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.
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 has represented miners in 105(c) discrimination cases as well as black lung benefits cases and he has represented individuals and groups in environmental cases including cases under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. 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. Steve was the Vanderbilt Law School’s Social Justice Fellow in 2015.
Wes first came to ACLC in 2004 as part of an Equal Justice Works Fellowship and revived the center’s Mine Safety Project, which he has worked on since. Wes earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky. He specializes in black lung and mine safety litigation.
Mary joined ACLC’s staff in October 2008 to work primarily on environmental issues. Mary received her JD from Washington & Lee University School of Law. Prior to joining ACLC, Mary clerked for the Honorable Glen Conrad of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia and worked as an Associate Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Evan Smith, Staff Attorney
Evan received a Skadden Fellowship in 2013 to build upon ACLC’s representation of coal miners and their families in mine safety and black lung cases and to specialize in appellate advocacy. Since then, he has become a full time staff attorney with the law center. Evan attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated magna cum laude, served as an Articles Editor on the Law Review, and received a Master’s in Public Administration. For his undergraduate studies, he attended Oberlin College. Prior to joining ACLC, Evan clerked for the Honorable John M. Rogers of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
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.
Tarence Ray, Communications and Development Director
Tarence served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with ACLC from 2013-2014, and joined ACLC full-time in July 2016. Tarence graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. In his spare time he is a musician, writer, activist, and volunteer DJ with WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, Ky.
Eric Dixon, 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 Miles, Paralegal
Hilary joined ACLC’s staff in October 2018 as a paralegal. Hilary recently moved back to Whitesburg after spending several years working for Wholesome Wave, where she helped increase food access for low-income families at farmers markets in Tennessee and Mississippi. During her first stay in Whitesburg, Hilary co-managed the Letcher County Farmers Market and set up school gardens with Mountain Garden Initiative. Hilary received a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College in 2013, where she became a Dalai Lama Fellow and a Creativity and Leadership Fellow.
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.