Jeff Rowes is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. His practice focuses on private property, economic liberty, and free speech.
He brought the first and only successful challenge to the National Organ Transplant Act’s restrictions on compensating life-saving bone-marrow donors. He represented the casket-making monks of Louisiana’s St. Joseph Abbey in the most significant federal economic liberty decision of the last 20 years. Jeff spearheaded IJ constitutional challenges to zoning restrictions on the use of private property by charities providing temporary shelter to the homeless. He has also been at the forefront of litigation convincing courts that the First Amendment protects occupational speech that states try to regulate using occupational licensing laws: from a North Carolina “caveman” blogger advocating a paleolithic diet, to a national newspaper columnist whose advice column was targeted by Kentucky regulators, to California end-of-life doulas who help people plan their final days and funerals at home, among many other clients.
Jeff is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas where he teaches strategic constitutional litigation. His views have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, law reviews, and many other outlets.
In his spare time, Jeff mostly spends time with his wife of over 20 years and their two sons, especially at his wife’s family’s ranch in the remote Big Bend region of west Texas. He is obsessed with crosswords and word puzzles. He has a novel on the shelf and keeps promising himself to get it published soon.
He is also the grizzled old man of IJ fitness. In 2007, he started IJ’s lunchtime workout group “Team Hyper-ripped.” Jeff has been a serious rock climber for decades and has climbed all over the world. He is a veteran of many Ironman triathlons, won the master’s division of an obstacle course race, and twice placed second in the master’s division of the annual “Austin’s Fittest” competition. For his 48th birthday, he ran the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim. He is always up for adventures.
Jeff’s journey to IJ was a long and winding road. A native of Alberta, Canada, he dropped out of high school to be a ski instructor in the Rocky mountains. At 18, he traveled alone for six months in Asia. That experience convinced him to go to college, where he learned Japanese, which led to two years in Japan working as the translator for the Governor of Tochigi Prefecture. He earned a master’s degree in law and philosophy from the University of Chicago, bummed around the world climbing for a year, and then entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 2002. After clerking for three years for federal trial and appellate courts, Jeff joined IJ in 2005—the only law firm he’s ever worked at.
Small Business Owner Challenges Indiana’s Unconstitutional Restrictions on Discussing End-of-Life Care
To many, death is a taboo subject. But not to Lauren Richwine, founder of Death Done Differently, a consultant who specializes in helping those with a terminal diagnosis and their families plan for the final…
As a sparsely populated state, Alaska faces unique challenges in ensuring that all children can receive an education. To address this concern, the state created “correspondence programs,” in which a student’s public school used the…
Arrested and Prosecuted for his Reporting, Citizen Journalist Defends His First Amendment Rights with Federal Lawsuit
Justin Pulliam, a citizen journalist in Texas, was arrested and prosecuted for his reporting on the activities of the Fort Bend County Sheriff. He is defending his First Amendment rights with a federal lawsuit.
East Cleveland’s Government Weaponized its Police to Punish a Political Opponent. He’s Fighting to Hold It Accountable.
Cities can’t use the police to punish political speech.
The town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina attempted to block the only homeless shelter in the county from opening its doors at a new location, relying on bogus claims that the shelter would be “unharmonious”…
Akhila Murphy and Donna Peizer are end of life doulas – they offer families assistance during at-home funerals. They don’t direct funerals, but California has argued they are acting as unlicensed funeral directors. With the…
Yavapai County’s zoning system almost crippled Joshua’s and Emily’s wedding retreat business that they were running on their property. The pandemic made it impossible to pursue their legal claims, and so we voluntarily dismissed their…
South Padre Island caps the number of food trucks in town at 12 and requires that all food trucks have a restaurant owner’s sign off on their permit applications. The Texas Constitution prevents the government…
Sage Lewis is using his commercial property to build a community for those experiencing homelessness, with the hope of helping them transition from the streets to permanent housing. The city of Akron is attempting to…
Ron Hines is a veterinarian who offers advice online to customers all over the country, but Texas said his speech was illegal. Now his case can move ahead on First Amendment grounds.
Eminent Domain in Disguise: Putting an End to Charlestown, Ind.’s Unconstitutional Home Inspection Scheme
A small-town mayor in rural Indiana has made it his personal mission to oust the residents of a tight-knit working-class neighborhood, bulldoze their homes and build a fancy new subdivision for much wealthier people. The…
Psychology Board Censors Advice Column: America’s Longest-Running Advice Columnist Files Free Speech Lawsuit After Being Threatened with Jail and Told to Stop Publishing His Column in Kentucky
John Rosemond’s lawsuit defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press from government officials who believe that it can be a crime in America to express an opinion in a newspaper.
Caveman Blogger Fights for Free Speech and Internet Freedom: Challenging the Government’s Authority to Censor Ordinary Advice
This caveman blogger fought for free speech and Internet freedom.
After decades of keeping two-thirds of the city under a bogus “blight” designation, National City, Calif., applied to renew the blight label to prevent it from expiring. That renewal would have reauthorized the city to…
Jeff's Research & Reports
This study examines grassroots entrepreneurship in Newark and offers practical recommendations on how the city, which has become synonymous with urban dysfunction, could reform its laws and practices to encourage more small businesses to operate…
Jeff's Amicus Briefs
Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida
U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit
Obergefell v. Hodges
US Supreme Court
Welch v. Brown
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation
New York Supreme Court
Jeff's News, Articles & Publications
After the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition told diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey he couldn’t give diet advice—whether paid or unpaid and whether on his blog or in private emails and calls—without a government-issued license, IJ stepped in to vindicate Steve’s rights. Read More
For 10 years, Dr. Ron Hines, a retired and physically disabled Texas-licensed veterinarian, used the internet to give advice to pet owners across the country and around the globe, often for free. He didn’t realize that it is illegal in Texas to give veterinary advice about an animal without first physically examining the animal. When the state veterinary board found out what Ron was doing, it shut him down, suspended his license, and fined him—even though no one ever complained about Ron’s advice. Read More