In a year-end report published on Sunday, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts offered a nuanced perspective on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal field. He urged “caution and humility” as AI transforms the practices of judges and lawyers, acknowledging both the potential benefits and challenges posed by this evolving technology.
Chief Justice Roberts recognized the positive aspects of AI, citing its potential to enhance access to justice for indigent litigants, revolutionize legal research, and expedite and reduce costs in case resolution. However, he also raised concerns about privacy issues and emphasized the current limitations of technology in replicating human discretion.
While expressing confidence in the continued presence of human judges, Roberts predicted a significant influence of AI on judicial work, particularly at the trial level. This marks his most significant discussion to date on the influence of AI on the legal system. The report coincides with lower courts grappling with adapting to AI, which can pass the bar exam but is also prone to generating fictitious content, known as “hallucinations.”
The chief justice stressed the need for caution in any use of AI, highlighting instances where AI hallucinations led to lawyers citing non-existent cases in court papers. He cautioned against such practices, referencing recent headlines where AI-generated content found its way into official court filings, including a case involving Michael Cohen, former attorney for Donald Trump.
The report comes on the heels of a federal appeals court in New Orleans proposing a rule to regulate the use of generative AI tools by lawyers appearing before it. The proposed rule by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals would require lawyers to certify that they did not rely on AI programs to draft briefs or confirm that human review ensured the accuracy of any text generated by AI in their court filings.