A “robot” lawyer powered by artificial intelligence was set to be the first to help a defendant fight a traffic ticket in court next month. But the experiment was scrapped after “State Bar prosecutors” threatened the man behind the company that created the chatbot with prison time.
On Wednesday, Joshua Browder, CEO of DoNotPay, tweeted that his company “is postponing our court case and sticking to consumer rights.”
Browder said he would not send the company’s robot lawyer to court. The AI creation — which runs on a smartphone, listens to court arguments, and formulates responses for the defendant — was designed to tell the defendant what to say in real-time through headphones.
But according to Browder, the prospect of bringing the first robot lawyer into the courtroom wasn’t worth the risk of spending six months in jail.
The backlash from lawyers against Browder’s proposed stunt suggests that legal professionals have concerns over AI-powered chatbots usurping their jobs.
The AI lawyer was set to take its first case on February 22, Browder announced on Twitter.
He tweeted. “On February 22 at 1.30PM, history will be made. A robot will represent someone in a US courtroom for the first time ever. DoNotPay A.I will whisper in someone’s ear exactly what to say. We will release the results and share more after it happens. Wish us luck!”
He did not disclose the name of the client or the court.
DoNotPay has already used AI-generated form letters and chatbots to help people secure refunds for in-flight Wifi that didn’t work and lower bills and dispute parking tickets, according to Browder. He added that the company has relied on these AI templates to win more than 2 million customer service disputes and court cases on behalf of individuals against institutions and organizations.
It has raised $27.7 million from tech-focused venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Crew Capital. he told CBS MoneyWatch of recent advances.
“In the past year, AI tech has really developed and allowed us to go back and forth in real time with corporations and governments,”
“We spoke live [with companies and customer service reps] to lower bills with companies; and what we’re doing next month is try to use the tech in a courtroom for the first time.”
DoNotPay said it would have covered fines if the robot lost the case.
Legal Status Of Certain Courtroom Practices Across Jurisdictions
Some courts allow defendants to wear hearing aids, some Bluetooth-enabled versions. That’s how Browder determined that DoNotPay’s technology could legally be used in this case.
However, the tech that runs DoNotPay isn’t legal in most courtrooms. Some states require that all parties consent to be recorded, which rules out the possibility of a robot lawyer entering many courtrooms. Only two of the 300 cases DoNotPay considered for a trial of its robot lawyer were feasible.
“It’s within the letter of the law, but I don’t think anyone could ever imagine this would happen. It’s not in the spirit of law, but we’re trying to push things forward and a lot of people can’t afford legal help. If these cases are successful, it will encourage more courts to change their rules.”
LAWYERS “WOULD NOT SUPPORT THIS”
According to Browder, a “robot” lawyer’s ultimate goal is to democratize legal representation by making it free for those who can’t afford it, sometimes eliminating the need for pricey attorneys.
He went on to say:
“What we are trying to do is automate consumer rights. New technologies typically fall into the hands of big companies first, and our goal is put it in hands of the people first.”
But given that the technology is illegal in many courtrooms, he doesn’t expect to be able to commercialize the product any time soon. When he initially announced that DoNotPay’s robot lawyer would appear in court, lawyers threatened him and told him he’d be sent to jail; he told CBS MoneyWatch.
Browder continuous to say:
“There are a lot of lawyers and bar associations that would not support this.”
PUTTING CHATGPT THROUGH LAW SCHOOL
Browder wants to arm individuals with the same tools that large corporations can typically access but are out of reach for those without deep resources.
AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT has exploded in popularity recently for its ability to spit out coherent essays on wide-ranging topics in under one minute. The technology has drawn investors’ interest, with Microsoft announcing a multibillion-dollar investment in parent company OpenAI.
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But Browder highlighted its shortcomings and, in some cases, lack of sophistication:
Browder went on to say:
“ChatGPT is very good at holding conversations, but it’s terrible at knowing the law. We’ve had to retrain these AIs to know the law. AI is a high school student, and we’re sending it to law school.”