Former Bar President James Fox Miller passes away
“Put on my tombstone, ‘Husband, Father, Grandfather, Friend, and Lawyer,’ and that’s everything there is to say about me.”
James Fox Miller, a renowned family law attorney who served as president of The Florida Bar in 1990-1991, wrote those words in his blog just three years ago.
Miller, 84, a man of energy and exuberance, a voracious reader, quick wit, and gifted storyteller, passed away on November 7 at his second home in Florence, Italy.
Being a lawyer was very much a part of his essence.
“I have never done anything I thought was unethical or failed to try to do my best for my clients, but always within the reasonable bounds of advocacy,” Miller, a partner with Boies Schiller Flexner in Hollywood, once wrote. “I never misled a client or a judge.”
That resolve was tested early when Miller, fresh out of law school, came to Florida in the mid-1960s and his new boss asked him to sign an affidavit that he did not know to be true.
“An argument ensued and I quit,” Miller told The Florida Bar Journal in a 1990 interview. “I had no prospect of a job, and I was not even a member of The Florida Bar.”
Former Bar and ABA President Steve Zack said Miller was one of the “kindest, most generous, and thoughtful people” you could ever meet.
“He had an incredible sense of humor and everybody enjoyed his company,” Zack said. “I was blessed to have known him and particularly to have him as my president-elect who really was always there to do whatever he could do to help me and to help the Bar.”
Zack said the stories Miller told “will stay with us forever.”
Longtime friend and partner David Boies remarked that while Miller was an exceptional lawyer, what will be most fondly remembered is Miller the person.
“Jim was larger than life,” Boies said. “No one was more enjoyable and entertaining to be with or listen to. No one had more friends; I can’t count the number of you who have called about Jim over the last few days. No one was more respected for his character and integrity. No one was more devoted to his family, his friends, or his firm. We will miss him. A lot.”
Miller was born June 13, 1939, in East Orange, N.J., the oldest of three children. He grew up in nearby South Orange and spent a lot of time in New York City enjoying theater and music.
In 1957, Miller went to the University of Michigan and attended classes there for three years. As a sophomore, he met Barbara, who was then a first-year student. They married in 1961. They completed their education at Ohio State University in 1962 and Miller earned his J.D. from Northwestern University in 1965.
Miller is survived by his wife of 63 years, three children — Beth, Charles, and Steven — and seven grandchildren.
Of Barbara, Miller said: “My wife is truly important to me, and everything else matters less.”
Miller was also a member of the Illinois Bar, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He specialized in family law, although he also has been involved in numerous complex commercial litigation.
A self-proclaimed “Bar junkie,” Miller was president of his local bar association, served eight years on grievance committees, and five years on the Board of Governors. While a member of the board, he chaired the Bar’s Budget Committee and served on the Disciplinary Review Committee. He also served as Special Bar Counsel for the Bar in several very large and high-profile grievance matters. Miller was one of the few family law specialists who has ever served as president of a state bar.
A frequent writer and teacher of family law both in Florida and around the country, Miller taught family law to more than 5,000 young Florida lawyers. For many years, he was on the faculty of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers teaching and certifying family law arbitrators in various states. He has also taught the family law track at the Judicial College for Florida Circuit Judges. He has taught on an adjunct basis at the University of Miami School of Law, University of Florida College of Law, Nova Southeastern University College of Law, and St. Thomas University College of Law.
Miller was active in community activities, having served on Broward County’s United Way Board of Directors, president of Temple El, and president of the Jewish Family Service of Broward County.