Emily Wacyk Paski

2020 | Lansing, MI

Western Michigan University | International and Comparative Politics

“I saw that there was this population of people in need of advocacy and I wanted to use my legal degree to serve them.”

Emily Wacyk Paski, ’20, came to law school planning to use her legal education in the public interest sector and found her stride in the Indigenous Law Program at MSU Law.

Wacyk Paski studied international and comparative politics at Western Michigan University where she envisioned a future in international law. At the Law College, she combined her interests in human rights and access to justice closer to home.

“When I got to MSU Law, I learned that tribes are sovereign nations that have their own systems of laws that interact in a unique way with the federal government and – because they have shared citizens – with state governments. Studying tribal law is similar to issues in international law because our intergovernmental relationships are governed by different treaties and compacts, grounded in inherent sovereignty,” Wacyk Paski explained. “I saw that there was this population of people in need of advocacy and I wanted to use my legal degree to serve them.”

Through the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, she’s had firsthand experience with cases involving the Indian Child Welfare Act and working to keep Native children connected to their culture and tribes. As a mother to her son, Otto, Wacyk Paski is especially passionate about issues facing children. At MSU Law, she’s served as the chapter representative for the Students for Reproductive Justice, a liaison for the Student Parent Alliance, and a member of the Birth Rights Bar Association.

As a 3L, Wacyk Paski took a position in the Executive Office of the Governor alongside her mentor and MSU Law professor, Wenona Singel. Professor Singel was appointed as deputy legal counsel by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, ’98, in 2018 and became the first tribal citizen to hold the position. Wacyk Paski’s primary work with Professor Singel is in tribal state affairs.

A summit in the fall of 2019 brought together Governor Whitmer and tribal leaders from Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes to discuss concerns in the state and Indian Country. The governor signed an executive directive – developed by Wacyk Paski, Professor Singel, and their team – committing state agencies to perform tribal consultations when actions may implicate tribes or tribal interests.

Wacyk Paski’s position in the governor’s office involves her with indigenous law developments and has exposed her to state leadership, including many of the Michigan Supreme Court justices. With desire to balance her executive and policy work with courtroom experience, Wacyk Paski set her sights on a judicial clerkship.

Wacyk Paski applied to clerk for Justice Megan K. Cavanagh, the tribal court and child welfare system liaison for the Michigan Supreme Court.

After a highly competitive application process, Wacyk Paski secured the position and will begin her clerkship in August 2020; but she’s already a familiar face to judicial stakeholders in the state of Michigan. She presented at the Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum in November 2019.

“I was invited to present on behalf of the Executive Office of the Governor about my work on Executive Tribal Consultation and Executive Directive 2019-17, which I helped to research and draft over 5 months,” she said. “Next year, I will attend the Forum as a clerk for Justice Cavanagh.”