Kirsten Matoy Carlson

Kirsten Matoy Carlson

Associate Professor of Law and Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science

Room 3243

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(313) 577-1201

Curriculum Vitae

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Kirsten Matoy Carlson


Kirsten Matoy Carlson is an associate professor at Wayne State University Law School. Her research focuses on legal advocacy and law reform, with particular attention on the various strategies used by Indian nations and indigenous groups to reform federal Indian law and policy effectively. Carlson's research integrates traditional legal analysis with social science methodologies for studying legal and political advocacy.

From May 2014 through July 2017, she has a National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program grant to fund her research project, Legal Mobilization, Rights Claims, and Federal Indian Policy Reform. Carlson previously received a National Science Foundation dissertation research grant to study the constitutional entrenchment of Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada. As a Fulbright Scholar, she researched attitudes toward the Waitangi Tribunal and the treaty claims settlement process in New Zealand. Her articles have been published in the Michigan Law Review, University of Colorado Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, American Indian Law Review and Michigan State Law Review.

At Wayne Law, Carlson teaches federal Indian law, legislation, legal change and civil procedure. She serves on the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on American Indian Law and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Carlson brings a range of professional and academic experience to her teaching and research. 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. Carlson also has been a visiting research scholar at the University of Ottawa and a visiting associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. She 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 of arts degree in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University.

Degrees and Certifications

Ph.D., University of Michigan
J.D., University of Michigan Law School
M.A., Victoria University in New Zealand
B.A., The Johns Hopkins University

Courses Taught

American Indian Law
Civil Procedure

Selected Publications

Congress, Tribal Recognition, and Legislative-Administrative Multiplicity, 91 Indiana Law Journal 955 (2016)

Congress and Indians, 86 University of Colorado Law Review 77 (2015).

Political Failure, Judicial Opportunity: The Supreme Court of Canada and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, 44 American Review of Canadian Studies 334 (2014) (peer-reviewed).

Jurisdiction and Human Rights Accountability in Indian Country, Michigan State Law Review 355 (2013).

Priceless Property, 29 Georgia State University Law Review 685 (2013).

"Natural Allies: Conservationists, Indian Tribes, and Protecting Native North America," in Sarah Krakoff and Ezra Rosser, Eds., Tribes, Land, and the Environment (2012) (with Robert T. Coulter).

Does Constitutional Change Matter? Canada's Recognition of Aboriginal Title, 22 Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 449 (2005) (distributed to more than 1,000 practitioners and scholars at the 2010 Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference).

Note, Towards Tribal Sovereignty and Judicial Efficiency: Ordering the Defenses of Tribal Sovereign Immunity and Exhaustion of Tribal Remedies, 101 Michigan Law Review 569 (2002) (second place, National Native American Law Students Association Annual Writing Competition).


  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    wrote “Judge Murphy’s Indian Law Legacy” for the Minnesota Law Review.

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    was a recipient of a 2019-20 Career Development Chair Award from Wayne State University. The university’s award program supports outstanding tenured faculty members in the early stages of their careers.

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    paper “Lobbying as a Strategy for Tribal Resilience” was accepted for publication in the Brigham Young University Law Review.

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    spoke at a memorial session in honor of Judge Diana E. Murphy of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 18.

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    has been named an inaugural Levin Center Research Scholar. The research award will be presented on an annual basis to a member of the Wayne Law faculty in an effort to support scholarship central to the mission of the Levin Center at Wayne Law. Read more

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    has been invited to participate in the Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum at Harvard Law School on June 13-14, 2018. Carlson will present her paper, “Lobbying Against the Odds,” which is forthcoming in the Harvard Journal on Legislation. Read more here

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    was a speaker at the Politics of Race, Immigration, and Ethnicity Consortium at the University of New Mexico. She discussed “Opposition as Influence: American Indian Advocacy Against Federal Legislation.”

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    latest research “Making Strategic Choices: How and Why Indian Groups Advocated for Federal Recognition from 1977 to 2012” reveals that a dynamic interplay of goals, motivations, and constraints influence groups to different strategies over time. Read more

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    was selected to receive Wayne State University Academy of Scholars' Junior Faculty Award for the 2016-17 academic year. This award is given annually to a select number of junior faculty members who have a significant record of publications or creative achievement and who have achieved national or international recognition very early in their careers.

In the news

  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    wrote "Protect American Indians," for The Detroit News. The column also was mentioned in the SCOTUS Blog round-up.

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  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson

    was featured in the Detroit Legal News report, "Wayne Law professor to receive WSU Academy of Scholars award."

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Advocating for justice, serving the community, revitalizing Detroit and Michigan