AI Judges: The Future of Justice?

By Brand Heeler

Artificial intelligence is being used to automate more and more tasks, including some that were once thought to be the exclusive domain of humans. Could AI one day replace human judges in the courtroom?

One of the biggest concerns about the increasing use of artificial intelligence in business is the potential effect on jobs. Will AI automate away large sectors of employment? Will it create new jobs? According to a report from Australia’s ABC, the answers to both these questions is “yes”. Apparently Judges are No.5 in a list of the top 10 jobs to be replaced. But this report has a slightly strange take on which jobs are likely to be in ChatGPT jeopardy. There are the usual suspects one might expect to see in such as list, ie routine and easily automatable functions such as logistic clerks or bookies’ assistants.

The impact of AI on the law

But one example struck us as very unusual: judges and their clerks, neither of which seems to be an obvious candidate for automation. The role of a judge is to make highly nuanced assessments of evidence and law, while a judge’s clerk works to assist them with legal research. Neither function can easily be boiled down to a simple process of facts+rules=judgment. It’s way more complicated than that and, as an infamous recent case has shown, Large Language Models (LLMs) are not currently at a standard where they can be trusted to act accurately or reliably.

A New York attorney is facing severe reprimand for relying on a collection of fictitious precedent cases which were invented (or “hallucinated”) by ChatGPT. Although the lawyer had thought to corroborate these cases before citing them, he unfortunately did so by double-checking with ChatGPT – essentially asking it to verify its own hallucinations! This is no doubt an extreme situation, and one which was swiftly picked up by the human lawyers on the other side, but it clearly demonstrates the limits of LLMs such as ChatGPT.

  • A US lawyer used ChatGPT, an AI chatbot, to prepare a court filing.
  • ChatGPT invented fake cases and rulings, which the lawyer submitted to the court.
  • The lawyer was forced to apologize to the court and faces serious professional sanctions.
  • This incident highlights the potential for AI to be used to create false or misleading information, which could have a significant impact on the law.

But in any case, justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done. An effective legal system needs to be credible and acceptable to the society it serves. Its decisions must be reasonable and justified, and must be open to scrutiny and criticism with appropriate avenues for appeal. Currently, this means humans sitting in judgment over humans and, while human judges may soon be using AI as a tool in formulating their decisions, we can’t see that AI (with its “black-box” opacity) will be replacing them any time soon.

The future of the legal profession

AI is rapidly developing and becoming more sophisticated, which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between human-generated and AI-generated content. This could have a number of implications for the law, including:

  • Increased difficulty in detecting fraud and other forms of deception.
  • Increased difficulty in proving cases in court.
  • Increased difficulty in enforcing laws and regulations.

Lawmakers and regulators will need to find ways to address these challenges in order to ensure that AI is used in a responsible and ethical manner.

In addition to the potential for AI to be used to create false or misleading information, AI is also being used to automate a wide range of legal tasks, such as legal research, document review and drafting contracts. This could lead to significant changes in the legal profession as paralegals and junior lawyers are displaced by AI-powered tools.

The impact of AI on the law is still unfolding, but it is clear that AI has the potential to revolutionize the legal landscape. Lawmakers and regulators will need to be proactive in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by AI in order to ensure that the law remains fair and just.

AI technology will no doubt advance rapidly in terms of quality but, even if it could be trusted to perform consistently and appropriately, would we as a society have faith in a system where the fate of your business could be decided by an algorithm or where you could be sent to prison by a computer? For this reason alone, we very much doubt that AI is anywhere close to replacing the jobs of judges or their clerks.

This article contains our thoughts and opinions on an issue of general interest and is written from the perspective of Australian and/or English law. It is not legal advice and is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship. It may not even be relevant to your jurisdiction. No duty of care is assumed or accepted. Please carry out appropriate research and consult with a suitably qualified legal expert before taking any action or making any decisions.