Board of Directors
Sarah Taylor, President
Sarah J. Taylor has been employed as an associate attorney with the Carbondale, Illinois law firm of Barrett, Twomey, Broom, Hughes & Hoke, LLP since 2004. Her areas of practice include probate litigation, guardianships, mediation, family law, and civil litigation. She is currently on the First Judicial Circuit’s Guardian ad Litem and Civil and Family Mediation rosters. She is also a Special Assistant Attorney General, representing the State of Illinois in eminent domain cases, and she teaches Client Interviewing and Counseling and Mediation Skills courses at Southern Illinois University School of Law as an adjunct professor.
Ms. Taylor received a Bachelor’s Degree in Cinema and Photography in 1997 from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and a Juris Doctorate in 2002 from Southern Illinois University School of Law. From 2002 to 2004, she was employed as a research attorney with the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield, Illinois.
Ms. Taylor is a member of the American Bar Association, a member and past President of the Jackson County Bar Association, a member and Assembly member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chair Ex Officio of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Law-Related Education for the Public. She is also an officer and board member of the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc. She has completed basic mediation, civil and family mediation, and advanced guardianship/eldercare mediation training programs. She is also on the pro bono attorney roster for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance.
Michael Ruffley, Vice-President
Michael John Ruffley is an attorney, who retired in 2010 after 28 years as a prosecutor in Williamson County Illinois and has been doing volunteer work since then , including being an auxiliary deputy sheriff in Williamson County, Illinois and doing pro bono mediations for and serving on the Board of the Dispute Resolution Institute, Carbondale, Illinois. Michael is an Army veteran and a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1974 , B.A. President's Scholar, Pre Legal Studies , and 1979 J. D. Law.
Michael Fiello, Secretary
Mike is an associate judge in the First Judicial Circuit and sits in Jackson County. Prior to that he worked for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation for 32 1/2 years as both a staff attorney and the managing attorney of the Southern Regional Office. In addition to being on the DRI board, Mike serves on the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Justice and is co-chair of the Commission's Forms Committee.
Benjamin W. Reed, Board Member
Benjamin W. Reed was born and raised in Murphysboro, Illinois. After graduating from Murphysboro High School, Ben attended Illinois State University and studied cinematography. After graduating in 2005 from ISU, Ben worked in Chicago and Tucson before deciding to study law. In 2008, Ben moved back to Southern Illinois and attended Southern Illinois University Law School, graduating in 2012. He has joined his father Gerry at the Reed, Heller, Mansfield & Gross. His areas of practice include family law and municipal law. When he isn’t working, Ben enjoys spending time with his wife Katie, his daughter Eloise and his dog Seven.
Jennifer Thompson, Board Member
Jennifer has over 17 years of experience in family law matters in both her previous role as a paralegal and current career as an attorney. She earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University in 2011. Upon obtaining her license in 2012, Jennifer has practiced with the firm of Michelle M. Schafer.
Jennifer recognizes that divorce and custody litigation is an extremely emotional time. Jennifer is caring and compassionate and has the ability to sympathize with clients during such life transitions. Jennifer's strength in family law matters stems from her recognition that children's interests must be paramount in any family law matter. Recognizing that children are often pawns between parents in divorce, custody, and visitation matters, Jennifer is dedicated to making the best interests of the child of primary importance. Evidencing her strong commitment to children, Jennifer is certified as a Guardian ad Litem in the First and Second Circuit Courts in Illinois.
Jennifer moved to southern Illinois in 1991 where she has chosen to raise her daughter. She is active in the community and believes that community service is an important part of her life because it is an opportunity to make a difference in this world. Jennifer is the current president of the Williamson County Bar Association, and is also a member of the Jackson County Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, American Bar Association, and Southern Illinois Inn of Court.