The judge who saved Christmas

Susan Dlott will henceforth be known as the judge who saved Christmas.

The U.S. District judge added new meaning to the expression “poetic justice” when she decided recently that Dec. 25 may remain a federal holiday. Dlott ruled against a curmudgeon who sought to declare the Christmas holiday unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment separation of church and state.

“The court will address

Plaintiff’s seasonal confusion.

Erroneously believing Christmas

Merely a religious intrusion.”

That’s how Dlott opened her 24-page ruling. In rhyme and verse she argued that just because Christmas has religious roots, that doesn’t mean federal employees can’t be given the day off.


Because Christmas has become such a secular cultural event that it can no longer be viewed strictly as a religious occasion. After all, what do Santa Claus, elves at the North Pole, flying reindeer and Christmas trees have to do with the birth of Jesus?

“An extra day off

Is hardly high treason.

It may be spent as you wish.

Regardless of reason.”

Dlott’s heroic ruling in favor of Christmas harkens memories of a similar, but imaginary, courtroom drama played out in the 1947 movie Miracle on 34 Street.

In the film, Judge Henry X. Harper must decide whether a white-bearded old man who insists he’s Santa Claus has all his marbles. The judge is up for re-election, and his political adviser is worried:

“I don’t know a habeas from a corpus, but I’m telling you to get off this case.”

Harper doesn’t, and in the end he rules that Santa is real. He bases his decision on the fact that the U.S. Post Office, an arm of the federal government, delivers mail to Santa.

Now it seems that reality and fiction have blended and come full circle. Where postal workers appeared before a judge in the movie to save Santa, in real life, Dlott cited Santa as a secular symbol in saving the postal workers’ holiday.

I called the judge and asked her if she was inspired by the movie.

“Oh I loved it. Wasn’t he great?” she said. “I’ve only seen that movie about 5,000 times. But you know, I didn’t even think of that. To be honest, the first thing I thought of was Dr. Seuss and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

Which explains how she was inspired to rule in rhyme.

Dlott has become something of a judicial celebrity because of that. She’s gotten calls from Court TV, the British Broadcasting Corporation and other news organizations.

“I can’t get over this,” she said. “I just thought this would be a cute seasonal thing to do to show that judges aren’t as dry as everybody thinks. If you’re ever going to do poetry in a case, this is the one to do it.”

She may have yet another opportunity to rule in iambic pentameter. Richard Ganulin, the plantiff, plans to appeal her decision. Ganulin better plan on something else, too: A lump of coal in his Christmas stocking.


The court will address

Plaintiff’s seasonal confusion

Erroneously believing Christmas

Merely a religious intrusion.

Whatever the reason

Constitutional or other

Christmas is not

An act of Big Brother!

Christmas is about joy

And giving and sharing

It is about the child within us

It is mostly about caring!

One is never jailed for not having a tree

For not going to church

For not spreading glee!

The court will uphold

Seemingly contradictory clauses

Decreeing “The Establishment” and “Santa”

Both worthwhile “Claus(es)”!

We are all better for Santa

The Easter Bunny too

And maybe the Great Pumpkin

To name just a few!

An extra day off

Is hardly high treason

It may be spent as you wish

Regardless of reason.

The court having read

The lessons of Lynch

Refuses to play

The role of the Grinch!

There is room in this country

And in all our hearts too

For different convictions

And a day off too!


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