Law professor to present paper at Conference on Empirical Legal Studies

Wayne State University Law School Assistant Professor Kirsten Matoy Carlson was selected to present a paper at the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies in October in St. Louis.

Her paper, "Congress, Tribal Recognition, and Legislative-Administrative Multiplicity," was chosen from among nearly 340 other submitted papers after "substantial peer review," according to officials from the Society for Empirical Legal Studies, an international organization of scholars.

Carlson's paper will be published this winter in the Indiana Law Journal.

The first empirical study to consider the role of Congress in the recognition of Indian nations by the United States, her paper debunks common misunderstandings about federal recognition. It demonstrates that federal recognition is not a uniform administrative process run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Rather, parallel legislative and administrative processes exist and often intersect in complex ways.

"My findings force us to admit the far-reaching implications of the misconceptions we have about federal recognition," Carlson said. "Almost 40 years of critiques and reforms possibly misguided ones have flowed from this myopia. It is time to rethink and re-evaluate now that we can see federal recognition for what it is a legislative-administrative multiplicity."

Her study also identifies "a new kind of jurisdictional overlap" that has been overlooked and shows the "complicated interactions among agencies and Congress and raises questions about these relationships," she said.

The paper shows how scholars can use empirical investigation to check prevailing assumptions. Better knowledge of the way American Indian nations are recognized by the different branches of the federal government may produce better policy, she said.

At Wayne Law, Carlson teaches American Indian Law and Civil Procedure. She serves on the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on American Indian Law.

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 2016, 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 American Indian Law Review, Georgia State Law Review, Michigan Law Review and Michigan State Law Review.

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 earned a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University; master of arts degree in Maaori studies from the University of Wellington, New Zealand; and law degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan.

Published: Tue, Sep 29, 2015