About The Trial Before Christmas

On Dec. 18, 2013, a holiday spectacle was born when two noted attorneys squared off before a judge, jury and spectators at the Rensselear County Courthouse in downtown Troy—their purpose: to determine the literal truth. Who really wrote 'Twas the Night Before Christmas?
Representing the Moore claim was upstate New York’s preeminent litigator, E. Stewart Jones, Jr. He was joined by Chris Post, a Moore descendant. On the side of Livingston were Troy novelist and attorney Jack Casey, author of “The Trial of Bat Shea,” and his daughter, attorney Molly Casey of Albany law firm Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler & Monroe. They were joined by Diane Dorring, a distant relative of Livingston. Both sides have a tenured history of law practice in the city.
The trial’s ornate setting was The John T. Casey Ceremonial Court, named for Jack Casey’s father who served there as State Supreme Court Justice. Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Malone heard the first mock trial to settle the contested authorship.

Watch The Trial Before Christmas, 2014

The trial unfolded before a packed standing-room only audience of more than 500, and featured real expert testimony mixed with a little holiday magic from beyond. Real court security officers, a clerk and court stenographer lent an authentic air to the event. A saxophone playing Santa Claus, a lively cameo from a long gone gangster who was famously tried in the same court, and other theatrical flares transformed the evening into one of wonder and high spirits.
Reporters from The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Times Union, Troy Record, Metroland, WNYT Ch. 13 and many other media outlets squeezed into the press box and spread news of the trial around the world.
After heated deliberation, the jury returned unable to arrive at a verdict. But the Caseys, on behalf of their Livingston clients, vowed to re-try the case again the following year. With no clear winner, Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilla issued a proclamation declaring December 23, 2013 to be Clement Clarke Moore & Henry Livingston, Jr. Day in Troy, New York, in recognition of this small American city’s role in holiday history.
The event was created and hosted by Duncan Crary.
There was a re-trial of this case on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 at 2 p.m. in the Rensselaer County Courthouse in downtown Troy, NY. With more ghosts, more expert witnesses and more mirth!

The Trial is part moot court, part history lesson, and part hysterical improv comedy, all wrapped around the very real mystery and intrigue surrounding the authorship of "The Night Before Christmas." The venerable poem was first published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in 1823. Some years later, as the fame of the poem spread, a wealthy and prissy Manhattan biblical scholar named Clement Clark Moore claimed to have written it. Some years after that, descendants of Hudson Valley farmer Henry Livingston, Jr. announced that Livingston was the true author. This has been a matter of serious debate ever since; scholarly books supporting each side have been published just in the past five years.

So, where better to settle the score than in a Troy court-room, mere steps away from where the poem was first published? Taking the side of Moore is superstar attorney E. Stewart Jones, Jr., one of finest lawyers in the country, a third-generation Troy lawyer, running the family firm that's been around for 115 years. When Stu lays it down (and he will), he makes Atticus Finch sound like Pee Wee Herman. And his droll wit is staggeringly funny. Wet-your-pants funny.

Representing Livingston is Troy lawyer, award-winning novelist and modern Renaissance man Jack Casey; the son of retired judge John Casey, for whom the courtroom is named. Like Jones, Casey knows (and has lived) Troy legal lore (and there is a lot of rich Troy legal lore) and can match Jones' depth-charge asides with erudite zingers of his own. Jack's daughter Molly, herself a lawyer, shares the legal duties and wisely, given the firepower in the room, plays straight person and keeps the proceedings on track. Retired State Supreme Court judge Edward Spain shall preside, or at least try to.

-PAUL RAPP, Metroland, Dec. 4-10 | 2014