April 03, 2020 Court Technology Column

Public Access to Court Services Through Artificial Intelligence: New Jersey’s “Judiciary Information Agent”

By Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer, Phoenix, AZ

Expanded deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in courts was front and center at the National Association for Court Management’s (NACM) mid-year conference this past February in Charlotte, North Carolina, both in educational sessions and the vendor exhibition. One of the sessions explored the Superior Court of New Jersey’s use of chatbots to answer frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) posed by the public. 

Judge Glenn A. Grant, Director of the Administrative Office of the New Jersey Courts, charged the Clerk of Court’s Office and technology staff with development of chatbots technology to enhance public access to court services and improve efficiency of New Jersey’s general jurisdiction courts.  “Content curation” was created through a review of questions typically fielded by the Clerk’s call center, addressing the areas of jury service, how and where to find court documents, case filing fees, accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and basic court processes.  

Through an iterative process, New Jersey’s project team ultimately developed approximately 11,000 question/answer “pairs.” Computer generated responses to questions were made available for testing by some 9,000 court staff over a six month period.  The questions/answers were refined for improved accuracy through AI machine learning and a weekly review of system accuracy has continued since the launch of the system in September, 2019.   

Litigants and other members of the public can converse with New Jersey AI system through a Judiciary Information Agent (JIA) via chat mode messaging, both through desktop computers and mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The chatbot service is available on a 24x7 hour basis. Currently, chatbots field approximately 2,000 public inquires per month, with an increasing accuracy rate now at approximately 75%. 

Future plans for the chatbot system include translation of the questions/answers into Spanish language, the addition of questions addressing a wider array of pubic inquiries and coordination with the Clerk of Court’s state-wide call center, which has approximately 80 staff.  Michelle Smith, Clerk of the Superior Court, explained, “Our long-term strategy is to fully integrate the JIA chatbot with services provided by the clerk’s office call center, providing seamless customer service.”

Also showcased at the NACM conference was the growing use of AI to extract and enter unstructured data from e-filed court documents into court case management systems. The automated workflow process includes indexing, redacting and docketing of case data.  AI data entry systems run behind the scenes, 24x7, processing documents in real time as received. Courts are reporting significant efficiency gains and court documents are accessible to attorneys and parties on-line in near “real time.”

For further information, contact Ms. Michelle Smith, Clerk of the Superior Court of New Jersey, at Michelle.Smith@njcourts.gov.  

    Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer, Director, Court Services Division, Administrative Office of the Courts, Arizona Supreme Court

    Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer, Director, Court Services Division, Administrative Office of the Courts, Arizona Supreme Court

    mreinkensmeyer@courts.az.gov