By Rachel Edwards
Justin Miller (‘19) has always admired the Founding generation and the unprecedented framework they built for this country. “Their lofty ideals, as enshrined in America’s founding documents, are a promise made to each generation of Americans. I believe each generation’s role is to renew that promise and reach a little higher towards a more perfect union.” While studying at BYU Law, Miller attended a James Wilson Institute seminar and was impressed by the Institute’s mission. This summer, he and 15 other recipients of the 2020 James Wilson Fellowship will spend a week in Washington, DC studying the moral underpinnings of the law and the jurisprudence of natural rights at the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding.
James Wilson (1742-1798) signed the Declaration of Independence and was twice elected to the Continental Congress. He played a leading role in the drafting of the US Constitution and eventually became one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the United States Supreme Court. The James Wilson Institute is devoted to the study of natural rights, which according to director and founder, Hadley Arkes, are rights “we already possess by nature.” The Institute’s stated mission is “To restore to a new generation of lawyers and citizens the understanding of the American Founders about the first principles of our law and the moral grounds of their own rights.” One of the core programs of the Institute, the Fellowship is in its seventh year and is led by Director Arkes as well as several other prominent legal scholars. The weeklong seminar will focus on the central points of natural law jurisprudence, such as the connection between the “logic of morals” and the “logic of law,” and how we might see certain landmark cases differently if they were viewed through the lens of natural law.
Miller graduated cum laude from BYU Law where he received the International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ Outstanding Service Award and published his note on law and corpus linguistics in the BYU Law Review. He currently clerks for Judge Andrew L. Brasher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. “As a lawyer, the Constitution and our founding documents pervade everything we do, and understanding the context in which they were written is essential,” says Miller. “I am excited and humbled that the Institute selected me to join with a fantastic group of people from around the country to study these documents and the Founders who wrote them.”