James McGiffin played Santa in the courthouse tradition.

Children ecstatic for Santa’s case dismissal in Del. tradition

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Culture

James McGiffin played Santa in the courthouse tradition.

James McGiffin played Santa in the courthouse tradition.

Dozens of New Castle County elementary school students filled the rows of a courtroom in Wilmington’s Leonard L. Williams Justice Center Friday as jolly Christmas music welcomed them.

It’s not everyday that a courthouse is exclusively filled with positivity, laughter and joy, but the annual “Miracle on 34th Street” rendition put jingle bells in the hands and smiles on the faces of everyone in attendance. 

First State courts offered several, 45-minute performances of a scene from the heartwarming classic movie in all three of Delaware counties this week, wrapping up in New Castle County Friday.

RELATED: Courts to re-enact ‘Miracle on 34th St.’ scene for 20th year

“Miracle on 34th Street” is about an old man named Kris Kringle who becomes a very popular Santa at Macy’s in Manhattan. When Kringle claims he’s really Santa, the ensuing hubbub ends up in court to determine his mental health as well as whether his claim is really true. 

The 1947 film starred Edmund Gwenn as Kringle, with single mom Maureen O’Hara and her daughter, played by Natalie Wood, getting swept up in the fray.

The two-decade tradition returned to live-action last year after the pandemic forced the event to go virtual. 

Along with the playful environment, the demonstration was partly to inform young children about how the court system operates.

For example, Family Court Chief Judge Michael Newell, who was serving as the judge in the performance, explained that the event was a competency hearing, in which court appointed mental health experts determine a defendant’s mental health and provide their professional opinion on whether that individual is able to stand trial.

Newell explained that a competency hearing is different from a criminal or civil hearing.

When Family Court Judge turned Santa Claus James McGiffin – a spitting image of Santa – entered the room, the children burst into pandemonium. 

Retired Judge M. Jane Brady acted as Santa/Kringle/McGriggin’s defense attorney. 

The children shook their jingle bells as loud as they could every time the word “Claus” or “Kringle” was said.

The prosecuting witness and attorney were acting angry and irritated at the crowd of children each and every time the bells echoed throughout the courtroom, which was hilarious to the adult audience in the room, especially since those words were said quite often, creating a ripple effect of jingle bells and scroogey scoldings. 

Two courtroom bailiffs brought in an “exhibit” of piles and bags of letters written to Santa with Kringles address, proving that others thought he was Santa too. 

It was then explained how the United State Postal Service is a government entity, as the stacks of letters kept piling up on the judge’s bench.

“If the United States government believes this man is Santa Claus, I will not challenge that, and this case is dismissed,” Newell said, which led to an even louder roar of applause from the children than when Santa first entered the courtroom.

As the children and cast cheered in euphoria, they all sang along to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” before exiting the courthouse and returning to school, which they have a few more days of before Winter Break and the Christmas holiday.

Share this Post