Nathaniel Guest receives Burton Award for Legal Achievement

July 2, 2010

Nathaniel Guest (M.A. HPP ’11) was honored for his article ”Putting History on a Stone Foundation: Toward Legal Rights for Historic Property” which considers the applicability of a famous work by Christopher Stone to historic property. Stone’s book, Should Trees Have Standing: Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects, galvanized environmentalists at a critical time in their movement’s history. Guest, who studied law at Temple University, argues that the preservation movement, too, is at a crossroads and maps out a legal basis by which it might choose a better path forward.

“Preservation’s chance at the podium really should be now at the height of this sustainability craze,” says Guest. “But it is remarkable in a time so focused on living green that reuse of existing buildings continues to be so readily dismissed.”

His article suggests legal standing for historic properties is a way of forcing a consideration of their value in decisions about their fate, something current laws do not do adequately.

“With all we know, this failure to really question demolition in favor of new construction is inexcusable,” Guest says. “Legal standing for historic property shifts the default from having to prove why something must stand, to having to prove why it must go — a stance that really is much more in keeping with the nature of sustainability running so hot these days.”

The Burton Award for Legal Achievement, in association with the Library of Congress, was established to reward and encourage effective legal writing. Award recipients were selected from nominations by deans of all of the law schools in America, as well as from nominations by managing partners of the 1,000 largest U.S. law firms. Guest’s article is one of 15 selected as this year’s Burton Award winners.

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