Paul V Avelar

Managing Attorney of the Arizona Office

Paul Avelar joined the Institute for Justice in March 2010. He is the Managing Attorney of IJ’s Arizona Office. He litigates free speech, property rights, economic liberty, school choice and other constitutional cases in federal and state courts nationwide. He also advocates in state capitals across the country for reforms to protect these and other civil rights.

In Paul’s economic liberty work, he has represented florists, braiders, threaders, and engineers to protect their right to earn an honest living. As the head of IJ’s national Braiding Freedom Initiative, Paul led an effort that has, in less than a decade, eliminated or substantially reduced burdens on braiders in 22 states. He also drafted the model Natural Hair Braiding Protection Act, which has been adopted in 11 states, and played a key role in the adoption of Arizona’s first-in-the-nation universal license recognition reform, which 19 other states have copied to varying degrees.

Paul represents professionals and professional schools—from makeup artistry to horseshoeing—to protect their speech from government licensing laws. In Washington, Paul protected a lawyer’s right to defend, pro-bono, the First Amendment rights of political speakers. He represented grassroots groups and individuals in Arizona, Mississippi and Washington, where state laws burdened their political speech. His free speech work includes Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, where he represented candidates and independent groups in a successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the “matching funds” provision of Arizona’s publicly financed elections system.

Paul’s property rights work includes fighting eminent domain abuse. He challenges zoning and land use regulations that discriminate against home based-businesses and that threaten to make people homeless, even though they own their home homes and land. He has challenged excessive fees for building permits. Through litigation and legislation, Paul fights against abusive civil forfeiture laws in Arizona and elsewhere.

Paul has authored amicus briefs on free speech, economic liberty, due process, search and seizure, and separation of powers at the U.S. Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and federal and state courts of appeal. He co-authored the most comprehensive published study of economic liberty protections in the Arizona Constitution. He was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court to the Task Force on the Review of the Role and Governance Structure of the State Bar of Arizona, where he dissented from the majority report and called on leaders to substantially reform the Bar and state regulation of the practice of law. He often speaks at law schools across the country about constitutional issues and his work at IJ.

Prior to joining IJ-AZ, Paul worked as an attorney in Philadelphia representing pharmaceutical companies in civil litigation and government investigations. He clerked for Judge Roger Miner on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Andrew Hurwitz on the Arizona Supreme Court, and Judge Daniel Barker on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Paul graduated magna cum laude from the Arizona State University College of Law in 2004 and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 2000.

Paul's Cases

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Paul's Research & Reports

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Forfeiture in Arizona

In 2017, Arizona adopted incremental but important bipartisan reforms of the state’s civil forfeiture system. These reforms included new transparency requirements for forfeiture, obliging agencies to report the value, type and date of a property…

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty | Hair Braiding | Occupational Licensing

Untangling Regulations

Natural hair braiding is a beauty practice popular among many African, African-American and immigrant communities in the United States. But braiders in many states have to endure hundreds of hours of unnecessary coursework and pay…

Paul's Amicus Briefs

Horne v. Polk

Horne v. Polk

Supreme Court of Arizona

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Paul's News, Articles & Publications

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Paul's Hearings

Arizona Engineering Licensing Oral Argument

  • Arizona Supreme Court
  • June 30, 2022

Greg Mills is an engineer with decades of experience designing, building, and testing electrical circuits for major manufacturers in Arizona. After years of working for others, he started his own engineering consulting company to serve startups and small businesses. Greg is doing the same exact type of work he did as an employee of a big company. But because he now works for himself, the Arizona engineering board says he needs an engineering license and is threatening to shut him down. Read More

California Trade Schools Oral Argument

  • Ninth Circuit
  • October 24, 2019

IJ joined with Bob Smith, owner of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, to challenge a California law that made it illegal for trade schools like Bob’s to admit students who hadn’t first graduated from high school or passed a government-approved equivalency exam. Read More