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.
Norma Thornton was arrested for feeding the hungry in Bullhead City Community Park. Now, Norma has teamed up with IJ to fight back against Bullhead's law criminalizing charitable sharing in federal court.
Entrepreneur Fined $1,000 for Using Public Information to Draw Lines on Maps Files Federal Lawsuit Against California
Do you need a government license to trace a map from publicly available data? It might sound ridiculous, but in California the answer is “yes.” An entrepreneur joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to…
Under the guise of “zoning,” the city of Sierra VIsta, Arizona is threatening to kick residents out of their homes in the middle of a pandemic. With IJ’s help, these residents are fighting back to…
Greg Mills has been an engineer for more than 30 years, but now a group of industry insiders on a government board are saying he needs a license he does not actually need. IJ and…
An overly-broad statute defined a small mapping company in Mississippi as an “unlicensed surveying” company. This statute would have shut down Vizaline, but with help from IJ, Vizaline fought back to protect its First Amendment…
Home-based businesses offer people an accessible path to entrepreneurship, but many are illegal in Music City
Lij Shaw and Pat Raynor both run successful businesses within their own homes – one a recording studio, the other a hair salon. But one day, the city of Nashville threatened them with fines unless…
California used to require individuals to get a high school degree or equivalent if they wanted to enroll in a trade school, like Bob Smith’s horseshoeing school. After IJ stepped in on Bob’s behalf, the…
Similar Cases Complaint Latest Release…
Hair braiding is a simple and safe practice that the government has no business regulating. But in Arkansas, braiders may not sell their services unless they complete 1,500 hours of government-mandated cosmetology training, not one…
If you want to braid hair for a living in Missouri, you must spend thousands of dollars on at least 1,500 hours of cosmetology training that teaches you nothing about African-style hair braiding.
Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission vs. America’s Civil Rights Laws: Government Agency Seeks to Silence Not Only Citizen Activists, But Their Public Interest Lawyers, Too
A government agency whose job it is to limit political debate is now seeking to drastically restrict free civil rights advocacy—advocacy that has guided our nation in living up to its ideals of freedom and…
The government cannot require teachers to spend hundreds of hours in a classroom to learn skills that have nothing to do with what they teach.
Arizona wants to bar people from joining together to protest local ballot measures without first registering with the government.
Protecting Citizen Speech: Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Mississippi Campaign Finance Regulations Continues Nationwide Campaign
Thanks to Mississippi’s burdensome campaign finance laws, groups of concerned citizens need more than just their opinions to speak about politics. They also need a lawyer.
The Dirty Truth about Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act: U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Strike Down Program that Discourages Free Speech, Puts Thumb on Scales for Government-Funded Political Candidates
U.S. Supreme Court Opinion U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona’s “Clean Elections” IJ’s Political Speech Cases…
Paul's Research & Reports
Civil Forfeiture | Private Property
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
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
Arizona Advocacy Network v. Citizens Clean Elections Commission v. Arizona
Arizona v. Mixton
Pennsylvania v. Thiam
In re Paplauskas
NIFLA v. Becerra
U.S. Supreme Court
Horne v. Polk
Supreme Court of Arizona
Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris
Supreme Court of the United States
Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission v. Brain
Supreme Court of Arizona
Family PAC v. Ferguson
US Court of Appeals 9th Circuit
Paul's News, Articles & Publications
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
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