Prof. Kirsten Carlson Named As a ABF/JPB Access to Justice Scholar for its 2023-24 Cohort

Wayne Law Professor Kirsten Matoy Carlson has been selected to join the 2023-24 cohort of Faculty Scholars in The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program.

The Access to Justice Scholars Program promotes the next generation of scholars and supports the infrastructure of the burgeoning field of access to justice. It brings together scholars from across the country from many disciplines, including law, political science, public health, and sociology, to foster discoveries and build theoretical and empirical understanding of what is currently happening with access to civil justice. 

Dr. Carlson is one of six faculty scholars elected by an Advisory Committee from a highly qualified pool of applicants based on their diverse academic backgrounds and project proposals. The faculty scholars, from diverse backgrounds, will each bring their expertise to further the program’s core mission: generating impactful research on access to civil justice and translating this research into practice. The scholars’ projects will produce both discoveries to inform social scientific understandings of access to civil justice and knowledge to inform real-world policy and reduce poverty and inequality in the United States and beyond. Professor Carlson's work will investigate the gaps in existing measures of outcomes and impacts for legal services delivery in Native communities in the United States.

With funding from The JPB Foundation, the ABF supports these Faculty Scholars through mentorship, intellectual community, and funding. Their projects span an array of topics, including Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Program, legal service delivery in indigenous communities in the United States, how consumers engage with the civil legal system, unaccompanied children facing deportation in U.S. immigration courts, legal aid for eviction defense, and racial inequalities in driver’s license suspension. 

“America's access to justice crisis is decades old and, sadly, deepening,” said ABF Faculty Fellow and Access to Justice Scholars Program Director Rebecca Sandefur. “I'm thrilled to announce this year's new cohort of Scholars, whose insights and creativity bring new thinking to the program. Their projects engage new kinds of partnerships critical to giving people and communities effective tools to combat poverty and the power to use their own laws as members of our democracy.”  

Dr. Carlson is a leading authority on federal Indian law. 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. She integrates traditional legal analysis with social science methodologies for studying access to justice issues. Dr. Carlson’s groundbreaking research has revealed how tribal governments and Native organizations influence the federal legislative process to affect real world change in the lives of Native people. It has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Levin Center at Wayne Law. Her articles have appeared in the Michigan Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, University of Colorado Law Review, the Indiana Law Journal, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Law and Society Review, and selected for presentation at the Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum at Harvard Law School.

Currently, Professor Carlson teaches federal Indian law, legislation, legal change and civil procedure at Wayne State University Law School. She has received the Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching and been selected by students as the Professor of the Year, First Year.

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. Prior to 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. She also clerked for the Hon. Diana E. Murphy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Carlson earned her law degree cum laude and a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan, a master of arts degree with distinction in Maaori studies from the University of Wellington, New Zealand, and a bachelor’s in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University.

Learn more about the Access to Justice Scholars here.

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About the American Bar Foundation

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) is the world’s leading research institute for the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law. The ABF seeks to expand knowledge and advance justice through innovative, interdisciplinary, and rigorous empirical research on law, legal processes, and legal institutions. To further this mission the ABF will produce timely, cutting-edge research of the highest quality to inform and guide the legal profession, the academy, and society in the United States and internationally. The ABF’s primary funding is provided by the American Bar Endowment and the Fellows of The American Bar Foundation.

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