Santa Claus is a fixture world wide. But, when you put Santa in a modern day setting, a question is sometimes asked: “Is Santa Claus real?
A group of Delaware lawyers and judges is trying to set that issues to rest.
For the 9th year in a row, the Delaware Judiciary and the Delaware State Bar Association will prove that there is a Santa Claus. Children in grades 3 through 6 will experience the proceedings of a real trial setting, through the reenactment of the courtroom scene from the perennial Miracle on 34th Street Christmas classic. The series of 12 competency hearings will begin on Dec. 10th in courtrooms throughout the state.
Just like the movie, the “Miracle on 34th Street” effort is organized and performed by the Miracle Team, members of the Delaware legal community. The play began as an effort for children to experience the courtroom in a positive way.
Miracle on 34th Street became an instant hit and received great reception from thousands of Delaware children. This year the state’s courthouses are set to accommodate 375 students and faculty in Georgetown, 240 in Dover, and 900 in Wilmington.
“It was the success of the first year that made Miracle on 34th Street an annual event. The reception from the schools and the responses from the children were amazing,” said Richard K. Herrmann, Chair of the Delaware State Bar Arts Commission and a partner in the law firm of Morris James.
This year’s reenactment of “Miracle on 34th Street”, a four day event, will comprise of 12 competency hearings. The hearings will take place in Courthouses in all three counties and will kick off on Dec. 10th at the newly renovated Georgetown Courthouse. The other series of hearings will take place at the Dover and Wilmington Courthouses on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of December. Each location will host the reenactment 3 times with the exception of the Wilmington Courthouse which will host 6 reenactments over the course of two days on the 12 and the 13th. Performance times for all days will be 9:30am, 10:30am, and 11:45am.
The three courtrooms of 3rd through 6th graders will witness the white-bearded old man who claims to be Santa Claus prove not only his identity, but also his sanity. “The responses from the children are great. Each year we solicit letters from teachers and post them in the Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association,” said Herrmann.
The courtroom will reflect a normal courtroom setting with jurors, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely will preside over the case. “The children will get a chance to see how the courtroom works in a positive way. They’ll learn the roles of the judge and the jury in the courtroom,” said Herrmann.
Amy Quinlan, Deputy Director Administrative Office of the Courts, will attempt to prove whether the corpulent and white-bearded Kris Kringle is the real Santa Claus. She is set to be challenged by prosecutor, Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady, who will argue that Kringle is mentally unfit, and just like in the movie, should be sent to a mental institution.
The lawyers are expected to introduce key witnesses to prove the authenticity of Santa Claus. A key witness for the prosecution is Dr. Herbert Westover, Delaware Chief Psychologist, who will testify on the state of Kringle’s mental stability. Brady’s case will end up crumbling when the defense introduces postal workers carrying bags of letters addressed to Santa Claus that were delivered to Kris Kringle.
The intense deliberations will come to an end when the judge dismisses the case against Kringle. The play concludes with Kringle asking everyone to join him in the singing of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, including the ardent prosecutor, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
The play is an opportunity for children to experience a trial in a courtroom setting and to shed a positive light on the judicial system. “All of us hope that they’ll remember it as a positive experience. Too often the courtroom is represented negatively,” said Herrmann.
The play is a reenactment of the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street. The story is set at a Macy’s department store on 34th street in New York City. In the movie it was a big deal between Macy’s and Gimbel’s on who would have the better Santa. Macy’s is still around today. Need we say more?