Jeff Rowes

Senior Attorney


The New York Bar

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.

Jeff's Cases

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Jeff's Research & Reports

No Work in Newark

Economic Liberty

No Work in Newark

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

Welch v. Brown

Welch v. Brown

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

Jeff's News, Articles & Publications

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Jeff's Hearings

Texas Veterinary Speech Oral Argument

  • Fifth Circuit
  • February 25, 2020

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

North Carolina Free Speech Oral Argument

  • Fourth Circuit
  • May 15, 2013

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