Doing Unrepresented Status: The Social Construction and Production of pro se Persons

44 Pages Posted: 22 May 2019 Last revised: 5 Jun 2020

Date Written: April 17, 2019

Abstract

In this Article, I propose an understanding of the dynamic process through which society does unrepresented status that is informed by psychological and sociological research. In describing this doing of unrepresented status, I elaborate two new concepts: the social construction of pro se status and the social production of unrepresented persons. These concepts illuminate ways in which the doing of unrepresented status is a routine, recurring feature in how court officials, lawyers, and law-trained persons perceive and interact with unrepresented persons within our civil justice system. That is, a pro se party is not something that an unrepresented person is; rather pro se status is socially constructed. In describing this doing of unrepresented status, I describe a dynamic process in which societal decisions influence the very presence and prevalence of unrepresented persons within our civil justice system (the social production of unrepresented persons) and the way in which the meaning of these unrepresented persons is, in turn, socially constructed into pro se persons, such as through the application of stereotypes, schemas, biases, expectations, and labels onto these unrepresented persons (the social construction of pro se persons). This dynamic process—this doing of unrepresented status—varies with and depends on the contexts and social identities of the persons involved. This novel understanding of the doing of unrepresented status stands in contrast to the belief that unrepresented persons are natural, inherent, or fixed features of a civil justice system or that pro se status is a stable essence, or an essential nature, that explains the presence of unrepresented persons in the civil justice system.

Keywords: Access to Justice, Psychological Science, Unrepresented Parties, Civil Justice Design

Suggested Citation

Quintanilla, Victor David, Doing Unrepresented Status: The Social Construction and Production of pro se Persons (April 17, 2019). DePaul Law Review, 25th Annual Clifford Symposium: Rising Stars A New Generation of Scholars Looks at Civil Justice (Forthcoming) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3376263 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3376263

Victor David Quintanilla (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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