The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

James Wilson Summer Legal Fellowship 2021

In August 2021, we convened our annual James Wilson Fellowship. The class and the Fellowship can certainly be counted among our best yet.  In the spring, we selected a group of outstanding young lawyers and law students to comprise our eighth class of Fellows. From a field of nearly sixty applicants, we selected seventeen Fellows. As with last year, we remained committed to the principle that this program could not be held remotely. We chose to host the Fellowship again in Historic Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. We were impressed last year by the rich history of the Founders’ that surrounds us in this city just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. 

Even by the customarily strong accomplishments of our past Fellowship classes, the 2021 Class stood out. All but one Fellow had completed or was about to enter a clerkship with a judge on a federal court of appeals, with one Fellow a future clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Fellows also brought with them a remarkable range of experience in government, private practice, and media. More than anything else, they were immensely grateful to be with one another. They told us that the week was refreshing and rejuvenating for them after a long year. We were struck by how well the class of Fellows bonded across the week as they dove deeper into the key questions of moral reasoning in the law. 

We were pleased to have our full JWI faculty together again, but we were augmented this year by the addition of a gifted teacher in Prof. Gerard Bradley (Notre Dame Law School). Prof. Bradley, a new member of our Board of Trustees and Board of Scholars, helped form an even more interesting mixture of the styles engaged in the presentations and the discussions. And in his advent, he spoke on new topics for this seminar including Integralism and the Morality of Retributive Justice. We were also so gratified to have our seasoned team of Faculty together again. Prof. Arkes led the core of the seminars across the week. Professor David Forte (Cleveland State Law), Professor Justin Dyer (University of Missouri), Professor Daniel Mark (University of Villanova), Gunnar Gundersen (Gundersen & Gundersen LLP), and Ryan Anderson (EPPC) returned to lead other specialized sessions across the week. We are proud of our JWI Faculty for their devotion to teaching the next generation of lawyers the first principles of moral justice that underlie our jurisprudence. 

Special events and guests enlivened the week as well. To make good use of our location steeped in history, we arranged for our Fellows to enjoy a private candlelit tour of Mount Vernon. Our Managing Director Michael Maibach also led a walking tour of historic Old Town. Furthermore, we were grateful for former Solicitor General of the United States, Noel Francisco, and Tom Johnson ’17, Partner at Wiley Rein, for joining our group for intimate conversations throughout the week.

The Fellows, to a person, appreciated that they were able to come to these discussions knowing that the Faculty and Fellows held a common moral framework. Many of the Fellows expressed how heartening it was to share this experience of learning with a community of like-minded professionals.

One Fellow remarked how this program was radically different than others he had attended: 

“There’s a lot of conservative educational opportunities out there that are just repeating the same thing over and over again, saying the same slogans about freedom and democracy in the American tradition. This is the rare fellowship that actually forces you to address what you mean by those things, and gives you the tools to make arguments about how these things apply to current difficult circumstances. So you’re actually forced to apply these principles to new and different contexts, including beyond what you might get in law school, or even within most of the conservative movement. Given the challenges that people face these days, that’s more important than ever.” 

Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790