National Trust Legal Advocacy

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.


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.

The National Trust’s Litigation Policy, sets forth the considerations that should be evaluated in order to determine whether formal National Trust participation in historic preservation litigation is appropriate, to determine the appropriate level or degree of National Trust involvement, and to set forth the procedures that should be followed in making decisions to participate in litigation. For further information, please see the National Trust Litigation Policy (PDF).

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.

General Preservation Law Inquiries

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

Tom Mayes
Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel

Tom Mayes is Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As Chief Legal Officer, he oversees the National Trust’s legal defense fund, which advocates for the protection of significant places and defends and strengthens historic preservation laws throughout the United States; the historic preservation easements program, which protects over 135 historic places throughout the country; and the full range of corporate law matters for the National Trust, including specialized areas of historic site management and museum law.

Tom serves as the National Trust’s representative on the boards of the Montpelier Foundation, Main Street America and the National Trust Community Development Corporation (NTCIC).

Tom has written and spoken widely on preservation law, the underlying purposes of historic preservation, and the future of preservation. For many years, he taught historic preservation law at the University of Maryland. A lifelong preservationist, Tom serves as a member of his local historic preservation commission in Shepherdstown, WV. A recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize in Historic Preservation in 2013, Tom is the author of Why Old Places Matter (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018).

Tom 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, and an M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University. He joined the National Trust’s legal team in 1986.

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, Betsy 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.

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

Ross M. Bradford
Deputy General Counsel

Ross Bradford is deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For over 19 years he has provided legal counsel to the organization. His work at the National Trust focuses on real estate transactions and land use issues. He supervises staff who administer the National Trust’s Preservation Easement Program and supervises staff who manage the organization’s procurement contracts.

Ross serves as assistant corporate secretary for the organization and oversees the National Trust’s compliance with state charitable registration laws along with delivering a broad range of other legal services including lobbying compliance at the federal, state, and local levels of government. He also provides strategic guidance and support for advocacy related matters related to the National Trust’s collection of Historic Sites and broader programmatic work.

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 and is a graduate of the American Express Leadership Academy.

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.

Michelle A. Arcari
Associate General Counsel and Director of Contracts

Michelle A. Arcari is an associate general counsel and the director of contracts, overseeing the procurement process across the National Trust. She also provides general corporate legal services and reviews all federal and state grant agreements.

Prior to joining the National Trust, Michelle worked in both the public and private sectors, including as an Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia in the civil defensive litigation and juvenile prosecution sections. She first-chaired trials in both the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and in the United States District Court for DC.

Michelle received a B.A. in Historic Preservation from Mary Washington College in 1995 and a J.D. from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in 1998. She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Chris Cody
Associate General Counsel

Chris Cody is Associate General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation where he focuses on legal advocacy. Chris previously served as Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of Arizona and as Manager of Advocacy and Staff Attorney for Historic Charleston Foundation in Charleston, SC. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA History), the University of South Carolina School of Law, and Tulane University’s Master of Preservation Studies program.

Jade McDuffie McClary
Associate General Counsel

Jade McDuffie McClary 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.

Prior to joining the National Trust, Jade worked as a staff attorney for a legal services organization to preserve homeownership through estate planning and tax sale prevention. Jade has also worked as a family law litigator and bill drafter for the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Prior to law school, Jade worked as a reporter for the (Charleston) Post and Courier.

Jade received a B.A. in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of South Carolina and her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and Maryland.

Claire Jones
Associate Director, Easement Program

Claire Jones is associate director of the Easement Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She oversees the Trust’s easement staff and has direct responsibility for half of a nationwide portfolio of over 140 easement properties spanning 27 states and the District of Columbia. She also assists the Law Division with gifts of real estate transactions and Section 106 consultations that include easement donations.

Prior to joining the Trust, Claire worked as a planner with several local and regional governments in Virginia, specializing in comprehensive and environmental planning and local historic district administration.

Claire received a B.A. in History with a minor in Art History from Old Dominion University and a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning with Historic Preservation Certificate from the University of Virginia. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Erica LeClaire
Manager, Easement Program

Erica LeClaire is the Manager for the Easement Program with the Law Division at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She works with owners of protected historic properties throughout the United States to ensure their preservation in perpetuity.

Prior to joining the National Trust, she worked with local nonprofits to interpret and preserve important places in a range of communities. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Erica attended Michigan Technological University and the University of Arizona focusing on history and heritage conservation.

Elaine Chang
Associate Manager

Elaine Chang coordinates the programs 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 and a Paralegal Certificate from Boston University.

The Mother Road turns 100 years old in 2026—share your Route 66 story to celebrate the Centennial. Together, we’ll tell the full American story of Route 66!

Share Your Story