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Tabatha Abu El-Haj

Associate Professor of Law

Tabatha Abu-El-Haj


Office: School of Law, Room 233
Phone: 215.571.4738
Fax: 215.571.4712

Administrative Support:
Donna Strunk
Phone: 215.571.4802


Tabatha Abu El-Haj’s principal interest is the American political process, including the ways it is structured by constitutional law and the administrative state. With a background in the sociology of law, she is particularly interested in increasing the democratic accountability of political institutions through political participation. She is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network, which published her 2016 policy brief, "The Inevitable Limits of Campaign Finance Reform," and invited her to speak about power in politics on its "No Jargon" podcast.

Professor Abu El-Haj has written extensively about the right of peaceable assembly. Her current work, however, focuses on re-imagining the freedom of association in light of empirical research on how associations foster democratic participation and the implications for how lawyers and policymakers should approach both civic associations and political parties. The  first in a trilogy of articles extending the theoretical account offered in her 2014 “Friends, Associates and Associations: Theoretically and Empirically Grounding the Freedom of Association”  is forthcoming in the Boston College Law Review and is entitled “Beyond Campaign Finance Reform.”

She took part in two scholarly conferences exploring campaign finance in 2016.  In the first, she participated as a facilitator in a convening sponsored by Demos, and hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Law School, exploring potential theories by which to persuade the Supreme Court to reconsider its campaign finance jurisprudence.  As part of that event, she contributed “Wholly Native to the First Amendment: The Positive Liberty of Self-Government” in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online Symposium. Subsequently, she presented at the related “Purchasing Power?” conference hosted by the Ford Foundation and organized by Jacob Hacker (Yale University), Heath Brown (CUNY) and the Scholars Strategy Network. 

Her prior publications include "The Neglected Right of Assembly," in the UCLA Law Review, and “Changing the People: Legal Regulation and American Democracy," in the New York University Law Review.  Shorter pieces by Professor Abu El-Haj include: “Defining Peaceably: Policing the Line Between Constitutionally Protected Protest and Unlawful Assembly in the Missouri Law Review; “Withdrawal of McConnell’s Campaign Finance Rider Only Short-Term Reprieve,” which appear in The Hill; and “By Undermining Unions, The Roberts Court Will Do Still More Damage to Our Democracy,” which appeared on

Professor Abu El-Haj received her doctorate in Law and Society from New York University. Her dissertation, "Changing the People: Transformations in American Democracy (1880-1930)," documents the rise of municipal ordinances requiring permits for public assemblies and argues that American democracy was fundamentally transformed in the 20th century as the nature of state regulation of democratic politics changed.  She received her JD from New York University School of Law, where she was a Furman Fellow and graduated Order of the Coif.  In 2005-2006, Professor Abu El-Haj clerked for the Honorable Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.