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Digital Justice: The Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Courtroom

Hand holding a gavel surrounded by digital icons to signify digital justice.

The cliche of overburdened judges and overcrowded courtrooms isn’t actually a cliche – it’s a reality. Expensive, complicated, and bureaucratic legal processes constrain the judicial system. They make the wheels of justice grind excruciatingly slow. Thus, the shift to digital justice–by integrating artificial intelligence in the courtroom–is gaining traction.

Case in point: Beijing, China, launched an online litigation service for “repetitive basic work”. The high-tech facility features a female AI judge. The e-service offers a complete user experience with human facial expressions and bodily gestures and actions. Meanwhile, in Europe, Estonia is developing a robo-judge to take care of small claims cases below €7,000. In the US, artificial intelligence in the courtroom and data analytics have already been used in various points within the justice system. Predictive policing to pre-trial risk-assessment to sentencing to parole and probation already utilizes artificial intelligence and data technology in the courtroom. When it comes to technology aiding with the scales of justice, the future is already upon us!

Data Technology: Augmenting the Judicial System

The digital revolution has made a significant impact on almost every facet of modern life. The judicial system is no exception. Thus far, artificial intelligence in the courtroom and data technology application in the judicial ecosystem has been largely around data analytics and research. Decision-makers in the judicial system appreciate the value of objective and unbiased data processing and analysis through AI and Data technology.

Cartoon of robot serving digital justice.
Digital justice is transforming the justice system.

For instance, Equivant was a foremost software company used by several US courts across the country.  Equivant developed COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) which is a tool to assess and manage recidivism among defendants. Similarly, the bail system is also getting a digital justice revamp. With the aim of reducing the use of cash bail, Freecog uses mobile technology to help defendants who are awaiting trial.

On the other hand, law firms benefit from legal analytics tools such as Lex Machina and Ravel Law. By collecting vast amounts of litigation data and using advanced algorithms, law firms draw valuable insights that can be advantageous for the case. Furthermore, lawyers contribute to the implementation of digital justice through efficient legal research. With startups Ross Intelligence and Luminance, legal research is done faster and more efficiently. Citizens who cannot afford to hire the services of a lawyer can now turn to the world’s first Robot Lawyer – DoNotPay. This AI-powered legal counsel can help in the appeal parking tickets and sue anyone in small claims court.

AI-Powered Biases and Other Uncertainties with Digital Justice

Assimilating digital technology within the judicial system’s processes certainly affords several benefits. Moreover, the potential of digital justice has already been demonstrated with the presence of artificial intelligence in the courtroom. But for critics, exclusive reliance on AI for efficiency and objectivity raises several concerns.

  • As a practice, an intuitive and insightful analysis of information is critical in the judiciary profession. While AI can aid in research and cross-referencing evidence against preceding cases, intuition and cognition incorporate compassion and balance.
  • Practitioners within the field – lawyers, judges, barristers – hone their cognitive and intuitive skills through years of practice. AI systems, on the other hand, solely rely on patterns lifted from troves of legal data.
  • The legal data and litigation records accessed by AI systems cannot and should not be filtered. Regrettably, this data includes mistrials and biases. Artificial intelligence systems learn from the data that is fed to them. As such, critics of digital justice are concerned that these biases and predispositions will be reflected in the algorithm.
  • With security threats and data breach, there is constant concern about unscrupulous actors tampering on AI systems and legal data records. Consequently, these intrusions may influence the AI system’s recommendations.
  • Scores obtained from Risk Assessment systems are highly disputed due to unclear methodologies and questionable data sources. False positives and partiality to certain demographics have been noted.

Justice delayed is justice denied – so states a legal maxim. The adage underpins the truth that the implementation of justice must be in a timely manner. For the party who suffered from the inequity, a delay in serving justice is, in fact, an injustice.

Certainly, with the help of technology, artificial intelligence and data technology can handle repetitive tasks. This can assist courts and legal offices to focus resources on more complex cases. Consequently, societies can look forward to a faster and more efficient digital justice system.

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