Justice Foundation will benefit from soiree featuring Second City humor



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

The evening was all in good fun, but the cause is serious: The biennial Justice Foundation of West Michigan (JFWM) dinner helps enable the foundation to support legal services to the disadvantaged, educate the public about democratic values and the rule of law, and improve the administration of justice.

Attorneys and guests were given the opportunity to eat a great dinner in the classy surroundings of Frederik Meijer Gardens and enjoy the comedy talents of a team from the famed Second City in Chicago, with the proceeds going to enable JFWM to fund worthwhile

The programs, which correspond to the above three interest areas, are supported through grants to the organizations that run them. Some examples include: legal assistance to migrant workers; brochures for parents about the juvenile justice system; the Legal Assistance Center; the Michigan High School Mock Trail Tournament; the library at Justice for Our Neighbors, which helps immigrants and refugees; scholarships for the Hillman Advocacy Program (with the Federal Bar Association); and the Newspapers in Education program provided to youth, co-sponsored by JFWM and the Grand Rapids Press.

The JFWM was first established in 1978 to support the Bar’s library and was called the Grand Rapids Bar Foundation. When circumstances around the library changed in 2003 as the Internet expanded, the foundation changed its focus and its name.

The situations with which JFWM helps are undeniably serious — people living below the poverty line and the lack of civic education are not funny — but both of the JFWM’s fund-raisers attempt to inject a little humor as an incentive for people to get together.

Every other year the JFWM holds a dinner and in the between years, the fund-raiser is Just Lips, the hilarious lip-sync event where lawyers act as rock stars.

The JFWM dinner with Second City two years ago was such a success that it was repeated this year. Apparently that was a good strategy, because attendance was just about 400 - which filled the Meijer Gardens ballroom with conversation and conviviality.

And hilarity, as the Second City team performed edgy comedic sketches and amazing improvisation.

Captain Apathy explained that he had “all the powers of Superman but none of the willingness to use them.” A group of maladjusted children drew illustrations of the concept “spoon” with surprisingly varied results, including one who claimed that a game of spoons led to many of his family members being sent to jail for violent behavior. A skit that drew big laughs involved an announcer asking a series of questions of an athlete who claimed God was responsible for his recent win, along the lines of “What did you do to make God so angry with you when you were on a losing streak before that?”

But perhaps most impressive was a series of vignettes about the hassles faced by a modern family, using up-to-the-minute buzzwords, after which the cast asked for dates in the past. On the spot, they substituted 1988 and then 1920 cultural references throughout, including cast member Adam Schreck singing and dancing in era-appropriate styles that were consistently outrageous and extreme.

JFWM Co-chairs Dick Hillary and Courtney Quist made sure the audience kept in mind why they were there, and that the fund-raisers are not the only opportunity to make a difference.

As the Grand Rapids Bar/JFWM?website says, “Contributions are encouraged from anyone who values the American judicial system that protects our liberties and rights.” To find out more about tax-deductible donations, visit http://www.grbar.org/?page=22.