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Chief Justice Roberts sees the promise and danger of AI in the courts

Chief Justice Roberts sees the promise and danger of AI in the courts

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. dedicated their annual year end report On the position of the federal judiciary, issued on Sunday, regarding the positive role of artificial intelligence in the legal system and the threats it poses.

His report did not address the Supreme Court's tumultuous year, including the adoption of an ethics code that many described as toothless. Nor did he support former President Donald J. Discussed matters arising from Trump's criminal prosecutions and questions about his eligibility to hold office.

The chief justice's report was nonetheless timely, coming just days after revelations that Michael D. Cohen, a onetime fixer for Mr. Trump, had sent his lawyer to fake legal citations created by Google Bard, an artificial intelligence program. Were provided.

Referring to a similar episode earlier, Chief Justice Roberts said that “any use of AI requires caution and humility.”

“One of the major applications of AI made headlines this year due to a flaw called 'hallucinations',” they wrote, “which required lawyers using the application to submit briefs with citations to non-existent cases.” (Always a bad idea.)

Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged the promise of the new technology while noting its dangers.

He wrote, “Law professors report with both astonishment and anger that AI can apparently earn B's on law school assignments and even pass the bar exam.” “Legal research may soon become unthinkable without it. AI clearly has great potential to dramatically increase access to important information for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. But just as clearly this risks attacking privacy interests and dehumanizing the law.

The Chief Justice referred to bankruptcy forms, saying some applications can streamline legal filings and save money. “These tools have the welcome potential to address any mismatch between available resources and immediate needs in our court system,” he wrote.

Chief Justice Roberts has long had an interest in the intersection of law and technology. He typically wrote majority opinions in decisions that required the government to obtain warrants to search digital information on cellphones seized from arrested people and to collect large amounts of location data about cellphone companies' customers. Is required.

In His 2017 visit to Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteThe Chief Justice was asked whether he could “imagine a day when smart machines powered by artificial intelligence will assist in fact-finding or, more controversially, judicial decision-making in the court?”

The Chief Justice said yes. “This is a day that has come,” he said, “and it is putting significant pressure on the way the judiciary works.” He appeared to be referring to software used in sentencing decisions.

This tension has increased further, the Chief Justice wrote on Sunday.

“In criminal cases, the use of AI in assessing flight risk, recidivism, and other largely discretionary decisions has raised concerns about due process, reliability, and potential bias,” they wrote. “At least at present, studies show a persistent public perception of the 'human-AI fairness gap,' which reflects the view that human judgments, for all their flaws, are far fairer than anything the machine spits out “

Chief Justice Roberts concluded that “legal determinations often involve vague areas that still require the application of human judgment.”

“Judges, for example, weigh the honesty of a defendant's statements when sentencing,” he wrote. “Subtleties matter: a trembling hand, a trembling voice, a change in turn, a drop of sweat, a moment's hesitation, a momentary interruption of eye contact can change a lot. And most people still trust humans more than machines to understand these clues and draw the right conclusions from them.

The appellate judges will not be replaced any time soon, he wrote.

The Chief Justice wrote, “Many appellate decisions depend on whether the trial court abused its discretion, a standard which by its nature involves fact-specific gray areas.” “Others focus on open questions about how the law should evolve in new areas. AI is largely based on existing information, which can inform but not drive decisions.

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