Young attorney doubles up on service to American Bar

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

By Cynthia Price

Legal News
 
Jason Miller, who has been practicing law only five years, has received not one but two appointments from the American Bar Association (ABA).

The Miller Johnson attorney will serve as vice-chair of the ABA?Young Lawyers Division Ethics and Professionalism Committee, and join the editorial board of Human Rights, the prestigious quarterly magazine published by the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section of the ABA.

The Ethics and Professionalism Committee plays a strong educational role, advising attorneys about what is required of them and promoting an attitude of professionalism. As Miller explains, though oversight of attorney’s ethics falls to the states, the ABA develops Model Rules of Professional Conduct which guide what states adopt. “Michigan’s are pretty close to the ABA?model rules,”?he comments.

As a member of the committee, Miller will add a young lawyer’s perspective to development of changes to the rules and comment on rules changes proposed by others.

“Ethics and professionalism are very important. I’m at a firm that places a high priority on that; the subject is of academic interest to me as well, and I’ve written a lot about legal ethics topics. I think I’ll be able to contribute to the work they do,” Miller says.

In the near term, Miller sees a renewed focus on legal ethics in an increasingly technological culture. “My guess is you’re going to see a lot of discussion on ethics as they relate to technology,” he says. “With the recent headlines about iCloud, I thought right away — and I saw lawyers posting — that if someone can get celebrity photos, we need to think about clients’ documents being stored there.”

Miller is a member of the steering committee for the Grand Rapids Bar Association (GRBA) Litigation Section. He has also just found out he has been appointed to the State Bar of Michigan’s Law and Media Committee, which helps educate members of the press on covering legal stories.

While he is excited about all those opportunities, he suggests that his service on Human Rights is a perfect fit for his talents and interests. First, the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section dovetails with his constitutional law practice; second, he has an avowed “passion” for human rights.
 
But perhaps most important is his background in writing and his love for crafting effective and carefully-worded written materials. In addition to articles on a broad variety of subjects from Wikipedia to the Hatch Act to hotel room
privacy expectations, and even a newspaper column, Miller has written a book, Excelling in Law School: A Complete Approach.

If Miller’s own law school career is any indication, his approach worked:?he graduated magna cum laude from University of Michigan Law School, and was Managing Editor for Michigan Telecommunications & Technology Law Review, as well as receiving the Merit Award in Mass Media Law.

After getting his B.A. from Michigan State,  Miller worked in the public policy field for a while, but, he says, “The people I was dealing with were lobbyists and they had advanced degrees, so it seemed to me like a law degree would be the credential I needed to be competitive in that field,”

But starting out at Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor, which has since moved its campus to Florida, and then transferring to University of Michigan, he decided that legal practice was the career for him.

“I fell in love with the law,” he says. “What I particularly like about it is that what we do is solve problems — and that’s what I’d wanted to do in public policy.”

He followed up his schooling by serving as clerk for Hon. Deborah L. Cook, U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2009-2010. 

“The real advantage of clerking with the judiciary is that it  allowed me to see cases from the other side,” Miller says. “It goes back to problem solving – judges have to solve this legal conundrum that’s presented to them. As an advocate I can look at it as, how do I help the judge solve the problem of this case?”

He also credits Judge Cook with further honing his writing skills.  “We had to read three books on writing before we even started. At conferences, she’s the judge who speaks on writing,” he says with admiration.

Following that, Miller worked for Sherman and Howard in Denver, and in 2012 joined Miller Johnson.

His litigation career has thrived at the firm, and he has had many successes in cases involving general civil, real estate, tax, and constitutional law.  He was named a Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2014.

He has briefed and argued in state and federal courts on a wide range of cases including medical scope-of-practice and ballot access disputes.

Miller is most intrigued by cases which involve constitutional questions, as evidenced by his involvement on the legal teams in Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius and Midwest Fastener Corp. v. Sebelius.

Both of these are related to the well-publicized U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case, which resulted in a narrow decision that closely-held corporations may opt out of Affordable Care Act mandates to offer certain types of contraception to their employees, based on demonstration of religious beliefs that such contraception is immoral.

Hobby Lobby Corp. and Midwest Fastener specifically object to contraceptives considered abortifacients — a word Miller says he avoids using in briefs, preferring the adjectives “abortion-inducing” or “abortion-causing,” which are less likely to be what he calls a “stopper,” in Judge Cook’s terminology.
 
However, Autocam objects more broadly to the provision of counseling or any contraceptives. The company does, however, offer its employees a Health Savings Account which may be used for any health expense.
 
Miller says that during his research, he came across the case of an Amish firm that disbelieved in any type of insurance and refused to participate in workers’ compensation, indicating that instead the employers would cover costs of and accommodations for injured workers. After investigation, the courts determined that the firm did indeed take care of its employees, following through with its beliefs. “So the interests of the state were served,” he comments.

“These cases are about protecting religious liberty, and about the government working out accommodations to balance the rights of different people. That’s a long-standing part of America’s history and tradition,” says Miller, whose place on the?Midwest Fastener team was obtained through his involvement with the Alliance Defending Freedom religious liberty group.

The team succeeded in getting the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to grant an injunction. 

The Autocam lawyers, including Miller, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, but the case was placed on hold pending the Hobby Lobby decision. In August, SCOTUS vacated the Sixth Circuit ruling that Autocam had to comply with the mandate. In both cases, Miller still has a lot of work before him.

But there is no doubt that Miller will find time to participate fully in his duties for the ABA, SBM, and GRBA, as well as keep up his prodigious writing and educational pursuits.

“I really care about these ideas and issues,” Miller says.
 

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