Kirsten Matoy Carlson, ’03, is a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan, a faculty scholar in the ABF/JBP Access to Justice Scholars Program, and a professor of law at Wayne State University, where she teaches federal Indian law, civil procedure, legislation, and legal change. She is a Marilyn Williamson Endowed Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Humanities Center at Wayne State University for 2023–2024.
Her interdisciplinary, empirical research investigates access to justice issues, including legal mobilization and law reform strategies used by Native peoples to reform law and policy effectively. Her work seeks to elevate Native voices in their quest for justice within the legal system. It has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Levin Center at Wayne Law.
Her numerous articles have appeared in student-edited law reviews, such as the Michigan Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, and Washington Law Review, and peer-reviewed interdisciplinary and political science journals, such as Law and Society Review, Publius—The Journal of Federalism, and the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics. Her article “Lobbying Against the Odds” was selected for presentation at the Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum at Harvard Law School. She has appeared on National Public Radio and Michigan Public Radio.
In 2019–2020, Carlson held a career development chair, which honors outstanding research faculty at Wayne State University. From May 2014 through July 2019, she served as the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program grant. During 2017-2018, she was one of two inaugural Levin Center Research Scholars. In 2016-2017, she received the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the Wayne State Academy of Scholars. She also received the Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014 and was selected by students as the Professor of the Year, First Year, in 2017 and 2023.
Before joining the Wayne State Law School in 2011, Carlson received a National Science Foundation dissertation research grant to study the constitutional entrenchment of Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada and a Fulbright Scholarship to research attitudes toward the Waitangi Tribunal and the treaty claims settlement process in New Zealand. She has also served as a visiting research scholar at the University of Ottawa and a visiting professor at Michigan Law and the University of Minnesota Law School.
Carlson brings a range of professional and academic experience to her teaching and research. She serves on the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on American Indian Law and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Before joining Wayne Law, she advocated nationally and internationally to protect the rights of Indian nations as a staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center. She led the center's advocacy efforts to restore criminal jurisdiction to Indian nations to end violence against women in Indian Country.