Santa goes to court: Scene from ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ re-enacted

Family Court Judge James McGiffin portrays Santa Claus while he sings Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer to children in the Kent County Courthouse staff recreates Miracle on 34th Street on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The verdict is in: The spirit of Santa Claus lives on.

Superior Court Judge Jane Brady listened to kids confirming it after a 30-minute show Wednesday morning.

“I heard one student ask another as they were leaving, ‘Was that really Santa Claus?’“ Ms. Brady recounted. “The other one said, “Yes, they just proved it.’ “

Continuing an annual tradition of more than a decade, Delaware court staff and attorneys recreated a heartwarming scene from the Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street” movie for about 200 visiting students from Clayton and Middletown.

Superior Court Judge M.Jane Brady is overwhelmed by letters to Santa as the Kent County Courthouse staff recreates Miracle on 34th Street on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Claiming to be Kris Kringle — aka Santa Claus — a white-bearded fellow with a “ho-ho-ho” chuckle sat before Judge Brady during a competency hearing to determine his identity.

After court bailiffs dropped several hundred letters addressed to Santa before the judge, she had no choice but to dismiss the case.

“If the United States government declares this man to be Santa Claus, then this court will not dispute it,” Judge Brady decided before dropping the gavel to make it official.

Taking the role of “jolly old St. Nick” for the first time, Family Court Judge James G. McGiffin Jr. then led Providence Creek Academy and Silver Lake Elementary School visitors in a rousing version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to close both performances.

Children watch in the Kent County Courthouse staff recreate Miracle on 34th Street on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“I got a good look at the kids during the sing-along and they were 100 percent engaged,” Judge McGiffin said. “They were all having fun, there was good energy. I think they’re ready for Christmas now as all of us should be after that.”

SLE fifth-grader Ayla McCathern was entertained by the courtroom proceedings.

“I thought it was very good,” she said. “There were all the witnesses and they pieced it all together,

“I especially like it when they dropped all the letters onto the judge, that was pretty funny. … I think they’re celebrating Christmas through a movie in a fun way.”

Three courtroom performances each are also held in New Castle and Sussex counties in a tradition that began in 2004.

Family Court Judge James McGiffin portrays Santa Claus as his defense attorney Robert B. Young and Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady look on as the Kent County Courthouse staff recreates Miracle on 34th Street on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

After not shaving his beard since June 1 in preparation for his starring role as Santa Claus, Judge McGiffin was looking forward to grooming it for the first time in awhile.

As to the role itself, the judge said, “It induces a little nervousness. I’m good at singing and playing an instrument before an audience but when I actually have to remember lines, that’s a little nerve-wracking. Fortunately, my lines are all pretty simple.”

Retired Judge Robert B. Young played the part of the defense lawyer for Mr. Kringle. He squared off with prosecutor Charles Coates and won the day.
“It’s a terrific thing to be a part of and it’s fun to be back in court like this,” Mr. Young said.

The shows debuted in 2004 and Judge Brady said she’s only missed one performance since then.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the courtroom and it’s rare that all the people in it are happy — so that’s fun.”

Lessons can also be learned about courtroom decorum and the process of law for the students.

“It shows that the courtroom is not necessarily a scary place, but a serious place where they should feel they have some ownership in seeing that things are conducted in the proper way,” Judge Brady said.

For a third straight year Superior Court Judicial Paralegal Pamela Quail-Brummell never stopped smiling as she played the Macy’s owner part to the hilt.

“It’s wonderful to have a great reminder from the children about what this time is all about and to see the young, youthful, energetic spirit that they bring,” she said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at

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