Robot Lawyers And Robot Judges Now Everywhere

Used to be that people wanted other people to adjudicate their conflicts. Human judges, human juries, human lawyers, human law clerks. Well, no more.

Couples in the Netherlands can use an online platform to negotiate divorce, custody, and child-support agreements. Similar tools are being rolled out in England and Canada. British Columbia is setting up an online Civil Resolution Tribunal this summer to handle condominium disputes; it will eventually process almost all small-claims cases in the province. Until now, says Suzanne Anton, the province’s minister of justice, “if you had a complaint about noise or water coming through your ceiling, you might have to go to the Supreme Court,” spending years and thousands of dollars to get a ruling....

Employing online tools to settle routine legal disputes can improve access to justice for people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer, while freeing up court dockets for more complex cases, enthusiasts say. And “citizen expectations are being driven by the private sector,” Rule says. Courts and government agencies that adopt the technology “stand the best chance of keeping their constituents” satisfied, he says.

The Dutch government’s Legal Aid Board has operated a platform called Rechtwijzer (Roadmap to Justice) since 2007 for couples who are separating or divorcing. It handles about 700 divorces yearly and is expanding to cover landlord-tenant and employment disputes.

Couples pay €100 ($111) for access to Rechtwijzer, which starts by asking each partner for their age, income, education, and other information, then guides them through questions about their preferences. Couples with children, for example, are asked whether they want the children to live with only one parent or part time with each.

The platform uses algorithms to find points of agreement, then proposes solutions. There’s a tool to calculate child support and software for drafting agreements.

Science fiction fans, especially older ones, have been dreading this day, but are resigned, thanks to the work of great sf authors. See also the robot judge from Harry Harrison's excellent 1959 short story Robot Justice, lawyer programs from David Brin's 1990 novel Earth and LEX from Greg Egan's 1991 short story The Moat. And even the humble law clerk robot from Pohl's The Midas Plague (1954).

Via Bloomberg.

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