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A look at emerging technologies and the courts

June 24, 2020

If there is one thing the onset of COVID-19 has demonstrated is the need for courts to examine and embrace new technologies.  Professor Gary E. Marchant in an article written recently in the American Judges Association's publication Court Review published just before the pandemic offered a prescient observation “the static view of the world is an illusion, however, and masks the unprecedented disruptive change going on in the world around us.”

These disruptors include:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Merchant notes AI and machine learning are not the same, but both present challenges from a legal perspective (who has legal liability, the AI or the programmers who created the AI?).
  • Robo-judges – to what extent can and should the act of adjudication be deferred to AI/machine learning? The question is not if these proceedings will take place (Marchant notes the use of such systems as Prometea in Argentina, Watson in Ohio, and the use of robo-judging in China), but how and under what conditions/limitations.
  • Genetic evidence – can information suggesting genetic predisposition to criminality be admitted into evidence? Should it?
  • Drones – both in terms of their potential intrusions into privacy and people's reactions (such as shooting them down).

Marchant's article offers a good, general overview of the questions and challenges posed by these new technologies. For those seeking resources to answer these questions, NCSC has several resources.

  • The Joint Technology Committee's Introduction to AI for Courts (March 2020) Offers an overview of AI Technologies and differentiates them (Visual Perception, Optical Character Recognition, Natural Language Processing, Symbolic AI, and Machine Learning) for court use
  • Court Technology Conference (CTC 2019) CMS Intelligence: Using AI in Trial and Appellate Courts, Israel (video, PowerPoint) examined how AI can help in case management at both the trial and appellate levels
  • CTC 2019 AI: Separating Hype From Reality A panel presentation that addressed basic questions such as what is AI and how does it work, AI in practice & its drawbacks, ethical principles for the use of AI, and  operationalizing the principles associated with AI

Let us know how new technology has changed your court operations? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

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