News & Politics

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Presides Over the Divorce Proceedings of Claudio and Hero

At Shakespeare Theatre Company’s mock trial, one of the pairs of lovers from “Much Ado About Nothing” go through a messy split.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg, Judge Merrick Garland, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Elena Kagan, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s mock trial. Photograph by Kevin Allen.

Many of Washington’s top jurists–including three Supreme Court justices–gathered last night to watch the divorce proceedings
of Count Claudio and Lady Hero of Messina. The parties in the case, both characters from William Shakespeare’s
Much Ado About Nothing, were represented by two of the District’s most prominent attorneys: Washington’s highest-profile divorce lawyer,
Sandy Ain, argued for Lady Hero, while revered criminal defender
Reid Weingarten represented Claudio.

Supreme Court justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided. Sitting beside her on the bench were fellow justices
Samuel Alito and
Elena Kagan, as well as judges
Merrick Garland,
Douglas Ginsburg,
Brett Kavanaugh, and
David Tatel, all from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Those familiar with
Much Ado About Nothing may not be surprised that this
pair of young lovers didn’t work out. There were, indeed, some warning
signs that their union
was doomed. For instance, before their wedding day, Claudio was
tricked into believing that his betrothed had been unfaithful,
and in retaliation he publicly humiliated Hero and left her at
the altar. In a successful effort to win back Claudio’s love
and sympathy, Hero then feigned her own death. Not exactly a
healthy relationship.

After three months of marriage, Hero filed for divorce in
the Superior Court of Messina. The trial court awarded her the divorce
and permanent alimony. She did not, however, win back her
dowry. The panel of judges assembled last night to hear Claudio’s
appeal of the lower court’s decision to award Hero alimony and
the divorce. Hero, in turn, cross-appealed the Superior Court’s
decision to deny returning her dowry.

The proceedings did not take place in a courtroom; rather they were held at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman
Hall before a packed house of 680 audience members.

The case, “Ado, I do, Adieu:
Claudio v. Hero” was the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual mock trial. As is the tradition, the event gave the judges and lawyers a chance
to showcase their dramatic talents, as well as their aptitude for clever one-liners.

Weingarten, making the case to save Claudio and Hero’s
marriage, opened with a string of pop music references. “I come to
you as a champion of love,” he told the panel. Quoting “Justice
Lennon of Liverpool,” he continued: “All you need is love.”
Arguing against the requirement that his client pay Hero
alimony, Weingarten emphasized that Hero’s father is the wealthiest
man in Messina, “clearly a 1-percenter.”

The judges pushed back on that point, questioning
Weingarten about what Hero–a spoiled girl with no apparent skill
do to earn a living. “They filled all the roles on the Real
Housewives of Messina,” Justice Alito said. Justice Kagan, meanwhile,
suggested a possible career for Hero: “Kim Kardashian!” (In
between reading all those legal filings, members of the nation’s
highest court apparently find time to catch up on their celeb
gossip like the rest of us.)

Ain began his argument for Hero with a bit of showmanship. “Excuse me, Your Honors,” he said, stepping down from the podium
to hand Weingarten a copy of the CliffsNotes of
Much Ado About Nothing. The audience roared with
laughter, but they weren’t on Ain’s side for long. During an exchange
about why Hero needed to
pay footmen to accompany her, Ain said the servants were there
to escort her to Loehmann’s–a discount department store–and
thus, were actually saving her money. Observing that the male
judges appeared confused, Ain said he was sure Justices Kagan
and Ginsburg could explain to them what Loehmann’s is. The
audience booed at the sexist quip. Ain quickly back-peddled, conceding
that he shouldn’t have strayed from the legal questions at

After a brief deliberation, the judges returned to the
stage with their decisions. Though they upheld Hero and Claudio’s
they determined that Claudio should not have to pay alimony.
Hero didn’t leave empty-handed, however, since they awarded her
the dowry. And with that, the case came to a close. Justice
Ginsburg declared: “Now it’s time for Champagne.”

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.