Judging Dancing Judges: Entertaining fundraiser was a huge hit for Macomb County Bar Foundation

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By Melanie Deeds
Legal News

The big winner of the recent sold-out Dancing with the Judges fundraiser never even made a move on the dance floor.

It was the Macomb County Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Macomb County Bar Association, which will use the funds brought in by the event for a variety of law-related programs and events.

Macomb County Friend of the Court Lynn Davidson, who serves as MCBF chair, admitted afterwards that she “could not stop smiling all evening.”
Davidson said she was “very pleased with the event. I am so pleased with the attendance, the venue and of course our entertainment.

“I am so proud and grateful to our judges for their participation,” said Davidson. “Because they said yes, we are able to continue giving scholarships, providing law related education, sponsoring Legally Speaking and providing many other programs.”

Many of the participating judges — if not all — admitted in videos presented prior to their performances that they had been plagued by second thoughts and experienced a degree of angst about getting out on the dance floor.

Despite that, according to emcee Anthony Urbani, “almost every judge said OK.”

“All of them, without exception, didn’t know their left foot from right,” joked the Roseville attorney who is credited, along with MCBA executive Rick Troy, with coming up the idea fashioned along the lines of the popular television show “Dancing with the Stars.”

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Peter Maceroni — describing himself as “a flat foot, anxious not to make a fool out of himself” — performed an “East Coast Swing” with dance teacher and attorney Diana Trivax-Levy to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.

Sporting white suspenders, white socks (“a nice little touch,” commented one judge) and, of course, one white glove, Maceroni won over the sell-out crowd that had gathered at Andiamo Celebrity Showroom in Warren.

Circuit Court Judge James Biernat, who has undergone two hip replacements, performed the waltz with dancer Anna Sobiechart.

Acknowledging his “great trepidation and fear” prior to his performance, Biernat proudly declared that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience and “would do it all again.”
Circuit Court Judge Antonio Viviano danced the foxtrot and his colleague on the bench, John Foster, lit up the floor with the cha cha.

Circuit Court Judge Matthew Switalski, saying he “was not too happy initially about being involved,” appeared to have conquered his fears and actually was enjoying his salsa performance.

“It was a lot of fun to watch you,” commented one of the judges.

Much applause followed the rumba dance performed by Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Pat Donofrio, who once served on the Macomb County Circuit Court bench.

“Dancing is really difficult and a lot of hard work,” he said prior to venturing out onto the dance floor, “but it turned out to be enormous fun.”

According to the MCBA’s Rick Troy, the fundraiser turned out to be the biggest Macomb County Bar event in his 10 years as executive director of the association and foundation.
“We had 373 guests, a dozen performers and another 10 people working in the background,” he said.

The numbers “were off the charts,” said Troy, who recalled that there were some who thought the idea was “a little crazy.”

According to Troy, some members of the audience were moved to tears “as they watched the gentleness and grace of Judge Biernat, then roar with laughter as Judge Maceroni pulled off a fun Michael Jackson dance.”

“Moving people’s emotions from one scale to the other is a sign that the entertainment was a success,” he said. “We used entertainment as a vehicle to raise awareness of the Foundation’s work and raise the funds necessary to run law-related education programs like Law Day, Constitution Day, Legally Speaking and our scholarships.

And, along the way, “we affirmed that Macomb County judges are simply the best,” he said. “These wonderful judges gave and gave and gave of their time.
“They checked their egos at the door to help the foundation. I will be forever thankful to them.”

Troy said he’s already looking ahead to next year’s event in which the county’s district court judges will be asked to take part in “Dancing with the Judges II.”

“An opening act has already been chosen” he said, and celebrity judges are calling to offer their services.”

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