An A.I. Has Judged Human Rights Cases With Stunning Accuracy

If you find yourself in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), you may want to ask a computer how the case will go. Chances are, it’ll get the answer spot on. Researchers have developed an A.I. capable of predicting the result of the court’s cases. The project, a collaboration between UCL, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Pennsylvania, found that the A.I. was able to analyze data from nearly 600 cases and predict the outcome with 79 percent accuracy.

“We don’t see A.I. replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes,” Dr Nikolaos Aletras, who led the study at UCL Computer Science, explained in a press release Sunday. “It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The A.I. focused on cases that concerned violations of three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): torture and degrading treatment (article 3), the right to a fair trial (article 6), and the right to respect for one’s private life (article 8). The court appeared to focus more on case facts rather than legal arguments, meaning the language used in the case text was a strong indicator of which way the case would go.

Although the team doesn’t seem to think their A.I. creation will be judging cases in Strasbourg any time soon, there are signs that technology is going to play an increasing role in the lives of lawyers. In September, Luminance took the wraps off a computer program that can help lawyers during mergers and acquisitions by highlighting points of contention, and drawing attention to key details in legal texts.

In other areas, lawyers may be replaced altogether. Joshua Browder, a British student, has developed a chatbot capable of fighting homelessness by giving free legal advice:

DoNotPay may seem simple, but Browder predicts that many lawyers could find themselves out of a job as people find an easy way to discover their rights without paying hefty fees.

For the ECtHR, A.I. could prove to be an effective way of streamlining cases, rather than putting lawyers out of a job.

“Previous studies have predicted outcomes based on the nature of the crime, or the policy position of each judge, so this is the first time judgements have been predicted using analysis of text prepared by the court,” said Dr. Vasileios Lampos, co-author at UCL Computer Science. “We expect this sort of tool would improve efficiencies of high level, in demand courts, but to become a reality, we need to test it against more articles and the case data submitted to the court.”

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