Document Type


Publication Date

December 2019


For most lawyers, the figure of Santa Claus in the law is an unpleasant memory of an establishment clause essay question on a Constitutional Law exam where they had to decide what combination of Christmas trees, electric menorahs and inflatable Santas a city-owned mall could display without being reprimanded by the U.S. Supreme Court. Alas, Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) and Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU (1989) have been a lump of coal in the fall semester grades stocking of many a law student.But the white-bearded one made his first appearance in the law reports a hundred years before Justice Black erected “a wall of separation between church and State” in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). Indeed, Santa Claus has featured in cases ranging in subject from IP law to maritime law to the law of personal injury. Anda Westlaw or Lexis keyword search shows him joining the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy as symbols of naïve incredulity.

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