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January 24, 2024 Introduction

Artificial Intelligence in the Courts: Best Practices, Benefits, and Challenges

By Senior Judge Stephanie Domitrovich and Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr.

In his 2023 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expounds on the significant impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in the courts: “I predict that human judges will be around for a while. But with equal confidence, I predict that judicial work—particularly at the trial level—will be significantly affected by AI. Those changes will involve not only how judges go about doing their job, but also how they understand the role that AI plays in the cases that come before them.”

AI significantly improves how we do our work in the court, and learning best practices to apply AI is vital to our roles and functions in the court. While AI methodologies may benefit the court by streamlining case dockets and improving case management, AI technology presents new challenges and risks. One high-profile example is the misuse of AI through generative artificial intelligence (GAI) in briefs and opinions.

When we as special issue editors began to research and locate authors with expertise in AI, we realized our project was an arduous undertaking for a single special edition due to the prolific number of writers, consultants, and researchers. Our managing editor, Melissa Hodek, and the editorial board approved having two special editions (Technology, Parts I and II) to present the various perspectives and dimensions of AI for our readers.

The authors selected for this special edition—Technology, Part I—thoughtfully address best practices and benefits as well as challenges of using AI in our courtrooms. These authors provide useful tools to apply and comprehend the use of AI.

Justice John G. Browning (Ret.) provides various factors for judges and lawyers to consider when interpreting and admitting popular social media imagery. Emojis are an excellent example of a popular concept used in emails that present interpretation and admissibility issues.

In their article, Judge Willie J. Epps Jr. and Kaitlin M. Minkler describe the benefits and challenges of using a popular organizational tool, OneNote. Judge Epps describes his efforts in designing a virtual notebook with various sections to assist his law clerks in better understanding their roles and duties. Judge Epps’s use of OneNote also provides his law clerks with the ability to edit and add other details and information.

Stacey Marz, administrative director of the Alaska Courts, describes the role of the Joint Technology Committee in educating and guiding court leaders about technology. Along the way, she describes how technology benefits self-represented litigants in having access to information through virtual kiosks and chatbots for their cases.

Lucy L. Thomson provides valuable insight about the various roles court-appointed experts have in assisting courts to resolve complex technology issues, such as in cybersecurity litigation.

Eberle Anderson describes the vital role of an innovative mathematical technique, “differential privacy,” that involves algorithms that release information. He also discusses privacy protections to prevent data breaches.

Ediscovery consultant Brett Burney shares his experiences with numerous valuable tools to assist attorneys and judges in the courtroom. For instance, he explains the use of iPads, OnCue, and various apps that can be helpful in presenting a case.

Attorney Kassi Burns provides a primer on GAI and details the related ethical implications in her explanation of the benefits and challenges of GAI.

In his 2023 annual report, Chief Justice Roberts writes that humans will continue to have roles in the court because “most people still trust humans more than machines to perceive and draw the right inferences from these clues.” Chief Justice Roberts is correct in that most people currently have trust in us as humans; however, judges need to maintain that public trust by being well-educated in the use of technology. We must possess not only knowledge of the law but also knowledge of AI technology.

It is our hope this special edition entices our readers to continue to learn more about the technology entering our courtrooms—from the interpretation and admissibility of emojis to the use of court-appointed experts in assisting the court on various technology issues. By continuing to learn about technology, we bolster the trust the public has in us as humans in the court, continue to enhance access to justice, and prove we are indeed indispensable to those we serve. Even more enlightening articles on AI will appear in our next special edition, Technology, Part II, which will follow soon. So, make sure you stay tuned. . . . 

Stephanie Domitrovich

Senior Judge

Senior Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, PhD, is a senior judge for Pennsylvania, after being an elected general jurisdiction trial judge for over 32 years. She is also a member of the Executive Committee and past chair of the National Conference of State Trial Judges.

Herbert B. Dixon Jr.

Senior Judge

Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. is a senior judge with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He is chair of the ABA Journal Board of Editors, a former chair of both the National Conference of State Trial Judges and the ABA Standing Committee on the American Judicial System, and a former member of the Techshow Planning Board. You can reach him at [email protected]. Follow Judge Dixon on X (formerly known as Twitter) @Jhbdixon.

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