Paul Avelar

Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Arizona Office

Paul Avelar is the Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Arizona Office. He joined the Institute in March 2010 and litigates free speech, property rights, economic liberty, school choice and other constitutional cases in federal and state courts.

As the head of IJ’s national Braiding Freedom Initiative, Paul represents natural hair braiders across the country to protect their right to earn an honest living. The Initiative uses lawsuits, activism and research to remove laws that require potential braiders to undergo hundreds of costly training hours just to braid hair. Since IJ launched the Braiding Freedom Initiative in 2014, 12 additional states have freed braiders from unnecessary licensing burdens. Paul drafted the model Natural Hair Braiding Protection Act, which has been adopted in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Texas and South Dakota. He is currently representing braiders in Missouri, where state laws infringe upon their right to earn an honest living.

In his free speech work, Paul has challenged numerous laws that trample First Amendment rights.  In Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 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. He represented grassroots groups and individuals in Arizona, Mississippi and Washington, where state laws burdened their political speech by requiring them to register with the government, to navigate complex regulations and to face fines and possible criminal penalties merely because they talked about political issues. In Washington, Paul protected a lawyer’s right to defend, pro-bono, the First Amendment rights of political speakers.

Through litigation and legislation, Paul leads the fight against abusive civil forfeiture laws in Arizona and elsewhere.

Paul also co-authored the most comprehensive published study of economic liberty protections in the Arizona Constitution. The Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court appointed Paul 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. 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

Other Property Rights Abuses | Private Property | Right to Shelter

Sierra Vista Residents Sue City to Keep Their Homes in Place

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…

Economic Liberty | First Amendment | Occupational Licensing

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona Engineering Licensing Law

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…

Fines and Fees | Private Property

Washington Street Fees

Linda Cameron wanted to add a bedroom and bathroom to her modest home, but the city of Richland told her she’d first have to pay for renovations to the city’s streets adjoining her property. The…

Economic Liberty | First Amendment | Occupational Licensing | Occupational Speech

Mississippi Regulatory Board Sues Tech Entrepreneurs to Prevent Competition

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…

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty | Hair Braiding | Occupational Licensing

Untangling Entrepreneurs from Arkansas' African Braiding Laws

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…

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty | Hair Braiding | Occupational Licensing

Untangling Entrepreneurs from Missouri’s Cosmetology Laws

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.

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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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