Judge Judy will often disrupt the proceedings to offer candid and irrelevant opinions about her clients or society in general. She's not above asking clients non-rhetorical questions and then shouting them down when they try to answer.
      • Which really doesn't figure into this trope, as "Judge" Judy is actually acting as an arbiter and her "courtroom" isn't actually a court of law. She can do whatever she damned well pleases as long as it's within the scope of the arbitration agreement (which is just a contractual agreement between two parties to comply with the decision of a third party).
    • 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. Of course, 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.