Capitol Steps event helps Justice Foundation with political fun



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

The Justice Foundation of West Michigan (JFWM), the charitable group associated with the Grand Rapids Bar Association, has done a lot of good in its history.

It has also provided a lot of entertainment for the Kent County legal community.

Every other year, fundraisers for the JFWM showcase the Just Lips Lip Sync show, where local legal professionals dance the night away; in alternate years, the JFWM hosts a sumptuous dinner amidst the beautiful setting of Frederik Meijer Gardens, lately featuring either Second City Touring Troupe or the Capitol Steps. This year it was the Capitol Steps’ turn.

The Capitol Steps is a group of equal-opportunity political satirists willing to poke fun at anyone.

The idea arose in 1981 when some of the office staff of Senator Charles Percy were attempting to find entertainment for a Christmas party. (The oft-repeated joke is that they started to plan a nativity play but were unable to find three wise men or a virgin in all of Congress.)

So the staffers decided to do it themselves, focusing on what they knew best: the foibles of people in politics.

The Capitol Steps promises that they will always be up-to-date with the latest headlines, and that was certainly the case at last Thursday’s dinner.

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and husband Bill, Nancy Pelosi, Kellyanne Conway, and a variety of world leaders... all came in for a ribbing.

Notable is that the individual performers are also all excellent singers, though their dance steps seem to be played for comedy, deliberately or not.

The Steps also perform what they call “Lirty Dies,” where first letters or other word parts are switched to form hilarious new words. Veteran performer Jamie Zemarel drew lots of laughs for his complicated rendition at the fundraiser.

In addition to the good feelings that comedy engenders, eventgoers could feel really good about the cause they supported.

The JFWM provides monetary support for “programs that promote or provide legal services to the disadvantaged, improve the administration of justice, and educate the public about core democratic values.” Some of the projects it funds are the Legal Assistance Center, legal assistance programs for migrant workers, the Michigan Center for Civic Education, the Michigan High School Mock Trail Tournament, GRBA’s Constitution Day and Ask-the-Lawyer programs, the Justice for Our Neighbors clinic, and, along with the Federal Bar Association, scholarships for the Hillman Advocacy Program

Gold sponsors for the event include Miller Johnson (whose Joe Gavin chairs the JFWM currently), Varnum LLP, Gruel Mills Nims and Pylman, and Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge.