Court production rules there really is a Santa Claus

Hundreds of letters to Santa Claus are placed in front of Judge William L. Witham Jr. by Todd Michelan and Alexandra Magee during a presentation of “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Kent County Courthouse in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — “Absolutely,” was the immediate response from Karalyne Ford afterward.

“Yes, there’s proof, lots of proof,” classmate Victor Pham said without a trace of doubt in his voice.

The Holy Cross School fourth-graders believe in Santa Claus and a 30-minute production Wednesday morning clearly showed that he still exists in the hearts of many.

For the 15th year, past and present members of the state court system performed the Christmas classic movie scene from “Miracle on 34th Street” where the man known as Kris Kringle and claiming to be Santa is validated during a competency hearing.

Family Court Judge Jim McGiffin portrays Santa Claus during a presentation of “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Kent County Courthouse in Dover. This is the 15th year the presentation of “Miracle” has been made at the courthouse. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Three performances in the Kent County Courthouse were given for 285 students from Holy Cross of Dover, East Dover Elementary and Silver Lake Elementary of Middletown. Shows also were performed in Sussex and New Castle counties for similarly youthful audiences.

White-bearded Family Court Judge James McGiffin took the lead role as Santa, and then led the kids in a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” at the end.

“It’s really a great deal of fun,” he said. “The kids are probably happy to be out of school and really responsive and generous with their attention and a lot of them are still believers.

“They’re still a bit star struck (to see Santa up close).”

Surrounded by a deluge of letters to Santa delivered by the Post Office, Superior Court Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. ruled at the end that “If the United States government declares that this man is Santa Claus, then this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed.”

After many years of serving as judge for the proceedings, retired Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady took the role of defense attorney this Christmas season.

“It feels right for me to be defending Santa rather than prosecuting him,” she said prior to the first show.

A smiling, bouncy Pamela Quail-Brummell stole her part in the scene while portraying Mrs. W.H. Macy, who hired Mr. Kringle for her department store and believed him to be truthful and of sound mind. (Marypat Fitzpatrick took that role in a following presentation.)

School students watch the presentation of “Miracle on 34th Street” at the courthouse in Dover.

Charles Coates performed as the curmudgeonly prosecuting attorney who couldn’t dispute telling his daughter (ably played by Meave McDonnell) that there truly is a Santa Claus.

“Gosh, everyone knows you shouldn’t tell a lie, especially in court,” Ms. McDonnell reasoned from the witness stand.

“ … You wouldn’t tell me anything that wasn’t so, would you daddy?”

Under questioning as Delaware’s Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Westover, Retired Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young reported that the “sweet, chubby, little old elf” claiming to be Father Christmas was “loony tunes” and “suffers from delusions that he’s Santa Claus” after a 45-minute evaluation.

Then there was Todd Michleau, the bailiff who advised all of the required courtroom decorum as part of the opportunity to show kids what a proceeding is like.

Showing much enthusiasm for his role at Delaware’s Postmaster General, Sean O’Sullivan rushed into the courtroom and his staff delivered to Judge Witham examples of some of the hundreds of letters mailed to Santa each holiday season.

On Tuesday at the Sussex County Courthouse, 260 students from Milton’s H.O. Brittingham and Milford’s Lulu Ross elementary schools were treated to the show.

Superior Court President Judge Jan R. Jurden served as the hearing’s judge, attorney Ron Gibbs played Dr. Westover, Janey Nagle was the prosecutor’s daughter, Judicial Fellow Ruby Harrington acted as Mrs. Macy and bailiff Tony Summers completed the cast. Mr. McGiffin, Mr. Coates, Ms. Brady and Mr. O’Sullivan all took the same roles.

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