It's grill . . . or be grilled

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

It’ll be Grilled by the Hour versus Grilled from the Bench when metro Detroit lawyers compete against judges in the 4th annual Culinary Challenge Tuesday June 14.

Attorney Lavinia Biasell said the annual fundraiser is a great opportunity for judges and lawyers to get to know each other outside the courtroom.

“No other event does that as well as the Annual Culinary Challenge,” said Biasell, of Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller, P.C. “The competition between the lawyers and judges is a riot, too. It really brings out their competitive side.”

Each year, all profits benefit Alternatives for Girls, Crossroads for Youth in Oakland County and WLAM Foundation Scholarship Fund for female law school students.

This year’s goal is $15,000, which would top last year’s record $13,000. About 160 people from the legal and business communities attended the event last year.

The Challenge is a chance for judges to demonstrate their culinary skills and for lawyers to judge the judges for a change, said Biasell.

Judges who’d like to participate can enter either the appetizer or dessert category, or just show up and cast their votes.

The Challenge also features a live grill-off between a team of judges (“Grilled from the Bench) and lawyers (“Grilled by the Hour.”)

 Attorney Valerie Newman started the event four years ago after an annual charity softball game ran its course and she wanted to keep some kind of unique charity/fellowship event going.

“A big part of my life is raising money for charity,” said Franklin, who works for the State Appellate Defender Office. “We have an enthusiastic group of people who enjoy the work that goes into putting on these events, and in good conscience I couldn’t just let it go. I was committed to continuing the legacy.”

Biasell said the event fulfills her need to be involved in both professional and community groups.

“I have such great respect for these women inside and outside the courtroom,” said Biasell. “We’re not actually part of any organization. It’s just a bunch of women who got together to raise money for women and children’s charities. I love that.”

The entire focus is on raising the most money possible for the three charities at a time when charitable donations are on the decline, she said.

The Culinary Challenge goes on regardless of weather.

Newman recalled the year it was held during a torrential downpour.

“We were packed into Justice (Charles) Levin’s home, and he had somewhat of a covered deck, but the grillers were still out there in the pouring rain, grilling their food,” she recalled.

Rain or shine, the event is a laid-back, agenda-free evening everyone enjoys, Newman said.

The fourth annual Culinary Challenge will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 14 at the Grosse Pointe Park home of Honorable Kirsten Frank Kelly, Michigan Court of Appeals.

For information about donating to the Culinary Challenge, contact Lavinia Biasell at 248-351-7059 or