U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warns Against AI Risk in Courts

AI-generated court filings are “always a bad idea”.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts is out with his annual “State of the Courts” annual report released at the end of the year.

In it, Roberts takes dead aim at the unbridled power of artificial intelligence to fraudulently shape legal opinions in the nation’s courtrooms and at legal negotiating tables.

“I predict that judicial work − particularly at the trial level − will be significantly affected by AI,” Roberts stated. “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.”

One recent instance of AI-engineered deception saw former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen issuing fraudulent AI-generated legal citations. On a larger scale, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against ChatGPT owners OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing the technology firms of illegally violating U.S. copyright laws to train OpenAI’s communication chatbots.

It’s No Tennis Match

With so much at stake as AI winds its way through the legal system, Roberts has a warning for those who judge and practice the law and for those who use the law to get favorable rulings – keep AI threats out of the equation.

Citing professional tennis, where optical technology and not human eyes decide whether a “130 miles per hour serve is in play or out”, Roberts says courtroom opinions aren’t built that way.

“Tennis decisions involve precision to the millimeter and there is no discretion,” he said. “The ball either did or did not hit the line. By contrast, legal determinations often involve gray areas that still require application of human judgment.”

That’s not to say Roberts believes there’s no place for AI in the legal arena – he does.

“(AI) tools have the welcome potential to smooth out any mismatch between available resources and urgent needs in our court system,” 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,” he added.

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