Robot Courts: Will It Be Accepted?

Given the backlog in our courts and administrative tribunals in Ontario, it is likely that artificial intelligence will begin to be used for routine, procedural matters to reduce delays. In the book Online Courts and the Future of Justice, Richard Susskind writes that our courts are moving towards radical change rather than more of the same. Susskind predicts that artificial intelligence will be used to adjudicate and contain claims, and that the 2020s will be a period of redeployment of lawyers and judges. By 2030, our courts will be transformed by technologies, many of which are yet to be invented.

But will participants trust outcomes rendered with the assistance of A.I.?

In the article, “Would Humans Trust an A.I. Judge? More Easily Than You Think“, Stremitzer et al write that in their study “Having Your Day in Robot Court“, participants perceived a day in robot court to be as fair as a human court when a hearing was available and a rational decision with reasons was provided. “Strikingly, a human-led proceeding that does not offer a hearing and renders uninterpretable decisions is not seen as being fairer than an A.I.-led proceeding that offers a hearing and renders interpretable decisions…a machine described as being able to recognize speech and facial expressions and trained to detect emotions can enhance people’s perceptions of procedural justice”.

Our courts and tribunals should embrace incorporating AI into decision-making. A great place to start could be starting with using AI to assist with writing decisions for routine, procedural matters.


  1. It’s a super-interesting question. Traffic court might be an early adopter. Already in Ontario automated red-light cameras take pictures of vehicles moving through intersections under red lights, look up the license plates, and send the images to the vehicle’s owner with a $325 fine. There are still a few humans involved. The images are reviewed by Provincial Offence Officers before the fines are sent out. And you can still go to traffic court to dispute it.

    I wonder if humans will remain part of this particular corner of the justice system for long. My understanding is that people often dispute tickets in traffic court only because of a perverse incentive — if you show up you will end up paying less, regardless of whether you have any legitimate defence or not.

    What’s the fairest and most efficient way to provide a venue for legitimate defences to traffic charges? To what extent should humans be involved?

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