South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Staff & Board

Amy Armstrong Amy Armstrong, Executive Director and General Counsel, started working for SCELP in September, 2002, after receiving a competitive two year fellowship from Equal Justice Works, formerly the National Association of Public Interest Law. Once her fellowship ended, she become a staff attorney at SCELP, a position she held for over eight years until the untimely death of SCELP's founder, Jimmy Chandler. Amy graduated from University of South Carolina in May, 2002, with a Juris Doctor and Master´s in Earth and Environmental Resource Management. She currently serves on the Coastal Community Foundation and Bunnelle Foundation boards. She is also a Liberty Fellow and now serves as a municipal court judge for the City of Georgetown.

Amy received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan in 1992. Before attending law school, she worked with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, managing a population of federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. She grew up in Columbia and now lives in Pawleys Island with her dog, Rufus. She enjoys kayaking, painting, birding, playing the piano, cooking, and reading on the beach.


Jessie White Jessie White, Staff Attorney, started working at SCELP in April 2013. Prior to graduation from USC School of Law in 2012, she interned with the Coastal Conservation League, the Conservation Voters of SC, and the Department of Natural Resources. She moved to Georgetown from Columbia where she had been working at the Law Offices of Brian L. Boger.

Jessie is from Charlottesville, Virginia and a 2009 graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Environmental Thought & Practice and a B.A. in Psychology. She enjoys cooking, photography, traveling, spending time outdoors, and with her dog Huck.


Amelia Thompson Amelia Thompson, Staff Attorney, started working at SCELP in October, 2014. Amelia graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2012, and completed two federal district court clerkships in the Eastern District of North Carolina after graduation. Amelia has also worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the N.C. State Ethics Commission, in addition to various pro bono work assignments completed during law school.

Amelia is from Waxhaw, North Carolina, and earned her B.S. in Political Science from Appalachian State University in three years. She now lives on Pawleys Island, and enjoys observational astronomy, surrealist painting, shooting pool, kayaking, hiking, and playing with her pets, Addy and Ichi.


Shannon Marcum Shannon Marcum, Office Manager, started working at SCELP in December 2015. Shannon graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing. During school she interned at the Boys & Girls Club of the Grand Strand. Since graduation she has gained extensive experience in business administration. Her first administrative role was after college at an advertising and social marketing agency in New York City. After moving back to the beautiful state of South Carolina she worked at a beachfront resort in Myrtle Beach, providing administrative support to the marketing department.

Shannon was born and raised in Long Island, New York before moving down to South Carolina to go to school. She currently resides in Murrells Inlet with her husband and her dog Jules. In her free time she enjoys going to the beach, reading and doing crafts.


Filippo Ravalico Filippo Ravalico, Program Manager, joined SCELP in January 2016. He was born and raised in Italy where he practiced corporate, securities and investment law from 1999 to 2009 in Milan and Rome. After moving to the United States and earning an LL.M. from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Filippo has redirected his energy to sustainability and a better economic system.

Joining the Slow Money movement to financially support healthy local food systems in 2010, he has worked with community leaders and entrepreneurs to expand access to capital and good food in New England, Ohio and more recently South Carolina. He was lucky to collaborate closely with The Carrot Project and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, and he was in charge of operations at the New Economy Coalition in Boston for two momentous years in 2012-2014. Filippo and his wife moved to Mount Pleasant in 2014 and they feel quite fortunate to have chosen the Lowcountry to raise their family.


Michael Corley Michael Corley, Michael Corley, Upstate Coordinator and Staff Attorney, rejoined SCELP in October 2016. Michael previously served as Staff Attorney in the Georgetown office from 2010-2014, after which time he spent two years in private practice in Greenville. Over his previous tenure with SCELP, Michael became an integral member of the SCELP team, and we are excited to have him back to lead our Upstate office.

Michael graduated magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2007 and began his legal career with a federal clerkship in the District of South Carolina. He is currently an adjunct environmental law professor at Furman University and a board member for several Upstate environmental organizations, including Friends of the Reedy River. Michael, his wife Heather and daughter Ellis live in Mauldin, South Carolina.


Board Members

Board Members John Barton received his undergraduate degree in 1974 from the University of South Carolina and his juris doctor in 1977 from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Mr. Barton served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the South Carolina office of the United States Attorney for over twenty-one years, during which time he served in numerous positions, including Chief of the Criminal Division, National Security Coordinator and Health Care Coordinator. During his tenure Mr. Barton was involved in the prosecution of some of the state’s most noteworthy cases, including Operation Lost Trust.

