Supreme Court's John Roberts Urges "Caution" On Using Artificial Intelligence

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jan 01, 2024 - 10:30 PM

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times,

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing the legal field and will have a major impact in the future, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said in his year-end report for 2023.

AI is already enabling people who cannot afford lawyers to find answers to questions such as how to fill out court forms, Justice Roberts said. He said AI can “increase access to justice” with tools that “have the welcome potential to smooth out any mismatch between available resources and urgent needs in our court system.”

“But any use of AI,” he added, “requires caution and humility” because it risks “dehumanizing the law.”

A growing number of lawyers have been using AI in their work, and several lawyers were sanctioned over the summer for including non-existent cases, put forth by AI, as citations in a brief. Some defendants have also said they or their lawyers erroneously used AI in building their cases.

There’s also concern about courts using AI in assessing key factors about people who are charged, such as flight risk, due to “potential bias,” with studies showing “human adjudications, for all of their flaws, are fairer than whatever the machine spits out,” Justice Roberts said.

In the report, addressed to the federal judiciary, he said that “machines cannot fully replace key actors in court,” bringing up how judges keep a close eye on the demeanor of defendants when handing down sentences.

“Nuance matters: Much can turn on a shaking hand, a quivering voice, a change of inflection, a bead of sweat, a moment’s hesitation, a fleeting break in eye contact,” he said.

“And most people still trust humans more than machines to perceive and draw the right inferences from these clues.”

AI applications do help advance just, speedy, and inexpensive resolutions to cases, which the federal system is directed to prioritize under federal rules, but as AI evolves, courts must take care in figuring out how AI can be properly used, the chief justice said. The Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets policy for the federal courts, will be involved in that calculus, he said.

“I am glad that they will be,” Justice Roberts wrote.

I predict that human judges will be around for a while. But with equal confidence I predict that judicial work—particularly at the trial level—will be significantly affected by AI. Those changes will involve not only how judges go about doing their job, but also how they understand the role that AI plays in the cases that come before them.”

A federal appeals court in November issued a proposed rule on requiring lawyers to sign papers saying they did not use AI programs for briefs, or that if they did, then the briefs were subsequently reviewed by a human.

The year-end reports go over “a major issue relevant to the whole federal court system,” Justice Roberts said. Before bringing up AI, he went over how the judiciary has changed over the years, including transitioning from pens to typewriters to computers.

Justice Roberts, 68, was appointed by former President George W. Bush and began serving on the nation’s top court in 2005. A Harvard Law School graduate, he was a lawyer for 14 years before becoming a federal judge.

The chief justice oversees the federal judiciary.

The year-end report did not touch on ethics concerns, which include recently reported free trips provided to several justices by wealthy Americans. Democrats have been pushing for more regulation of the Supreme Court. The nation’s top court adopted its first formal ethics code in November, but critics say more oversight is needed.

Justice Roberts, in his 2022 year-end report, called for more security for judges after attacks on several judges, while saying that Americans are free to disagree with rulings from the Supreme Court.

In the 2021 year-end report, the justice said federal judges should improve their adherence to ethics rules after more than 100 were caught violating a rule requiring recusal in cases in which they have a financial interest.