top of page

1930s McKees Rocks judge offers proof of mythical being

Allegheny County Judge Michael A. Musmanno, from McKees Rocks, shocked the city when he provided proof of the existence of Santa Claus.

By Lisa Mullen


Tis’ the season where Santa Claus reigns supreme. You know, the jolly old elf that lives at the North Pole bringing toys to all the good girls and boys while wearing a red suit.

At each stop, he can be found eating cookies and drinking milk put out by grateful children. A beautiful sentiment that most of us have grown up with and never truly relinquished our belief in. With the pandemic affecting our lives so adversely this year, it may be difficult to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus when things are so tough at home.

This loss of Christmas spirit could be felt even more acutely back in the 1930s during the grip of the Great Depression. The Pittsburgh area experienced unemployment nearing 40% and many people were without money, food, even housing. The Christmas spirit, understandably, was missing in action.

A Pittsburgh judge took it upon himself to try to uplift the spirits of his fellow Pittsburghers by offering proof of the existence of Santa Claus.

Born on April 7, 1897, in Stowe Township, Judge Michael A. Musmanno, an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge, released a written opinion defending Santa Claus in December of 1936.

An opinion is a written explanation by a judge that accompanies an order or ruling in court laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling, and this particular opinion laid out Musmanno’s evidence to support that Santa Claus was indeed real.

The opinion was issued for a case listed as ‘In re Legality and Authenticity of Santa Claus Docket No. 52’ and was in answer to several requests made to Judge Musmanno’s Court asking for a pronouncement on the legal status of Santa Claus.

It all began with suggestions that all the white-bearded men dressed in red Santa suits standing in department stores and on street corners were deceiving the public into believing in a person who did not exist.

Some non-believers even wished that warrants of arrest should be issued for these Santas stating they were operating under false pretenses or in common terms, saying and doing something that in essence isn’t true because Santa doesn’t exist so why should these men be out there pretending that he does. Judge Musmanno decided to write an opinion on why Santa really does exist. He stated that Santa Claus is recognizable by law and will be protected in the court from all aspersions and insinuations to the contrary.

He went on to say that anyone trying to initiate prosecution on the basis that there is no Santa Claus will have such a case dismissed.

Musmanno laid out the following evidence to prove the existence of Santa Claus. First, he stated that since the law recognizes the existence of “John Doe,” it must also recognize the existence of Santa Claus. He reasoned that the court has been able to see Santa Claus but has never seen the actual “John Doe,” who is recognized as an anonymous party in various legal actions.

Further proof was given in the form of Jack Frost. In his beautifully lyrical writing, Musmanno said, “Has anyone seen Jack Frost? But who can deny the existence of Jack Frost who takes a green forest and converts it into a dazzling riot of color, who in the wintry morning etches fairy castles and prancing silver steeds on the windowpane. And as Jack Frost decorates the leaves of the forests and the glass of our windows without our seeing him, so does Santa Claus put warmth into our heart, life into our spirit and cheer into our nature without our being aware of it.”

Musmanno then asked, “Has anyone clapped eyes on Uncle Sam? But who dares to say that he is not a factuality? Deny Uncle Sam and you deny the existence of the greatest nation of all history — the United States of America.”

He states the spirit of Santa Claus is in parents as well, “Parents first had their fun when they purchased the gifts, their joy was repeated when they slyly placed them in the stockings, and they experienced a third thrill when they heard the shouts of happiness of their children as they discovered the presents their hearts have craved.”

“After considering all the evidence in the case, we conclude and find that Santa Claus is a reality. We find further that without him life would be dull and cheerless, and that with him the heart is merry and the spirit happy, as life should be,” said Musmanno.

Though our spirits may be down as we continue slogging on through this pandemic, please remember that Santa Claus lives on in all of us. Spreading the spirit of giving can bring that feeling of joy that we all need right now.

As Musmanno concluded, “Santa Claus is the symbol of amiable kindness; he is the token of smiling charity; he is the badge of all that is cheerfully benevolent in the make-up of man.”

Let’s all be like Santa Claus and help where we can and do it with a smile on our faces.

bottom of page