In light of the numerous safety precaution measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many courts throughout the world are delaying trials and closing doors, leaving some cases in limbo for weeks and months. The Chief Justices of many judicial systems are issuing guidance to implement new AI-based systems where available to ensure access to justice despite coronavirus.
An artificial intelligence-based judicial system would not be stalled during the pandemic and in a project by the Estonian Ministry of Justice, a “robot judge: has been created to adjudicate small disputes. The use of such technology may help to clear a backlog of cases for judges and help make the legal system more efficient holistically (Springer).
In light of a time where adaptability is crucial, the legal system is continually evolving and undergoing changes to be flexible to unprecedented circumstances. For example, in the Supreme Court of California, in-person arguments have been suspended and have moved through telephone, video, or other electronic means to keep the justice system in operation. Moreover in the United Kingdom, the Justice Ministry has begun limiting court hearings for only the most urgent cases and encourages the use of technology.
One criticism of AI is that it is only as good as its programming, such as in the US, which has been suspected of bias against people of color. Thus it is vital that artificial intelligence does not rely on internal biases to conclude a seemingly fair verdict. Furthermore, cases involving welfare, human rights, domestic violence, or deprivation of liberty may not be able to fully accommodate the intricacies of such trials, and despite the advancement of AI, may not be reliable. In such cases, a human judge can work alongside the technology to ensure these cases are dealt with in an appropriate manner.
While it is unlikely that technology and AI cannot entirely replace lawyers, evident through the amassed failed attempts to implement this change over the past decade, there is the possibility for AI to be incorporated into the legal system. For example, “can one lawyer, augmented by machines, perform the same work that five lawyers sued to do?” asked Forbes Magazine. The answer is yes.
This change has always begun. Predictive algorithms are being used by the U.S, Judicial services to deploy forces effectively and facial recognition has been a game-changer for catching crime in large cities. In addition, associates in law firms used to physically go to the defendant’s force and take evidence. However, this practice then began relying on servers and the cloud, rather than a team of lawyers going to a legal library and conducting research (Springer).
Moreover, the resources required to set up Artificial Intelligence to support the judicial system may not be accessible for developing countries. To produce a fair verdict by data involves tools for both the litigants and legal professionals. Taking advantage of cloud computing” and other technology may help the judiciaries across the world more efficiently, effectively, and unbiasedly. (Forbes)
While AI may pose a variety of benefits for legal professionals and ensuring cases are heard and resolved in a timely manner, it is important to be cautious of the dichotomies that exist between technology and law. Law requires a sense of empathy, a need to understand human behavior and mental processes, and a sense of understanding in order to remain impartial. AS of the moment, it seems as though AI is unable to fully replicate a court proceeding which is morally just, however, may present a short-term solution in the face of coronavirus to keep the legal system active.