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Shakespeare Theatre Company

Mock Trial to Make Much Ado
Over Divorce Claims of Claudio and Hero

Justices on the real U.S. Supreme Court will be among the judges hearing the case of Claudio v. Hero in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Mock Trial in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 30. The Mock Trial begins with dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by the trial, Ado, I Do, Adieu: Claudio v. Hero at 7:30 p.m.

This special session of the “Supreme Court of Messina” will convene at Sidney Harman Hall (STC’s residence) to hear the case of Count Claudio of Florence (Appellant) v. Lady Hero of Messina (Appellee), based on characters in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. Tickets that include both the dinner and trial are still available.  All available tickets for the trial alone have been sold to the theatre’s donors, subscribers and Bard Association members, who received early access to purchase tickets to this extremely popular event as a benefit of their membership.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will preside with Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Elena Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland, Judge Douglas Ginsburg, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge David Tatel. Sanford K. Ain, Esq. of Ain & Bank, P.C., will serve as counsel to the appellee, and Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP will serve as counsel to the appellant.

Since 1994, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has hosted a mock trial based on one of the season’s plays. This season’s mock trial focuses on the characters of Much Ado About Nothing, which ran in Sidney Harman Hall from December 25, 2011, through January 7, 2012. The trial aims to examine the links between classical works and contemporary legal thought in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Past mock trials have explored whether Malvolio (Twelfth Night) was entitled to damages for wrongful imprisonment; whether Iago (Othello) was guilty of the murders of Desdemona and Othello; whether Hamlet (Hamlet) was insane when he murdered Polonius; and whether Sir John Falstaff (Henry IV) should have been compensated for his services to Prince Hal and reinstated as a member of the royal court.

Part of the mock trial’s fun is the seriousness with which the counselors approach these cases, although their arguments (and the justices’ questions) are often laced with humor, both Shakespearean and drawing on contemporary references. The creative energy that goes into these trials starts with the case histories. The brief for Ado, I Do, Adieu: Claudio v. Hero follows.

After three months of marriage, Lady Hero of Messina files a complaint for absolute divorce from her husband, Count Claudio, in the Superior Court of Messina, seeking, inter alia, return of her dowry, division of marital property (specifically, their opulent wedding gifts) and permanent alimony. In a pre-trial stipulation, Hero and Claudio agree that in Much Ado About Nothing, their matchmaker, William Shakespeare, has relayed accurately the saga of their courtship and marriage. At trial, they agree on little else.

Hero claims that Claudio has anger and trust issues that have irretrievably broken their relationship. She testifies that she discovered soon after their marriage that Claudio is short-tempered, rash, gullible, unperceptive, paranoid and irrational when angered. His trust in her was never restored after Don John’s false allegation of adultery and Hero’s staged death. She claims that Claudio mostly carouses around the palace of her father, Leonato, enjoying his wealthy lifestyle, smoking cigars, and drinking martinis. Claudio, she avers, has abandoned the marital bed and instead chases after the palace’s ladies-in-waiting. She claims, moreover, that he falsely asserts that she is unfaithful to him, and in an effort to prove it, frequently snoops in her e-mail, voicemails, and text-messages and, on occasion, even follows her when she leaves the palace. Moreover, she testifies, Claudio refuses to attend marriage counseling.

On the other hand, Claudio testifies that, from the start, Hero never believed his assurances of his affection and fidelity. Hero, he says, exhibited diva behavior, abandoning her conjugal duties and her role as mistress of the house in favor of wasting days shopping at the Messina Mall and of demeaning him with practical jokes. Despite having significant income from the Leonato Family Trust (Trust), she refuses to contribute financially to their household, using her Trust funds only when it suits her, but primarily to purchase designer dresses and daily flower deliveries and to pay a corps of footmen with no observable duties. Claudio testifies that she appears to resent his inability to provide for her financially on a soldier’s salary. Hostility toward him from her family members, particularly Leonato and Beatrice, exacerbates the tension between them. Despite these troubles, Claudio says that he wants to try to make the marriage work, as he is desperate for an heir.

At trial, Claudio argues that Hero should not be awarded alimony because she has significant income from the Trust and because she should be gainfully employed. In response, Hero claims to lack any marketable skills. She also contends that Trust income should not be imputed to her because she does not control Trust distributions and does not know the extent of the Trust’s corpus. (Evidence about the latter was unavailable because the trial court quashed the subpoena to the Trust on the ground that discovery about the extent of its assets was irrelevant.) Hero further argues that, although she is her father’s only heir, any inheritance is a mere expectancy and cannot be a factor in any alimony award. In response to Hero’s request for an award to her of her dowry, Claudio argues that the dowry was never owned by Hero, but instead was a pre-marital gift from Leonato to him as an inducement to marry her.

At the conclusion of a four-day merits trial, the trial court awards Hero an absolute divorce from Claudio, one-half of their wedding gifts and an alimony award of 30,000 florins per month, permanently, but not her dowry.

Under the laws of Messina, decisions of the Superior Court are appealable as of right to the Supreme Court of Messina. Claudio exercises this right.

Issues on Appeal: Claudio contends that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding Hero permanent alimony, because their marriage was brief and Hero has ample income from the Trust. He argues that the Court erred by quashing the subpoena to the Trust. He also appeals the divorce itself. Hero cross-appeals the trial court’s failure to award her dowry to her. She argues that the dowry was constructively hers and constitutes her pre-marital property. Moreover, based on Claudio’s mistreatment of her, she argues that the equities support a dowry award.

April 25, 2012

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