The oral argument season at the U.S. Supreme Court ended last week. But three justices had one more case to hear in Washington on Monday night: Claudio v. Hero.
At the Shakespeare Theatre Company's 18th annual mock trial, justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan, as well as U. S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit judges Douglas Ginsburg, Merrick Garland and Brett Kavanaugh, sat on the Supreme Court of Messina for the night to consider a divorce case involving Count Claudio and Lady Hero of Messina, characters from William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
A packed house that included many lawyers laughed often as Claudio’s attorney, Steptoe & Johnson LLP partner Reid Weingarten, and Hero’s counsel, Ain & Bank principal and co-founder Sanford Ain, worked to win the bench’s support for their clients, whose courtship and marriage saga was relayed in the Shakespearean comedy.
From the beginning, Weingarten made it clear that his client didn’t want a divorce.
Ain said Claudio is more concerned about maintaining a wealthy lifestyle than his marriage. The count is a “weak-minded gigolo,” spending much of his time carousing around the palace of Hero’s father, he said.
“Chasing women. Smoking cigars. Drinking. Don’t they have the Secret Service there?” asked Garland, alluding to the Colombian prostitute scandal that has rocked the federal law enforcement agency.
According to the background on the case, Hero filed for divorce in the Superior Court of Messina after three months of marriage, seeking permanent alimony, return of her dowry and half of their wedding gifts. The trial court didn’t give Hero her dowry. But she received an absolute divorce, half of the wedding gifts and a permanent alimony award of $30,000 florins per month.
Claudio appealed to the Supreme Court of Messina, contesting the permanent alimony, absolute divorce and a quashed subpoena to the trust of Hero’s wealthy father. Hero cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to give her the dowry.
Weingarten said Hero is “clearly a one percenter,” who doesn’t need $30,000 florins per month, which Alito calculated as $5.6 million in U.S. dollars. She is “young, beautiful, superficial, manipulative [and] duplicitous,” the Steptoe partner said.
“Kim Kardashian?” asked Kagan, poking fun at the reality television star.
Garland later pushed Ain on the dowry, making a reference to President Barack Obama’s health care law, which the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in March.
“I would love to argue about health care,” Ain said. “But we don’t have three days and six hours.”
In the end, the Supreme Court of Messina ruled that Hero isn’t entitled to permanent alimony. But the court gave Hero the divorce and dowry, and ruled that the question concerning the lower court’s decision to quash the subpoena to the trust was moot and dismissed it.
“Now, it’s time for champagne,” said Justice Ginsburg as she and her colleagues left the Supreme Court of Messina for an after party.