Title: Managing Attorney
Bar Admissions: FL
"Protecting water in Florida has meant scores of hot days wading waist-deep in alligator infested rivers, marshes, and swamps."
As managing attorney for the Earthjustice office in Tallahassee, I have savored litigation wars with big corporations and their friends in government agencies. After graduating from law school, I practiced poverty law at Legal Services, moved to civil rights class actions, then served a stint as an antitrust lawyer suing for consumers in complex class actions. In 1984, I turned my litigation skills to environmental law and never looked back.
In courtrooms around Florida I have tried environmental cases for the past 20 years. In one way or another, they were all about water. Before development, half of Florida was under water during the wet season and its 1,500 miles of coastline were teeming with life. But its beauty invited its consumption. Millions of acres were drained and converted into agricultural, industrial, and urban developments. As a result, rivers and lakes are being polluted and closed off to the public, groundwaters are being rapidly depleted by uncontrolled withdrawals from aquifers, and the lives that depend on water are threatened.
Most of my adult life has focused on going to court to fight for everything that can still be saved. Protecting rivers and lakes has not just required many weeks of bitterly contested trials against big corporations in their hometowns. It has also meant late nights poring over ancient maps, military records, and 150-year-old handwritten diaries. It has meant interviewing hundreds of witnesses in dingy restaurants and motels. (One interview was interrupted while the witness removed a 4-foot Black snake from the living room and chased it out the screen door with a broom.) And it has meant scores of hot days wading waist-deep in alligator infested rivers, marshes, and swamps, finding relief only with the driving rain of the late afternoon.
In the course of my work for Earthjustice, I have moved to the cities of the phosphate mining district of Southwest Florida for trials long and short. I once moved my office to a town of 3,000 souls on the shore of Lake Okeechobee for a five-week jury trial. And I have spent weeks living out of motel rooms in small coastal towns while trying cases to protect manatees from speeding motor boats, estuary sea life from marina development, and sea turtles from the destruction of their nesting beaches.
My earlier water pollution cases were against the EPA, pulp mills and sugar companies. Now, I have come to realize that water contamination is an increasingly serious public health threat to disempowered people. My new cases attack sewage sludge disposal in the flood plains of waterways and pollution of Lake Okeechobee by contaminated run-off. The wonderful thing about being an attorney with Earthjustice is that people look to me not just for advice but for leadership. Solving the hardest environmental problems by taking on the worst actors head to head can change people's attitude about what is possible.
David Guest is the managing attorney of Earthjustice's Tallahassee office. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School where he was a member of the law review. He has a B.Sc. in Government and Economics from Florida State University. Since 1984, he has tried environmental cases exclusively and has won many landmark decisions in the area of Florida water law. In addition, he has tried scores of cases and contested hearings in federal and state courts as well as the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. David has headed the Florida office since 1990 and has litigated numerous complex cases concerning water rights, minimum flows and levels, rights in public land, land use, public rights in navigable waters, as well as water pollution. In his spare time, he takes friends out on his 1968 hand-built pontoon boat to watch birds, manatees and other wildlife. He also maintains a small fleet of ancient Hondas and Toyotas and one 25-year-old Polish golf cart.