The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

James Wilson Summer Legal Fellowship 2022

On July 31 2022, we convened our annual James Wilson Fellowship. The class and fellowship were among our best yet. In the spring, we selected a group of outstanding law students and young lawyers to comprise our ninth class of Fellows. We selected seventeen Fellows out of nearly sixty applicants. As we have the past two years, we hosted the Fellowship in person in Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Our Fellowship class of 2022 had an impressive set of accomplishments. Fifteen of our Fellows recently completed a clerkship with a federal judge, or will soon begin one. Eleven were future or former clerks on a federal court of appeals. Seven Fellows held leadership positions in their law schools’ Federalist Society chapters. Our class of 2022 had a wide array of experience including in private practice, politics, foreign affairs, and media.

The Fellows were appreciative of the opportunity to speak with like-minded peers and faculty. Several Fellows told us it was refreshing to find others who cared about the same things they did. They told us that their discussions with other Fellows were nearly as informative as the seminars themselves.

We were joined by our full JWI faculty. Professor Arkes led the core seminars during the week. Other sessions were led by Professor Gerard Bradley (Notre Dame Law School), Professor David Forte (Cleveland State Law), Professor Justin Dyer (University of Missouri), Professor Daniel Mark (University of Villanova), and Dr. Ryan Anderson (EPPC). We are proud of our faculty’s dedication to teaching a new generation of lawyers about the first principles that underlie our jurisprudence.

Special events and guests enlivened the week as well. To make good use of our location steeped in history, our Managing Director Michael Maibach led a walking tour of historic Old Town. Furthermore, we are grateful to Dr. Jordan Ballor, Director of Research for the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy at our partner organization, the First Liberty Institute, for speaking on Natural Law in the protestant tradition. Furthermore, Greg Jacob, former counsel to Vice President Pence and one-time student of Professor Arkes at Amherst, joined our fellows to discuss his work at the highest levels of governance. Finally, two JWI Fellowship alumni, Kaytlin Roholt Lane ‘14 and John Ehrett ‘21, spoke about their current role as counsels to Senators Blackburn and Hawley, respectively, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Our week also included a reception for alumni, donors, and friends. As we have in previous years, we ended the Fellowship with a dinner at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria.

One Fellow reflected on how valuable the Fellowship was in improving his understanding the law: 

“Natural law is something that so many of us just didn’t learn in law school. It was something that undergirded all of the legal content that we were learning but it was something that was never expressed. It was almost like the ghost in the room no one was aware of….Things like this are a unique opportunity for us to get a theoretical basis for, not only how the law expresses itself, but why we even do this project of the law.

Of course, it is only fitting to express our happiness that we could partner with the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy at First Liberty Institute. As a stalwart defender of a free, moral society, the CRCD is the ideal partner for this Fellowship. This was the beginning of a historic three-year partnership where CRCD will co-sponsor the Fellowship. We are extraordinarily grateful for the confidence that the Executive Director of CRDC, Trey Dimsdale, places in us.


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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