What trial lawyers can learn from Miracle on 34th Street

Santa hat

Dec. 12, 2016


According to Steven O. Rosen, author and presenter of Movie Magic: How the Masters Try Cases, trial lawyers can learn many lessons by studying courtroom procedures as depicted in the movies. Films can show us how to argue motions, tell a compelling story in an opening statement, prepare witnesses for trial testimony, examine and cross-examine witnesses and deliver a closing argument. Courtroom scenes in the movies also illustrate ethical issues that trial lawyers regularly encounter, and possible strategies for success.


No matter whether the task is direct examination or cross-examination, a principal challenge for the examiner is knowing when to stop. The prosecutor in the 1947 Twentieth Century Fox movie Miracle on 34th Street has it down pat.


In that classic film, a man named Kris Kringle is hired by Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street in New York City to play Santa Claus in its annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle is then hired to be the in-store Santa at Macy’s. Actor Edmund Gwenn won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Kris Kringle in this movie. The movie won Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Original Story, and was nominated for Best Picture.


Kringle believes that he actually is Santa Claus, and the Macy’s store psychologist wants him committed. At a pretrial commitment hearing, the prosecutor asks the following:

PROSECUTOR: What is your name?
KRINGLE: Kris Kringle
PROSECUTOR: Where do you live?
KRINGLE: That’s what this hearing will decide.
[Laughter]
JUDGE: A very sound answer, Mr. Kringle.
PROSECUTOR: Do you believe that you’re Santa Claus?
KRINGLE: Of course.
PROSECUTOR: The State rests, your Honor.​



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