Should judges be permitted to auto-generate legal opinions?
We are sort-of-near a reality where judges can input the briefs to the model which will spit out a judgment. Is it ethical to do it?
I’m not talking about the model generating the outcome; decision-assisting algos are important &problematic. I’m talking about the exposition, the billions of words used every year to explain the legal outcome. Can judges spare the trouble of writing decisions themselves?
Clearly, such technology will save tons of resources, giving more time to consider the merits of each case and speed up trials, so there is a gain in justice. The costs depend on what we think writing judgments actually does. Why do judges write so much?
#1 scrutiny. Judges write to document their reasoning, which allows scrutiny by others (e.g., appellate courts). In this view, models are bad b/c they don’t reflect the true internal process. But a lot of ppl doubt that judgments are anything like that. Outcome<reasoning
#2 prediction. If we know *why* a judge decided the case the way they did, we can predict outcome of similar but not identical cases. Auto-gen judgments sort-of approx this–they focus on statistically relevant factors to write the decision. But how well they’ll do it is a big Q.
#3 persuasion. Decisions are used to persuade the legal community the outcome is correct. It’s counterintuitive for sure, but maybe algos will be better than some judges? Even today, GPT-3 writes better sonnets than I ever will
#4 signaling. By writing so much, judges prove to the parties/community that they read the briefs and “did their homework.” Here, the algo wud be counter-productive. But is this our view of legal decisions? If so, are there better ways to regulate judges?
All of this is hardly exhaustive, and the technology is not quite here, but thinking about this now elicits clarity on what writing judgments does today.
“Estonia to build ‘robot judge’ to clear case backlog” https://www.legalcheek.com/2019/03/estonia-to-build-robot-judge-to-clear-case-backlog/