Unsuccessful bid to disprove “Real Santa Claus” Claim
(Wilmington, DE, December 16, 2013) – Twelve times a year since 2004, one of Hollywood’s most famous trial scenes has been reenacted at the Kent County Courthouse in Dover, Delaware, before a gallery of elementary and middle school children from New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties. Judges, attorneys, court personnel and other members of the legal community join forces to combine a teachable moment about the American judicial system with a heaping serving of Christmas spirit, via a recreation of the climactic scene from the movie A Miracle on 34th Street.
The program is the brainchild of Morris James LLP Partner Richard K. Herrmann, an intellectual property and business litigation attorney at the Delaware law firm. Herrmann’s mission, to introduce children to courtroom procedures and the legal system, involved the attorney in more than three years of negotiations over copyright issues with Miracle’s owners, 20th Century Fox Film Studios. The Studio green-lighted the project ten years ago, and the curtain hasn’t come down on the popular production since.
Herrmann, who, in the reenactment, plays the role of the psychiatrist who disputes Kris Kringle’s claim to being the “real” Santa Claus, says the performance provides the children an easy and entertaining way to learn about the judicial branch of government. Explanations are given as to the roles of the judge, the prosecuting and defending attorneys, and the witnesses, as well as about general courtroom procedure.
But in addition to giving a quick civics lesson, Hermann may have another agenda. “Who knows?” he says, the twinkle in his eye shiny enough to rival that of the celebrated defendant in this case, “I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of tomorrow’s lawyers and judges didn’t discover their future career paths as members of the audience.”
During the production, as in many real trials, tension builds as the testimony unfolds. And also, as often happens, both sides appeared confident of ultimate victory. Unfortunately for Herrmann, however, despite the scientific evidence he presented, success is not to be.
As in the Miracle version, each performance ends with a dismissal of the case, with the Judge (The Honorable President Judge of Superior Court, James T. Vaughn, Jr.), banging the gavel while uttering those very familiar words, “If the United States government declares this man to be Santa Claus, then the court will not dispute it.”
From the reaction of the school children, and the ongoing popularity of the program with kids, teachers and performers alike, it is a very satisfactory conclusion, certainly even for lawyer-cum-psychiatrist Herrmann.