James Robert Miller, age 76, a prominent Montgomery County trial lawyer, died on Saturday, October 25, 2003. He had acute leukemia.
Jim Miller was born on October 31, 1926, in Kokomo, Indiana. In 1933, his father, Homer R. Miller took a job as a tax attorney with the federal government and moved the family to Takoma Park, Maryland, where Jim grew up. He graduated from Coolidge High School in 1944 and at 17 went straight into the Army Air Corps. World War II ended before he got flight training and he was honorably discharged. He attended and graduated from George Washington University Law School in May of 1949 and became a member of the Maryland Bar in November of 1949. On December 1, 1949, Jim, who had just turned 23 and his older brother, Ralph, who had just turned 24, opened their law office under the partnership name of H.R. Miller & J.R. Miller (since there was already a Miller & Miller law firm in Montgomery County). These young brother partners thrived on the trials, large and small, that the established Montgomery law firms, who were much too busy with the post war real estate boom, sent them.
In 1954, Jim Miller was appointed an Assistant States Attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland. With Alger Barbee, the State’s Attorney, and Len Kardy, the deputy State’s Attorney, he was then a member of a three office, part time team that prosecuted all of Montgomery County’s criminal and traffic cases.
Jim soon earned a reputation as a fair but formidable prosecutor. In 1958, when Len Kardy was elected State’s Attorney, Jim Miller became his deputy. He truly enjoyed the fun of battling with defense counsel in court. When Bob Heeney, for the defense, called him a little son-of-a-bitch before the jury in an important criminal case, he complained to the judge that he didn’t mind being called a son-of-a-bitch, but he objected to being called a little one. About that time the third brother, William C. Miller, joined the firm and it became Miller, Miller & Miller. Then in 1961, Ralph Miller left the firm to become a judge of the Montgomery County People’s Court. In 1969, Ralph Miller went on to become a judge of the Montgomery County Circuit Court. In 1980, William C. Miller left the firm to become a District Court judge and in 1982 then went on to the Circuit Court. Jim joked to his lawyer father “that at least two of the boys had turned out all right [had become judges and he hadn’t]”. Both of his brothers agreed that it was Jim and not them that should have been the judge.
For his fifty-four years of law practice in Montgomery County, Jim Miller became the first and at least for now the only recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Bar Association. In 1972-73, he was president of the Montgomery County Bar Association. He was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a fellow of the Montgomery County Bar Foundation, and a Master of the Bench with the American Inns of Court. He was awarded the Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Service to the Citizens of Maryland and the recipient of the George Washington University professional achievement award.
Prior to his death, Jim Miller maintained a relaxed country law practice as of counsel with the law firm of Brault, Graham, Scott & Brault.
In addition to his two judge brothers, Jim’s father and grandfather were both lawyers. His great grandfather was a county judge in Nebraska.
Jim Miller’s passion was to enjoy the sun, sand and the clear blue waters of the Caribbean while sipping a rum punch with a floater of Meyers on the top. He and his wife Joan over the years explored many of the Caribbean islands. Their favorite island paradise, the one to which they often returned, was Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
Jim Miller is survived by his wife, Joan, their two daughters, Rondi E. Furgason of Overland Park, Kansas, and Marci L. Walker of Sarasota, Florida, two children from a prior marriage, Leslie Hall and John Miller, and three grandchildren.