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MORRIS: Mayor Hogsett to be in hot seat

August 5, 2017

MorrisI want to let you know about a fun evening coming up on Oct. 6 at the Crane Bay Event Center. Like last year, when famed Indianapolis attorney Jim Voyles was roasted to benefit Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett is stepping up this year to take the heat for the same great cause. You’re a brave man, Mayor!

The event, “Ignite the Night, part deux” will feature a few of Hogsett’s friends, along with some celebrities, dignitaries and surprise guests. Each will get a turn to deliver good-natured insults to the mayor. I don’t expect any softballs tossed at this outing; it’s a contact sport. Of course, when the celebs are done, the mayor will get his opportunity to be a rebuttal witness and offer the same treatment back to his roasters.

Indy Legal Aid board director and Hall Render attorney Kent Smith is program chairman this year. And this event wouldn’t be complete without Frost Brown Todd attorney and longtime ILAS board member Tom Davis serving again as roast master. It should be another evening to remember—a fun event worthy of your time.

Who are the folks roasting the mayor? Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Evan Bayh, Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Central Indiana Community Foundation President Brian Payne and the host of WIBC’s “Abdul At Large,” Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. Also taking shots at the mayor will be retired WISH-TV Channel 8 political reporter Jim Shella; Voyles, one of the most powerful attorneys in Indiana and last year’s roastee; and co-host of “The Bob & Tom Show” Tom Griswold.

Roasting Hogsett is ILAS’ way of honoring our esteemed mayor, who also has a distinguished and successful legal career. But let’s not forget the purpose of the event: to raise funds for the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, which is dedicated to ensuring that low-income people living in central Indiana have speedy and direct access to no-cost legal assistance for civil disputes.

Funds raised will provide free legal services to individuals and families with incomes of less than 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Civil legal assistance is not constitutionally guaranteed; therefore, there are no institutional safeguards in place to provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford to pay an attorney.

Most of the legal issues ILAS addresses involve the interests of women, children, the disabled and elderly. The organization serves about 150 clients per week, and makes, on average, three court appearances each day on their behalf. Services are delivered without reliance on government funds, nor does ILAS accept fee-generating or criminal cases.

One of just a handful of grass-roots legal-aid societies left in the nation, ILAS is the only organization where low-income individuals can meet quickly with top-notch attorneys— typically within three business days. Clients are treated with the same dignity and respect afforded clients of a private law firm.

And, as I’ve reported before, traditional funding sources are down significantly over the past several years. The deficit is making it all but impossible to continue serving the same, let alone the increasing, number of requests for legal services.

ILAS General Counsel John Floreancig and his staff do a great job with the limited resources available, but more is needed. Finding alternate sources of financial support has been a focus of the board, and events like this help the organization continue to provide quality legal services to central Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens when they need it.

You can help the cause and see some great entertainment in the process by coming out to the Crane Bay Event Center at 551 W. Merrill St. on Oct. 6.

Find out more about Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, buy tickets for the Mayor Hogsett Roast, or inquire about roast sponsorship opportunities at indylas.org. If circumstances prevent you from attending, your donation is very much appreciated now or anytime.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send email to gmorris@ibj.com.

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