MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — The College of Law has launched the Appalachian Justice Initiative (AJI), a group of law school faculty and staff working to address poverty in Appalachia through legal scholarship, policy advocacy, legal services and outreach.
“The College of Law faculty created the AJI to empower West Virginias in need of legal resources and assistance and to promote research and scholarship at the intersection of law and rural livelihood,” said Jennifer Oliva, director of the WVU Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic. “As a land-grant institution and the only law school in the state, we take seriously our charge to serve our fellow West Virginians and Appalachian neighbors.”
AJI’s mission is to develop programming and outreach projects that provide West Virginians and other Appalachian residents with enhanced legal services and education. Services will include workshops, meetings and legal teach-ins in communities throughout the state.
Members of AJI will also promote awareness and foster discussion on legal and policy issues in Appalachia through panel discussions, symposiums, and op-eds. Topics of conversation will include issues surrounding criminal justice, economic development and employment, education, environment, health, infrastructure and transportation.
“Poverty is prevalent in Appalachia and we, as faculty at the College of Law, are dedicated to using our skills to help mitigate this problem,” said Priya Baskaran , director of the WVU Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic. “The College of Law is home to legal scholars and experts on a variety of fields ranging from health to criminal justice to economic development. We are uniquely positioned to have an impact on West Virginia and are dedicated to using our expertise to do so.”
At the WVU College of Law, AJI plans to collaborate with existing efforts, including the Center for Law and Public Service and the Clinical Law Program, to provide additional resources that help give disadvantaged clients a greater voice in West Virginia’s justice system.
“The common goal throughout West Virginia University has always been to emphasize service to our state,” said Baskaran. “AJI holds with the University and the College of Law’s longstanding commitment to service by providing a platform for faculty to leverage existing legal resources and scholarship to maximize our impact. It also serves as a forum to discuss pressing issues in Appalachia with existing organizations and to coordinate outreach to distressed and disenfranchised parts of our state.”
Staff in WVU’s George R. Farmer, Jr. Law Library have compiled a resource list of scholarship, op-eds and other work written by law faculty members that relate to topics surrounding legal, economic, environmental and policy issues in West Virginia’s rural communities.
The list is available in the library and on the AJI website to highlight work that has already been done by College of Law faculty to tackle social justice issues in Appalachia.
"WVU College of Law faculty have already produced a wealth of scholarship regarding social and economic development in Appalachia,” said Nick Stump, the library’s Assistant Director for Instructional & Public Services.
“It was exciting and heartening for our library team to compile these works and to trace how the College of Law's commitment to advancing regional justice has broadened and deepened over the years."
Law professor Valena Beety, director of the West Virginia Innocence Projects, was also instrumental in establishing the Appalachian Justice Initiative.
For more information about the Appalachian Justice Initiative, future programming
and events, go to