MORGANTOWN – The West Virginia University College of Law has launched an initiative designed to address “the most pressing legal challenges and barriers faced by Appalachians.”

“The WVU Law faculty created the Appalachian Justice Initiative because we believe that it is imperative that a land grant university located in the heart of Appalachia dedicate its significant research and service resources to addressing the most pressing legal challenges and barriers faced by Appalachians,” associate professor Valena Beety told The West Virginia Record.  


Beety said the initiative's goal is to provide outreach and support to, and learn from, the communities throughout West Virginia.


“AJI is an opportunity for the law school to provide legal education, services, and resources to our West Virginia and Appalachia neighbors as well as reinforce and strengthen our commitment to the health, safety and economic viability of the region’s coalfields communities,” associate professor of law and public health Jennifer Oliva told the West Virginia Record.


Oliva said the leaders of the initiative wants to hear ideas how the AJI could contribute to their communities.


The initiative’s website,, includes a collection of scholarship and articles about Appalachia by people within the region, Oliva said.


According to a release from WVU Law, the initiative brings together law school faculty and staff “working to address poverty in Appalachia through legal scholarship, policy advocacy, legal services and outreach.”


The college said AJI will offer enhanced legal services and education, including workshops, meetings and legal teach-ins in communities throughout West Virginia.


A list of scholarship, op-eds and other pieces written by WVU Law faculty on legal, economic, environmental and policy issues in West Virginia’s rural communities is available at the George R. Farmer Jr. Law Library and on the initiative’s website.


“Members of AJI will also promote awareness and foster discussion on legal and policy issues in Appalachia through panel discussions, symposiums, and op-eds,” the release said. “Topics of conversation will include issues surrounding criminal justice, economic development and employment, education, environment, health, infrastructure and transportation.”


At the WVU College of Law, the college said the initiative will work with existing programs, including 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.”


Beety is also director of the West Virginia Innocence Project Law Clinic and deputy director of the Clinical Law Program, and Oliva is the director of the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic.

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