Paul Avelar

Paul Avelar

Managing Attorney of the Arizona Office, Institute for Justice

Topics: Civil Rights • Constitution • Due Process • Federal Courts • Federalism • Federalism & Separation of Powers • First Amendment • Founding Era & History • Fourteenth Amendment • Free Speech & Election Law • Property Law • School Choice • Separation of Powers • State Constitutions • State Court Docket Watch • State Governments • Supreme Court

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 ArizonaMississippi 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 manga 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.


A person listed as a contributor has spoken or otherwise participated in Federalist Society events, publications, or multimedia presentations. A person's appearance on this list does not imply any other endorsement or relationship between the person and the Federalist Society. In most cases, the biographical information on a person's "contributor" page is provided directly by the person, and the Federalist Society does not edit or otherwise endorse that information. The Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues. All expressions of opinion by a contributor are those of the contributor.