From the Publisher: The Possibilities and Risks of Technology

by David F. Levi

Fall/Winter 2018 | Volume 102 Number 3 | Download PDF Version of Article

The cover of this edition of Judicature highlights an article, “Crowdsourcing and Data Analytics: The New Settlement Tools,” that proposes a novel use of technology for reducing the time and costs associated with settlements by crowdsourcing mock juries to generate predictive data around likely case outcomes.

The authors of the piece were among several teams that recently participated in a “Demo Day” sponsored by the Duke Law Tech Lab here at Duke Law School. During the event, teams pitched ideas for using technology to improve the legal system and enhance access to justice. The proposals included a do-it-yourself divorce app, a dispute resolution platform for smart contract-based transactions and distributed economies, and a mobile-optimized website that allows construction professionals to file liens.

The promise of technology for improving the administration of justice is coming to fruition. Courts are now well familiar with electronic filings, video conferencing, online data management, and other web-based services that are key to efforts to modernize and recognize efficiencies in the courts. But even as many courts are still struggling to find the funding to adopt them, such systems already seem passé in the tech world. We are now on the cusp of a new wave of legal technology largely focused on the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI).

These technologies are already at work, perhaps in ways we don’t even realize. Some juvenile courts use predictive algorithms to determine recidivism and, by extension, sentencing. In some states, data-sharing between courts and law enforcement has streamlined the warrant process. And China has indicated that it intends to harness big data to teach virtual “judges” to learn from prior cases. As we consider driverless cars, should we also imagine judge-less courts? The possibilities for efficiency and access are many, but the risks are there as well. In addition to the ever-present threat of security breaches and cyberattacks, systems that rely on algorithms and proprietary technologies can usurp the role of the judge and incorporate assumptions or biases that the judge may not be aware of. It is important for judges, particularly judicial leaders and administrators, to stay abreast of these new technologies to understand and avoid the costs while seeing and mobilizing the benefits.

The Bolch Judicial Institute is actively studying and developing programs to address such issues in the law and technology arena. We welcome your input, suggestions, and submissions to Judicature on this topic and others pertaining to law and technology, courts and judging, and the study and promotion of the rule of law.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Judicature.

David F. Levi

DAVID F. LEVI
Director, Bolch Judicial Institute
Levi Family Professor of Law and Judicial Studies
Duke Law School

About David F. Levi

David F. Levi is the Levi Family Professor of Law and Judicial Studies and Director of the Bolch Judicial Institute. He served as the James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law from 2007 to 2018. He previously was Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California, with chambers in Sacramento. He has served as chair of two Judicial Conference committees by appointment of the Chief Justice. He was chair of the Civil Rules Advisory Committee (2000-2003) and chair of the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure (2003-2007); he was reappointed to serve as a member of that committee (2009-2015). In 2014, he was appointed chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the American Judicial System, and in 2015, he was named co-chair of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice. He also is a member of the ALI Council and was an advisor to the ALI’s Federal Judicial Code Revision and Aggregate Litigation projects.He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves as president of the American Law Institute (ALI).