Estonia wants to clear its backlog of small claims court cases. Might an AI judge do the trick? The Eastern European country has asked its Chief Data Officer, Ott Velsberg, to bring AI into the justice system.
Eric Niiler tells us more but Estonia’s AI-related legal experiment in Wired:
In the most ambitious project to date, the Estonian Ministry of Justice has asked Velsberg and his team to design a “robot judge” that could adjudicate small claims disputes of less than €7,000 (about $8,000). Officials hope the system can clear a backlog of cases for judges and court clerks.
The project is in its early phases and will likely start later this year with a pilot focusing on contract disputes. In concept, the two parties will upload documents and other relevant information, and the AI will issue a decision that can be appealed to a human judge. Many details are still to be worked out. Velsberg says the system might have to be adjusted after feedback from lawyers and judges.
Estonia’s effort isn’t the first to mix AI and the law, though it may be the first to give an algorithm decision-making authority. In the US, algorithms help recommend criminal sentences in some states. The UK-based DoNotPay AI-driven chatbot overturned 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York a few years ago. A Tallinn-based law firm, Eesti Oigusbüroo, provides free legal aid through a chatbot and generates simple legal documents to send to collection agencies. It plans to expand its “Hugo-AI” legal aid service matching clients and lawyers to Warsaw and Los Angeles by the end of the year, said CEO Artur Fjodorov.
The idea of a robot judge might work in Estonia partly because its 1.3 million residents already use a national ID card and are used to an online menu of services such as e-voting and digital tax filing.