Law Division

How We Can Help

Whether it's the potential loss of a family farm due to a federal highway project, a challenge to a local preservation ordinance, or a state's plan to demolish a historic bridge, the National Trust's staff attorneys protect places around the country that connect us to our history and make our communities unique.

On a daily basis, the National Trust handles a variety of preservation law issues through both direct participation in disputes between parties and through consultation with organizations, individuals and governmental entities. In general, creating an open dialogue among interested parties and providing educational information to the public about preservation laws are two important ways in which we achieve success.

General Inquiries

General preservation law inquiries may be submitted to the Law Division via e-mail to Please include a detailed description of any relevant facts or issues in the body of your e-mail along with any other materials that may be helpful.



When historic resources are at risk, the first inclination may be to sue a governmental entity or private actor. It should come as no surprise that litigation is expensive, but more importantly, litigation is not always the most efficient and effective way of achieving a preservation victory. This is why the National Trust's first line of action is to avoid the need to go to court at all. It achieves this goal by advocating for better government decisions that will protect historic sites, neighborhoods and landscapes.

In limited instances when advocacy alone is not enough, litigation may become the only alternative. When this occurs, the National Trust may decide to provide legal support as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. In this role, the National Trust files a legal brief with a court, which typically provides a broader legal understanding of a given preservation law issue or provides a national perspective for a court to consider. In more limited situations, the National Trust, with the help of pro bono counsel, may either institute its own lawsuit or join an existing lawsuit as an additional party.

For further information, please see the National Trust's litigation policy.

Supporting Legal Advocacy

Funding for the legal advocacy and litigation efforts of the National Trust is supported by the National Trust's membership dues, general donations and foundation grants. Our staff's efforts are also leveraged with generous pro bono assistance from dedicated lawyers in the private bar.

The National Trust's Law Division

The National Trust's Law Division is comprised of attorneys and preservation professionals focusing on a variety of preservation law and corporate legal issues for the organization. For almost 40 years, our attorneys have spearheaded prominent preservation law cases, produced valuable legal scholarship, and achieved changes in local, state, and federal laws and policies that have resulted in new or strengthened protections for historic resources. Additionally, our staff provides guidance to preservation advocates, property owners and governmental entities on a daily basis, and frequently lectures on preservation law topics for a variety of audiences around the country.

Betsy Merritt

Deputy General Counsel

Betsy Merritt is deputy general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she has been responsible for the National Trust's legal advocacy program for the past 25 years.

Although Merritt is known for her litigation work, having represented the National Trust in nearly 200 cases in state and federal courts, including two dozen transportation cases, she has a stronger interest in using negotiation and administrative advocacy to persuade government agencies to make more preservation-sensitive decisions, especially through consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

In addition to her litigation and advocacy experience, Merritt has lectured widely on preservation law, and she has testified before Congress on several occasions regarding transportation policy and other issues relating to historic preservation. She has also been directly influential in shaping legislation and regulations implementing Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Merritt is a native of Seattle, Washington. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1980, and from Mills College in Oakland, California in 1976.

Leslie Kamrad Howard

Associate General Counsel

Leslie Kamrad Howard is an associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where her primary responsibility is providing general corporate legal services to the organization and to its for-profit and non-profit subsidiaries including the National Trust’s insurance program.

Prior to joining the National Trust, Leslie worked for three real estate developers in Atlanta, GA, responsible for commercial real estate leasing and asset management, and then moved to Washington D.C. where she worked as a paralegal for seven years at an international law firm.

Leslie received her J.D. from George Washington University Law School in 2004 and she is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Elaine Chang

Legal Coordinator

Elaine Chang is the legal coordinator for the Law Division at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She works closely with the National Trust’s attorneys to provide administrative support for the legal, contracts, and easement teams, as well as the planned giving department's Gifts of Real Estate Program.

Elaine received a B.A. with honors in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington.

Tom Mayes

Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel

Tom Mayes, chief legal officer and general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has specialized in both corporate and preservation law since he joined the organization in 1986. He is the principal lawyer for legal matters relating to historic property real estate transactions and for the National Trust's 29 historic sites.

Mayes has developed special expertise in architectural and technical preservation issues, preservation easements, the Americans with Disabilities Act and historic shipwrecks. He is the author of several articles relating to, and has lectured widely on, preservation easements, shipwreck protection, the Americans with Disabilities Act and preservation public policy.

For several years, Mayes has taught historic preservation law at the University of Maryland Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.

Mayes received his B.A. with honors in History in 1981 and his J.D. in 1985 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mayes received an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

Ross M. Bradford

Deputy General Counsel

Ross M. Bradford is a deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation where he supervises the National Trust’s Easement Program and oversees gifts of real estate transactions. He also provides general corporate legal services on a wide range of subjects and provides support for advocacy related matters affecting National Trust historic sites.

Ross received a B.A. in Political Science and English Literature from Emory University and a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

Anne Nelson

Senior Associate General Counsel

Anne Nelson is a senior associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where her primary responsibility is providing general corporate legal services to the organization. Anne also assists with the National Trust’s advocacy efforts.

Prior to joining the National Trust, Anne was general counsel at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Anne received a B.A. in History from Boston College and a J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.