Santa’s Miracle: Kris Kringle wins the case, again

DOVER — Save for the jingling of bells, the courtroom was silent as Kris Kringle took the stand Wednesday to defend his identity as Santa Claus.
For the 16th year the courtroom scene from a “Miracle on 34th Street” played out in real time at the Kent County Courthouse with members of the state court system past and present participating in the production.

“I think it’s a great way to get kids in the court. It’s part of their government,” said Family Court Judge James McGiffin, who took the starring role of Santa Claus.

The production began nearly two decades ago, in 2004, after Richard K. Herrmann, an intellectual properties lawyer, received permission from 20th Century Fox to stage an excerpt of the 1947 film’s script, with the idea that it could be a “stealth lesson in how courts work, with fun and levity and holiday spirit,” said Sean O’Sullivan, chief of community relations for the courts. He also acted as the postmaster in the show.

With productions in each of the counties, hundreds of students saw the scene unfold. In Kent County, the three performances hosted students from Holy Cross, MOT Charter, Hartly Elementary, East Dover Elementary and Academia Antonia Alonso.

Retired Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady reprised her role as Kringle’s defense attorney. She battled against prosecutor Charles Coates, who argued that Kringle’s insistence that he was the true Santa Claus posed a threat to himself and others.
The two made their cases: Retired Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young, acting as Delaware’s chief psychiatrist Dr. Westover, said Kringle suffers from delusions.

Proof: Hundreds of letters addressed to Santa Claus.

Meanwhile, Mrs. W.H. Macy, portrayed by Pamela Brown, asserted that she knew Kringle was who he said he was.
The prosecution fell apart when the postmaster brought forth a mountain of evidence: Letters addressed to Santa.

“United States postal laws and regulations make it a criminal offense to willfully misdirect mail or intentionally deliver it to the wrong party,” Mr. O’Sullivan told the court. “Consequently, the department uses every possible precaution.”

After having a bag full of letters dumped upon him, Superior Court Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. declared Kris Kringle to be Santa.
“I think it was great because when people kept coming out, it was amazing, they were excited,” Jayda Heat, a third grader, said after the production.

Charmisa Fields, also a third grader, agreed. “It was cool. I like when they sit up there [witness stand] and talk.”
She and Jariana Lozano enjoyed when the the judge declared Santa to be who he said he was.

“I really liked it because it had real judges in it and I liked the part when they said he was Santa,” Jariana said.
Lacey Podolak, a third-grade student from Brandywine Springs, played the role of the Mr. Coates’s daughter who testifies that Santa is really.
“I liked it,” she said. “It was really fun. You get to watch what it’s like to be in a courtroom.”

Seeing the kids have fun is what it’s all about, Ms. Brown said.
“It’s always exciting, from day one to today, just seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces,” she said. “We get to maintain that innocence and they can carry this holiday cheer home with them.”

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