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Law & ChatGPT: Will AI take over lawyers and judges?

Published on 09 March 2023
Updated on 04 April 2024

AI judge

In light of creation of the ChatGPT and its rapid development, questions were raised regarding its legal advice/decision abilities. The chatbot made its very first appearance in the recent Colombian case, where judge Juan Manuel Padilla Garcia consulted ChatGPT about his decision. Essentially, a minor diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder lacked the financial resources to pay the medical expenses. The health insurance company, from which the exemption for the medicines was requested, denied the minor’s request. The case was then brought before the Colombian courts, where the parents of the minor sued the health insurance company as, under the Colombian law, he is exempt from paying for the medicines. 

As such Judge Padilla asked ChatGPT:

Question: Is an autistic minor exonerated from paying moderator fees for his therapies?

Answer: Yeah that’s right. According to regulations in Colombia, minors diagnosed with autism are exempted from paying moderator fees in their therapies. This beneficent is regulated by Law 1753 of 2015 and applies to all institutions providing public or private health services that receive resources from the general security system social in health.

The use of Artificial intelligence (AI) for a court’s decision was made under Colombia’s new decree 2213 on AI and lawyers/judges, which may be used in civil, labor, family, administrative, and constitutional cases.  Essentially, Art.1 of the decree sets that the implementation of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in judicial proceedings intends to make the use of technology and computer tools more flexible for the users of justice service. Additionally, Art.2 states that ICTs should be used appropriately to facilitate and expedite justice. Adopting this decree does not intend to replace the role of lawyers or judges, but rather to enable AI use to enhance Colombia’s judicial system. In the decision of the case, judge Padilla emphasised that ‘the purpose of including these AI texts is in no way to replace the judges’ decision. What we seek is to optimise the time spent writing judgments, prior corroboration of the information provided by IA.’ In his interview, Judge Padilla stated that, in making the decision, the cases from previous rulings were used to support the decision, while also stating that the use of technology could make Colombia’s legal system more efficient. Thus, the question raised is whether ChatGPT or any other AI system would be able to replace the skills of a lawyer or a judge. In answering the question, we asked ChatGPT itself whether this could be possible.

Namely, we asked:

Question: Can ChatGPT replace lawyers and judges?

Answer: No, ChatGPT cannot replace lawyers and judges. While ChatGPT is a powerful language model that can generate responses to questions and provide information, it does not have the legal training and experience that is necessary to fulfill the roles of lawyers and judges. Lawyers undergo extensive education and training in law and legal practice, and they are licensed by governing bodies to practice law. They provide legal advice, represent clients in court, negotiate settlements, and perform a range of other legal services. Judges, on the other hand, are appointed or elected officials who preside over legal proceedings and make decisions based on the facts of the case and the applicable law. They must have a deep understanding of the law and legal precedent, as well as the ability to weigh evidence and make fair and impartial decisions. While ChatGPT can provide information and insights that may be helpful to lawyers and judges, it cannot replace their unique skills and expertise. Legal decisions often require a nuanced understanding of the law, and the ability to apply it to specific cases in a fair and impartial manner. These are skills that require the experience and training that only humans can provide.

Question: Can ChatGPT be a useful tool for lawyers and judges?

Answer: Yes, ChatGPT can be a useful tool for lawyers and judges in a variety of ways.
First, ChatGPT can provide quick access to legal information and resources. Lawyers and judges often need to look up legal statutes, cases, and other relevant information, and ChatGPT can quickly provide answers to legal questions and help with legal research. Second, ChatGPT can assist with legal drafting. Lawyers often need to write legal documents such as contracts, briefs, and motions. ChatGPT can help with drafting by suggesting language, identifying legal terms and jargon, and providing feedback on grammar and syntax. Third, ChatGPT can assist with case management. Judges often need to manage large caseloads, and ChatGPT can help with tasks such as scheduling, document management, and record keeping. However, it’s important to note that ChatGPT is not a substitute for the expertise and judgment of lawyers and judges. While it can be a helpful tool, it’s important to verify any information obtained through ChatGPT and to use professional judgment in making legal decisions.

It is thus evident that the chatbot does not consider itself reliable enough to give legal advice and replace the role of lawyers and judges, but confirms that it could be a useful tool in terms of accessing information, legal drafting, and case management. Colombia’s Supreme Court Judge Octavio Tejeiro stated that AI systems should be used in an ethical way to improve the justice system without making it more important than the person. At the same time, there has been much criticisms regarding the use of AI in judicial systems, and whether it could replace or be as reliable as real lawyers and judges.

 Indeed, AI systems cannot replace the experience and knowledge of real lawyers and judges, and what should be borne in mind is how they could be misused. Despite ChatGPT admitting that it cannot replace the skills and expertise of lawyers and judges, it does not imply that it will not answer a legal question. This could become problematic if individuals who may lack the resources to get legal advice from a lawyer use the chatbot for consultation and rely 100% on its reply. If the decision of the chatbot is not confirmed by a legal advisor or a lawyer, it may lead to violations. Considering that there is no fact-checking, it is uncertain whether the generated sentences are reliable enough.

In the cases of judges, however, it is presumed that they would be able to filter any answer that the chatbot would give them.  At the same time, if they were to rely 100% on the answer given by the chatbot, judges’ legitimacy would be questioned and could, eventually, have a detrimental effect on the legal system of the country in question.

It is evident that ChatGPT will not replace lawyers and judges, but what could cause problems is if legal professionals rely 100% on AI systems, as this could lead to detrimental consequences.  It is the ethical use of AI that is in question, rather than the fear of replacement. Therefore, AI systems, in this case, ChatGPT, should be regulated effectively to prevent their misuse and ensure their effective enforcement in legal systems.

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