U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts predicts AI will “significantly” impact legal work
at the trial level while saying AI usage by legal teams requires “caution and humility.”
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts released the end-of-year report for the
Supreme Court on Dec. 31, saying he predicts artificial intelligence (AI) will “significantly” impact legal work.
In his yearly wrap-up, Roberts included AI as a major focus of his personal statement, in which he predicted judges would “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 wrote that the changes sparked by AI will not only involve how judges do their job but also their understanding of AI’s role in cases they deal with. Roberts highlighted that as the technology evolves,
courts will need to “consider its proper uses” in litigation.
According to Roberts, AI can “indisputably assist” the current judicial system in pushing forward the
goals of implementing rule no. 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures to seek the “just, speedy, and inexpensive” resolution of cases.
“But any use of AI requires caution and humility,” he continued.
He particularly mentioned the case of AI “hallucinations,” in which answers the technology provides contain false or misleading information that is presented as fact.
On Dec. 31, the former lawyer for entrepreneur and former U.S. President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, blamed AI for fake citations in legal documents.
Roberts also stressed that “machines cannot fully replace key actors in court”
and suggested that judges can measure the “sincerity of a defendant’s allocution” at the sentencing.
“Nuance matters,” he said. “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.”
“And most people still trust humans more than machines to perceive and draw the right inferences from these clues.”
This message from the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice comes less than a month after a group of
senior judges in the United Kingdom issued AI guidance for the judiciary in England and Wales to follow.
The U.K. advisory instructed judges on how to use AI while warning of its potential risk during trial use.
For a longer read on what’s to come with AI usage in the legal sphere, check out our “2024 AI legal challenges” predictions roundup.