In 2004, Mr. Barton opened his law office in Columbia, South Carolina, where his practice concentrates primarily on the defense of individuals and companies charged with white collar crimes. John and his wife, Barbara, who has a reputable bankruptcy practice, reside in Columbia. He is in the process of winding down his firm, which will allow him to spend more time at his house on Pawleys Island.

Frances Close, Chair of the SCELP Board, lives in Columbia and is one of the founding members of SCELP. Francie was the Board Chair of Energy Research Foundation, the major player in the effort to force the U.S. Department of Energy to clean up environmental problems at the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons facility, and the organization which helped create SCELP.

John Mark Dean is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Marine Science and Biological Sciences and Senior Fellow in Science and Ocean Policy at the University of South Carolina. John’s research focused on Age and Growth of Fishes, Estuarine Ecology and Fisheries Management. He has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate courses and has more than 100 publications in the scientific literature. John received his MS and PhD in Aquatic Ecology from Purdue University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Cornell College of Iowa, where he also received his BA.

John’s service on numerous advisory committees dealing with natural resource issues, and the role of science in the development and implementation of natural resources policies at the domestic and international level enables him to bring a unique perspective to students, policy makers and SCELP. John was a critical expert witness in our Captain Sam’s Spit case. His company performed an exhaustive environmental inventory of the natural resources on Kiawah Island entitled “Environmental Inventory of Kiawah Island,” which recommended that the Spit remain undeveloped because of its instability as a land formation. That document continues to be nationally and internationally recognized as a background document for sustainable environmental planning in the coastal zone and it specifically

John helped form and is currently a member of the Steering Committee of the South Carolina Sustainable Seafood Initiative. He lives in Columbia with his wife Robin.

Margaret Fabri is an attorney in private practice in Charleston. She has been a long time advocate for environmental protection and served on the Coastal Council (now the Appellate Panel of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management) from 1993 to 1997.

Paula Feldman holds the C. Wallace Martin chair in English and the Louise Fry Scudder chair in Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is the author, editor, or co-editor of eleven books, and teaches British literature, environmental literature, and writing on the graduate and undergraduate levels. For many years, she served on the Board and as education chair for the Columbia Audubon Society. Her photographs and articles concerning human interaction with the environment have appeared in South Carolina Wildlife Magazine and other publications. In recent years, she has been active in environmental advocacy in the Lowcountry.

Gary W. Poliakoff is an attorney in Spartanburg, S.C., who represents victims of toxic exposure and property contamination in environmental cases against polluters. He has also represented a number of citizens groups and environmental groups, and has handled many cases Pro Bono for such groups. He has served on the Boards of numerous environmental groups.

Gary graduated from Washington and Lee University and the University of South Carolina School of Law, has been practicing law since 1977 and has received many awards and honors during his career including the Public Citizen Award from the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association in 1996 and the Victims Voice Award from the South Carolina Jury Trial Foundation in 1995. He was the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 1988. Currently, Gary serves as a Commissioner for the South Carolina Forestry Commission as appointed by the governor.

Gary has also served on the board of the Citizens Local Environmental Action Network, the chairman of the Spartanburg County Democratic Party; and the boards of the Sertoma Club, Piedmont Conservancy Inc. and Safe Homes/Rape Crisis Coalition.

Leon Rice was born in Winston-Salem, NC, and practiced law in Atlanta, Georgia, for 30 years, dealing mainly in real estate law and transactions. Ten years ago he retired to Murrells Inlet, SC, where his family  has owned a creek house for the last 90 years.  He was a board member of Murrells Inlet 2007 (now Murrells Inlet 2020), and he is now a director and secretary of Preserve Murrells Inlet, Inc., a group dedicated to preservation of the creek, and to preserving the  low density use of the water shed on the Waccamaw Neck. He is a member of Bike the Neck, a cycling advocacy group, and a member of Belin United Methodist Church. Leon is married to Jan, and they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren who live in Charleston.

Leon enjoys all  outdoor activity, including fishing, hunting, golf, biking and boats of all types. He is a graduate of Duke University and Emory University Law School, and is a former arbitrator American Arbitration Administration. Leon says he is passionate about the goals of SCELP, and  the conservation of our wonderful natural resources.

Susan Hilfer joined the SCELP Board in 2016, bringing a range of experiences, including serving on the Habitat Committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council for the past 14 years. Susan has been involved with environmental issues for many years and is an avid birder and skilled recreational angler. Susan's husband, the late Bill Campbell, was a lead author of South Carolina's Coastal Zone Management Act -- a tool which the SCELP team regularly utilizes in our natural resource protection efforts.

