An Attorney’s Christmas Special: Legal Issues in Christmas Movies

Young woman in santa hatThere is no shortage of Christmas movies that have an overall theme of compassion, giving and showing good will to others.

Many of these films set a high bar for “feel good” family entertainment.

There is also no shortage of lawyers who watch Christmas movies.

And where lawyers are watching movies, they are considering different legal issues.

Let’s review some of the big legal issues in some of the holiday classics. 

It’s a Wonderful Life

There is no question It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the best Christmas movies, if not Jimmy Stewart’s finest film.

Here are some of the issues that cause lawyers pause:

Zu Zu’s statement that “teacher says, every time a bell ring, an angel gets his wings” is an alert that the “separation of church and state” may have been violated in a public school.

Mr. Gower’s near miss with manslaughter due to poisoned medication and child abuse by hitting George Bailey.

Young George Bailey would have committed murder if he knowingly delivered poisoned medicine to a sick child.

Just what was Violet’s job?

Mr. Potter kept the $8,000 and avoided getting arrested.

A Christmas Story

There is justified concern a child could hurt themselves with a BB Gun. The safe alternative gift recommended by different characters in A Christmas Story is a football.

Football-ChristmasGiftHowever, footballs might be just as dangerous as a Red Rider BB Gun, given the number of concussions professional players have suffered. While there is no totally safe sport, a baseball might have less risk of physical injury, but more risk for broken windows.


ElfShoesElf raises many legal issues.

Consider the following:

How was Buddy adopted by Papa Elf?

Was there a claymation judge at the North Pole?

Did the orphanage ever file a missing person report for a baby disappearing ?

How was Buddy legally re-integrated into society after spending 30 years at the North Pole? He should have had a birth certificate, but how did he get a Social Security Number after age 30 without any red flags going off?

The Polar Express

Did any of the parents in The Polar Express teach their kids stranger danger?

How about not getting in a vehicle with a stranger?

This is a disturbing part of an otherwise very sweet story of believing and helping others.

Toy TrainScrooged

How did the network lawyers handle Elliott Loudermilk’s siege of the control room? Did Christmas cheer keep everyone from filing charges? How about Brice Cummings, who is tied up by Loudermilk and endures unwanted physical advances from the Censor?

Miracle on 34th Street

The single best Christmas courtroom drama is the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. Moreover, the hero is a lawyer defending Santa Claus, at great personal risk to his own career. The attorney’s duty of loyalty to his client causes him to quit his law firm and consider opening his own practice in order to protect Kris Kringle from being put in an insane asylum.

LawyerSantaHatThe film also touches on the difficultly of being the District Attorney and Judge in a high profile case. The Judge quickly learns his own grandchildren and wife are ashamed of him for ordering a lunacy hearing to put Santa Claus in an insane asylum. The DA endures judgmental glares from his wife, including the wife permitting the DA’s son to testify on the child’s belief in Santa Claus, to the harm of his father’s case.

CoalforYouNothing screams “You’re sleeping on the sofa” on Christmas Eve then committing Santa Claus to an insane asylum. Simply put, there is no judicial relief for any attorney (or judge) who ends up on his wife’s Naughty List for not spreading Christmas cheer.

Where Are You Christmas?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas raises many issues of burglary and identity theft. Additionally, why didn’t the Grinch wear pants?

More importantly, the movie also ends with a touching dedication to Ron Howard’s mother, “who loved Christmas most of all.”

There are mothers across the planet who put their hearts into creating a wonderful Christmas experience for their children. Ron Howard’s tribute spoke for many people and is a very fitting way to end a Christmas movie.