ACLC’s staff includes several experienced attorneys and also serves as a training ground for those interested in public interest law.
Persons interested in working for ACLC should contact us about openings or fellowship opportunities. There are also summer internship possibilities for law students interested in environmental and worker health and safety problems associated with coal mining in Central Appalachia.
Wes Addington, Executive Director
Wes has spent the past 14 years at ACLC, specializing in federal black lung and mine safety. He first came to ACLC in 2004 as part of an Equal Justice Works Fellowship and revived the center’s Mine Safety Project. Coming from a family of coal miners, Wes is proud to represent miners in their fight for black lung benefits and safe working conditions. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky.
Mary joined ACLC’s staff in October 2008 to expand ACLC’s community-based environmental law work. Mary represents individuals in Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky on a variety of environmental justice issues related to the legacy costs of coal mining, including land owners’ rights issues, toxic waste disposal, and safe drinking water. Mary has served as Southwest Virginia’s representative on the Virginia Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice since its inception in 2017. Prior to joining ACLC, Mary worked as an Associate Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center and clerked for the Honorable Glen Conrad of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. She earned her JD magna cum laude from Washington & Lee University School of Law. Mary and her family live on a farm in Wise County, VA, that has been in her family since the 1840s.
Micheal Amburgey, Staff Attorney
Mike returned to his hometown of Whitesburg, Kentucky to join ACLC. Mike previously practiced law in Southwest Virginia assisting injured workers and miners with claims through the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission for the past five years. Mike attended the Appalachian School of Law where he graduated cum laude in 2013. For his undergraduate studies, he attended Alice Lloyd College and graduated with a BA in History.
Raabia Wazir, Staff Attorney
Raabia Wazir was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia and earned her JD from the University of Kentucky in 2013. Thereafter, Raabia practiced as an associate attorney with the firm of Gary C. Johnson, PSC in Pikeville, Kentucky for five years, with a focus on mass tort and medical device litigation. She joined the ACLC team in January 2019 as a staff attorney, specializing in federal black lung benefits claims. As the granddaughter of a West Virginia coal miner, Raabia is passionate about protecting the rights of the hardworking men and women in our region.
Steve Sanders, Of Counsel
Steve formally retired in 2018 after 17 years as Director of ACLC, but he will continue to support the center of counsel. Steve has more than 35 years of experience as a public interest lawyer in Eastern Kentucky. He joined the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky (Appalred) in 1978 as a staff attorney and later directed the organization’s Prestonsburg office. Steve left Appalred in 2001 to start ACLC. Steve earned degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Vanderbilt Law School. He was a Commissioner on the Kentucky Mine Safety Review from 2009 to 2012, and he was the Vanderbilt Law School’s Social Justice Fellow in 2015.
Tara Damron, Paralegal
Tara joined ACLC’s staff in June 2010 to help with administrative tasks and special projects, and in 2013 she obtained her paralegal certification. As a paralegal, she assists the attorneys in conducting legal research and client interviews, as well as drafting legal documents, correspondence, and emails. Tara received a Master’s of Science in Adult, Juvenile, and Community Corrections Leadership from Eastern Kentucky University. She is a member of the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and the Golden Key National Honor Society.
Eric Dixon, Senior Coordinator of Policy and Community Engagement
Eric served as an Appalachian Transition Fellow at ACLC in the fellowship program’s inaugural 2014-15 year and, upon completion of the program, joined ACLC’s staff in June 2015. Eric coordinates ACLC’s policy analysis and engagement efforts, particularly around abandoned mine land reclamation, renewable energy, and electric utility issues. Eric graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee in 2013 as a quadruple major in Philosophy, Economics, Sociology, and Global Studies.
Hilary Neff Miles, Development Director
Hilary joined ACLC’s staff in October 2018 after she spent spent several years working in Tennessee and Mississippi to increase food access at farmers markets. Before that, Hilary co-managed the Letcher County Farmers Market and developed Mountain Garden Initiative, a school garden program in Southeast Kentucky. Hilary received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College, where she became a Dalai Lama Fellow and a Creativity and Leadership Fellow. She is originally from California.
Matthew Carter, Paralegal
Matthew joined ACLC’s staff as a paralegal in December 2018. Matthew received a B.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in Criminal Justice in May 2008 from Pikeville College. During his time as an undergrad, he coordinated a teen court program for the Pike County District Court. Being a son and grandson of coal miners, the work ACLC does to help miners and their families is especially important to him. As a paralegal, he assists the attorneys in conducting legal research and client interviews, as well as drafting legal documents, correspondence, and emails.
Ricki Draper, Appalachian Transition Fellow
Ricki Draper grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, but has also found home and community in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and now, eastern Kentucky. Ricki has supported a variety of community-based projects including coordinating an oral history project with Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise, County, VA; developing programming at a community center in Knoxville, TN; assisting with research on the indigenous-led movement in Standing Rock, North Dakota; and participating in a land reform study on the Navajo Nation. Ricki is passionate about building political power, listening to stories, and believes strongly in the potentials of community organizing. She received a B.A in Social Practice and Sustainability in the Anthropology Department at Appalachian State University.
Mimi Pickering, Board Chair
Mimi Pickering is an award-winning filmmaker and director of Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative (CMI). Her documentaries focus on injustice and inequity, often feature women as principle storytellers and explore the efforts of grassroots people to address community problems that frequently reflect global issues. Pickering is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Artist Fellowships. Her film, The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man, was selected by the Librarian of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2005.
John has practiced law for more than 40 years. Starting at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division during the Civil Rights movement, John later moved to Eastern Kentucky to work with low-income people in Appalachia who might not have access to quality legal representation. John founded the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc. (Appalred), in 1971, and retired as its director 30 years later. John graduated from Duke University and the law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Jill Fraley is Assistant Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Dr. Fraley is a legal historian who focuses her research on property and environmental issues. She practiced law for more than six years, working primarily in toxic torts and premises liability. She currently teaches property, environmental law, law & geography and legal history. Her recent writings focus on the legal history of Appalachia, property, cartography and the development of territorial jurisdiction. Dr. Fraley received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law, her LL.M. from Yale Law School, and J.S.D. from Yale Law School.
Jerry Hardt is Communications Director for the grassroots organizing group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. He has worked with KFTC for 30 years in various roles, including balancing the scales editor, media coordinator and occasional financial manager. He lives in Magoffin County, Kentucky.
Stanley Sturgill is a retired coal miner. In addition to his 41 years as a miner, Sturgill also served as Federal Coal Mine Inspector and MSHA Special Investigator. He is a resident of Harlan County and is active as an advocate and lobbyist around issues effecting his community, including mountaintop removal, mine safety and health, and community development.