Abu El-Haj

Tabatha Abu El-Haj

Professor of Law, Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Drexel University

Connect with Tabatha

About Tabatha

Abu El-Haj’s principal interest is the American political process, including the ways it is structured by law in its various forms. She has written extensively about the right of peaceable assembly, historically and in relation to both the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter. Her current work considers the implications for lawyers of empirical research on how civic associations and political parties foster responsive governance. With a background in the sociology of law, she is particularly attentive to the role of statutory reform and constitutional doctrine in increasing the democratic accountability of political institutions through informed political participation. 


Local Political Parties as Networks: A Guide to Self-Assessment

    Lara Putnam ,
  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Tabatha Abu El-Haj
  • Joseph Anthony
  • Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez
  • Adam Seth Levine
  • Caroline Tervo ,

The Inevitable Limits of Campaign Finance Reform

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Opinion: "The Endangered Right to Assemble on Campus," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Inside Higher Ed, December 14, 2023.
Opinion: "Our Best Bet—Legislating a Robust Right to Peaceably Assemble ," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Balkinization, August 11, 2020.
Quoted by Dahlia Lithwick in "We've Neglected the Freedom of Assembly for Years Before Portland ," Slate, July 29, 2020.
Quoted by Garrett Epps in "The Whole Concept of 'Unlawful Assembly' Is a Mess," The Atlantic, August 9, 2019.
Opinion: "How to Empower Non-Wealthy Americans without Going to Court," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, The Brennan Center for Justice, July 18, 2018.
Opinion: "It Is Not the Money. It Is What It Does.," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, The Brennan Center for Justice, June 11, 2018.
Opinion: "Inconvenient Protests are the Price of Liberty," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 14, 2016.
Opinion: "By Undermining Unions, the Roberts Court Will Do Still More Damage to Our Democracy," Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Balkinization, December 15, 2015.


"Networking the Party: First Amendment Rights and the Pursuit of Responsive Party Government" Columbia Law Review 118 (2018): 1225-1301.

Argues that the Supreme Court's political party jurisprudence is predicated on a set of theoretical assumptions that do not hold true in the real world of contemporary American politics. Maintains that an alternative path to democratic responsiveness emerges when one focuses on the associational qualities of partisan networks. Concludes by identifying opportunities within existing First Amendment doctrine for fostering partisan networks more capable of producing democratic responsiveness and accountability.

"Beyond Campaign Finance Reform" Boston College Law Review 57 (2016).

Argues that the First Amendment tradition poses a formidable barrier to curtailing the influence of moneyed interests and thus legal reformers must begin to explore ways law might encourage civic reorganization with the aim of fostering an organized, informed and representative electorate.

"Changing the People: Legal Regulation and American Democracy" New York University Law Review 86 (2011).

Demonstrates that the pervasive role of law in structuring the practices of democratic politics – from advance regulation of public assemblies to detailed rules governing elections – is the product of a particular period of American history in order to challenge core assumptions driving the work of contemporary scholars who write about the law of the American political process.

"Defining Peaceably: Policing the Line Between Constitutionally Protected Protest and Unlawful Assembly" Missouri Law Review 80 (2015).

Uses the experiences of Black Lives Matter to criticize judicial interpretations of the right of assembly that leave protestors feeling unprotected and lower courts confused about how much disruption officials are constitutionally required to tolerate.

"The Neglected Right of Assembly" UCLA Law Review 56, no. 3 (2009).

Demonstrates the inadvertent narrowing of the constitutional right of assembly by showing that through the late nineteenth century officials could only constitutionally interfere with gatherings that actually disturbed the public peace, whereas today the state is permitted to regulate all public assemblies, including those that are both peaceful and not inconvenient, before they occur, through permit requirements.

"All Assemble: Order and Disorder in Law, Politics and Culture" University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 16, no. 4 (2014): 949-1040.

Compares the experiences of the Occupy movement with the experiences of ethnic, religious, and labor assemblies in the late nineteenth century in order to explore the democratic value of tolerating the disruption associated with outdoor gatherings.