by a company called Northpointe Inc.
The algorithm indicated Loomis had
“a high risk of violence, high risk of recidivism, [and] high pretrial risk.” This
influenced the six-year sentence he received, though the sentencing judges
were advised to take note of the algorithm’s limitations.
Criminal justice algorithms like
the one in the Loomis case use personal data such as age, sex, and employment history to recommend
sentencing, reports the Electronic
Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The technology is relatively common
in the U.S. legal system.
“Criminal justice algorithms are
used across the country, but the specific tools differ by state or even county,”
The case for using AI-based systems
to assist in the legal process hinges
on the perceived ability of machines
to be more impartial than humans.
“Humans can be swayed by emotion.
Humans can be convinced. Humans
get tired or have a bad day,” says Tracy
Greenwood, an expert in e-discovery,
the process of using machines to per-
WHEN THE HEAD of the U.S. Supreme Court says artificial intel- ligence (AI) is having a significant impact
on how the legal system in this coun-
try works, you pay attention. That’s
exactly what happened when Chief
Justice John Roberts was asked the
“Can you foresee a day when smart
machines, driven with artificial intelli-
gences, will assist with courtroom fact-
finding or, more controversially even,
His answer startled the audience.
“It’s a day that’s here and it’s putting
a significant strain on how the judiciary goes about doing things,” he said, as
reported by The New York Times.
In the last decade, the field of AI has
experienced a renaissance. The field
was long in the grip of an “AI winter,”
in which progress and funding dried
up for decades, but technological
breakthroughs in AI’s power and accuracy changed all that. Today, giants like
Google, Microsoft, and Amazon rely on
AI to power their current and future
Yet AI isn’t just affecting tech giants and cutting-edge startups; it is
transforming one of the oldest disciplines on the planet: the application
of the law.
AI is already used to analyze documents and data during the legal discovery process, thanks to its ability to
parse through millions of words faster
(and more cheaply) than human beings. That alone could automate away
or completely change the almost
300,000 paralegal and legal assistant
jobs estimated to exist by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that
is just the beginning of AI’s potential
impact; it also is being used today to
influence the outcomes of actual cases.
In one high-profile 2017 case, a man
named Eric Loomis was sentenced to
six years in prison thanks, in part, to
recommendations from AI algorithms.
The system analyzed data about Loomis and made sentencing recommendations to a human judge on the suggested length of Loomis’ sentence.
Make no mistake: AI-enhanced courtrooms may be more science fact than
science fiction—for better or for worse.
The Predictable, Reliable Choice?
Artificial intelligence holds some promise for the world of legal decisions.
In Canada, Randy Goebel, a professor in the computer science department of the University of Alberta
working in conjunction with Japanese
researchers, developed an algorithm
that can pass the Japanese bar exam.
Now, the team is working to develop
AI that can “weigh contradicting legal
evidence, rule on cases, and predict
the outcomes of future trials,” according to Canadian broadcaster CBC.
The goal is to use machines to help
humans make better legal decisions.
This is already being attempted in
U.S. courtrooms. In the Loomis case, AI
was used to evaluate individual defendants. The algorithm used was created
and built into software called Compas
AI Judges and Juries
Artificial intelligence is changing the legal industry.
Society | DOI: 10.1145/3283222 Logan Kugler