February 26, 2024

In a year-end report, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts discussed the possible impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the judicial system. He acknowledged that AI is likely to play an increased role in the work of attorneys and judges, but does not expect human judges to be fully replaced anytime soon. Roberts predicted that judicial work, especially at the trial level, will be significantly affected by AI, particularly in legal research.

He noted that AI could help increase access to legal resources for those who cannot afford them, but also highlighted risks and drawbacks. These include potential privacy invasions, dehumanization of the law, and the possibility of AI-generated false information or “hallucinations.” He cited an example of Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen using an AI to look up court cases, leading to the citation of non-existent cases.

Roberts cautioned legal workers to exercise caution and humility when relying on AI tools, and suggested that citing non-existent court cases in legal filings is always a bad idea. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans also proposed a rule requiring lawyers to certify that they did not rely on AI to draft briefs, or that a human fact-checked and edited any text generated by a chatbot.

Overall, while acknowledging the potential benefits of AI in the legal field, Roberts emphasized the need for careful consideration and oversight to ensure that AI tools are used responsibly and ethically.

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