Susan was trained as a professional medical illustrator and was on the staff of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine prior to entering private practice.

Greg VanDerwerker was born in Kentucky and raised in Connecticut. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor's degree in Zoology, Magna Cum Laude and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

After receiving his M.D. degree from Emory University School of Medicine, followed by post-graduate medical training in pathology at the University Hospitals of Cleveland / Case Western Reserve University and fellowship training at N. C. Baptist Hospital / Wake Forest University School of Medicine, he accepted an invitation to join a hospital-based pathology practice at Self Memorial Hospital (now known as Self Regional Healthcare) in Greenwood, South Carolina where he practiced until retiring in 2005.

Since moving to Kiawah Island upon retirement, Greg has been actively volunteering with numerous organizations including Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, Kiawah Island Naturalist Group, and the Coastal Conservation League. Married and a father of two grown daughters, Greg enjoys hiking, camping, white water and ocean kayaking as well as cooking

Nancy Vinson is retired from the Coastal Conservation League where she had worked on coastal policy issues since 1994. Her work focused mainly on protecting the clean waters and wildlife habitat of the Lowcountry’s tidal creeks, marshes, and beaches by ensuring the adoption and enforcement of state law and regulation. As Program Director for Air, Water, and Public Health, she often enjoyed working with Jimmy Chandler on legal strategy, in court, and on state policy. A few accomplishments include: the passage of state law/regulations to protect air and water quality from factory hog operations and the prevention of thousands of private bridges to small marsh islands; significantly reducing air pollution emanating from state port facilities; stopping a stock car track from locating next to Audubon’s Beidler Forest Wildlife Sanctuary.

Before joining the staff at CCL, Nancy was Director of the SC chapter of the Sierra Club and prior to that, a cardiac research specialist at the USC Medical School. She lives in Charleston and enjoys biking, boating and working part-time for her church.

Wendy Zara lives in Sheldon and works in Beaufort for A. G. Edwards & Sons. Wendy is active in local environmental and land use planning issues and a leader of the Northern Beaufort County Committee, the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, and other community committees and task forces.


SCELP Founder

Jimmy Chandler

December 4, 1949 - August 7, 2010

Jimmy Chandler James S. (Jimmy) Chandler, Jr., (December 4, 1949 - August 7, 2010) former President and General Counsel, founded SCELP in 1987. For over 15 years, he was SCELP's sole staff attorney. Jimmy represented national, state, and local organizations in environmental cases before state and federal courts and agencies. His cases involved a variety of issues, including wetlands, coastal management, water quality, air quality, solid and hazardous waste landfills and incinerators, and mining. Prior to forming SCELP, Jimmy practiced law in Columbia for 10 years. His environmental work has been recognized by several state and national awards, including the Sierra Club's William O. Douglas Award, the South Carolina General Assembly's Environmental Awareness Award, and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation's Conservationist of the Year Award.

Jimmy grew up in Georgetown and resided in Pawleys Island. He received a B.A. in Economics from Davidson College in 1972, a Masters in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina in 1973, and a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1977.

Jimmy was married to Rebecca McCarthy Chandler and had one daughter, Leigh, who was born in 1994. When not working, Jimmy spent his time watching his daughter play softball and enjoyed getting out on the water and playing rhythm guitar for Three Way, an oldies rock & roll, blues and party band.

Sadly, Jimmy lost his battle with cancer on August 7, 2010. His death represents a tremendous loss to South Carolina and those that knew him, yet gives cause for reflection on a life and career well lived. The impact he made on our state's environment is immeasurable. He was the trailblazer in environmental law in South Carolina and he left an amazing legacy that SCELP is proud and determined to carry on, in his honor.

Some of Jimmy's most significant cases included:

Jim Smiley vs. DHEC -- ensured that citizens have the right to challenge environmental permitting decisions through the administrative and legal systems;

Dewey Wise -- the first case establishing that citizens can bring enforcement actions for violations of the Coastal Zone Management Act;

Debordieu Dredging & Beach Nourishment Project -- set the precedent that is still utilized today in dredging permits - you must stay 10 feet away from marsh grass and oyster beds to prevent sloughing of the marsh and damage to the oyster beds;

Willbrook Dredging Case -- the SC Supreme Court ruled that economic benefits alone were not enough to establish an overriding public interest necessary for dredging, permit for the dredging of a canal and the creation of waterfront lots was denied;

Project DP (Spectre) -- an extremely significant case that removed the cloud over isolated freshwater wetlands in the coastal zone and affirmed that the Coastal Management Program (CMP) is a binding and enforceable law.