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Abstract

While there is extensive scholarship on lower criminal courts, civil courts are often ignored in sociological discourse. I conducted an ethnographic study of a pro se small claims court in hopes of contributing to this limited scholarship. Drawing on existing sociological theories, and my own observation, I argue that these courts are the locus of a negotiation between democratic ideals and autocratic control. This negotiation is apparent in the architecture of the space, its rhetorical structure, and its judge’s relationship to the law.

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