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### Is Chief Justice Roberts the Ultimate Sawdust? The Supreme Court’s Vulnerability to AI

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued his traditional end-of-year report on the state of …

In the final weeks of the previous month, Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court released his annual report on the state of the legal system. Elie Mystal from The Nation humorously refers to it as Roberts’ “long-winded vacation card,” complete with a quirky anecdote and what can only be described as a less-than-fashionable sweater. Mystal’s description may even downplay the sheer absurdity of this document.

Roberts opens with the intention to address a significant issue concerning the entire federal court system in his Year-End Report each year. Against the backdrop of 2023 looming and speculations running wild about the future role of artificial intelligence in the judicial landscape, one might ponder the potential obsolescence of traditional courts.

The curiosity surrounding the possible replacement of judges by AI is particularly heightened in light of recent revelations exposing Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito’s deep ties to Leonard Leo’s extensive right-wing dark-money network. It appears as though someone has indulged excessively in science fiction during their extended break.

Delving further into his report, Roberts dedicates a portion of it to exploring the technological advancements within the Supreme Court, ranging from the use of personal computers to feathers (or, alternatively, delegating this task to a staff member). This historical journey even includes a nod to the evolution of the typewriter, marking a pivotal shift in document production 150 years ago.

Roberts draws attention to the brief era of typewriters, swiftly transitioning to the introduction of the Altair fifty years ago, often hailed as the pioneer of personal laptops by certain scholars. This marked a significant leap from bulky, stationary computers like the Sperry Univac to more versatile devices found in homes and offices.

The Chief Justice’s contemplation on the future of judgeship mirrors his thorough examination of these technological milestones. The specter of AI infiltrating the legal domain is underscored by incidents such as a negligent prosecutor utilizing ChatGPT for legal research and drafting without detection, akin to the plagiarism scandal involving Justice Neil Gorsuch.

While Gorsuch faced allegations of intellectual theft without repercussions, Roberts seems to sidestep such controversies in his public discourse, focusing instead on technological innovations as a diversion from the systemic issues plaguing the judiciary. This diversion tactic echoes his prior attempt to deflect scrutiny with an ethics code revision, a symbolic gesture lacking enforceability.

The looming question remains: could AI potentially replace the Supreme Court? To echo Mystal’s skepticism, one might ponder whether an AI-led system could fare any worse than the current setup, where decisions seemingly align with Justice Alito’s predispositions post-lengthy Fox News consumption.

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Last modified: January 4, 2024
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