Pro Se Me, Pro Se You: The Logistics of Deprivatized "Self" Representation
by Corinne Blackmer — Southern Connecticut State University
April 05, 2010 – 00:18
In the summer of 2009, I had the occasion to confront on close terms some of the ethical dilemmas surrounding pro se representation. The practice of legal self-representation has grown exponentially over the past several years. The causes most commonly cited include the high costs of professional legal representation, the emergence of “unbundled” legal services, and the effect of mass media representations of court room drama on encouraging increasing numbers of Americans to repair to the law to achieve ends deemed desirable, important, or transformative. Most people continue to endeavor to avoid or minimize their contact with the courts, associating them with expense, alien procedural strictures, exacerbation of conflict, unproductive diversion of energies and purposes, and circumscribed conclusions. However, the motives of at least some of the people who in increasing numbers “court” the courts as pro se litigants ought not be reflexively reduced to quests for lucrative settlements or the triumph of right. In addition to those who seek out the courts for the erotic pleasures of engaging in legally approved forms of stalking and nettling of persons—from whom they are aware the courts will not provide them with other reward—there are those for whom the courts provide the last platform and language in lives otherwise invisible and inarticulate. The courts increasingly perceive their function as divided between adjudication of substantive claims at law by expensive licensed professionals on the one hand and the containment of violent impulses and desires on the other. The courts have never intended to compromise the rigorous exactions of law by rewarding the usually incompetent legal papers of pro se pleaders, but the practice of permitting them to use the courts as public venue for venting has reached critical mass, and is becoming untenable.