Neil Thomas Proto’s public service and private practice in law includes forty-five years of experience in land use, environmental, and federal litigation, teaching at Yale University and Georgetown University, and writing and speaking on a broad range of cultural and legal matters.
As a law student at The George Washington University, he chaired Students Challenging Regulatory Agency Procedures (SCRAP), which resulted in the first United States Supreme Court decision to consider the National Environmental Policy Act (1973). In the fall of 1973, Mr. Proto joined the United States Department of Justice as an appellate attorney in the Land (now Environment) and Natural Resources Division. He briefed and argued cases involving public lands, Native Americans, and the environment in United States Courts of Appeals. He is the recipient of the Department of Justice Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service and the Environment and Natural Resources Division Award for Meritorious Service.
During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, Proto served as general counsel to the President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, chaired by future Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. He was appointed a visiting lecturer at Yale University in 1988 and 1989. In private practice he represented historians, including David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin, in the successful battle against the Disney Theme Park in Virginia, and, on behalf of Native Hawaiians and Hawaii crafted the law that transferred the sacred site of Kaho’olawe Island from the United States to Hawaii. Beginning in 1990, while in private practice in Washington, DC, Proto was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Proto also has authored two other books: The Rights of My People, Liliuokalani’s Enduring Battle with the United States, 1893-1917 (2009), and Fearless: A. Bartlett Giamatti and the Battle for Fairness in America (2019), which was a finalist in Biography for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received the Bronze Award in Biography by Foreword Reviews.
Proto is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the United States Supreme Court Bar. He continues to reside in Washington, D.C., occupied by writing, teaching, and exploring new creative threads. His play, The Reckoning, Pecora for the Public was produced in Seattle in 2016. His interests frequently take him abroad, as a Fellow, to Royal Geographical Society conferences and events; to the Pacific Northwest for hiking, sailing, kayaking, and snowshoeing; and to the Northeast to maintain close ties with family members and friends.