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Bridging the Digital Gulf: Legal Fraternity Divided over Regulations on AI in Courtrooms

Across America, a judicial trend has been quietly unfolding. From the arid landscapes of the Southwest to the bustling cities of the Northeast, a wave of standing orders is taking shape, aimed at clarifying the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within court submissions. This judicial step into the digital frontier has inevitably drawn the attention of the Georgian legal community, from esteemed judges to dynamic lawyers.

This approach of defining AI’s role in the courtroom has aroused significant interest and debate. Particularly in Georgia, where as the question of whether to adopt AI-specific standing orders is on the table, an outspoken group of technologically inclined lawyers have expressed their firm dissent against such regulations.

Shaking the Peach State Courts

In the upper echelons of Georgia’s legal system, Kathleen Joyner, Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court of Georgia, revealed to the Daily Report that AI-related developments in other courts have been under careful watch. Despite the absence of current standing orders concerning AI or any AI-produced filings with the court, Joyner assured that the Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology is thoroughly exploring this emerging issue.

A thoughtful pause may be needed, Joyner suggested, adding that the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct already encompass provisions to prevent AI misuse.

The ongoing AI discourse has reached the Georgia Court of Appeals as well, sparked by an AI-produced briefing from a New York attorney, falsely attributing a fictitious opinion to the Georgia court. “We were shocked to see a fake opinion allegedly from the Court of Appeals, and appreciate that Judge [P. Kevin] Castel [of the Southern District of New York] took the time to let our court know about it,” confessed Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Amanda H. Mercier. “We don’t know where AI is going to take us, but we’re considering how best to adapt to new technologies while simultaneously protecting the rule of law.”

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Toward a New Frontier or Status Quo?

At the ground level of the state’s court system, AI regulations seem to be a less pressing concern. The Superior Court of Cobb County neither has AI-related standing orders nor any plans to introduce them. Further, there have been no instances of AI-facilitated court filings, explained Chris Hansard, the court’s administrator. Meanwhile, the Fulton County Superior Court is yet to respond to inquiries about its stance on AI standing orders.

The AI Dissenters

Matt Wetherington, a tech-savvy litigator of the Wetherington Firm in Atlanta and well versed in AI’s legal implications, has voiced his strong objection to the mandatory disclosure of AI in the preparation of legal documents. Wetherington argued that revealing AI usage could infringe on attorney-client privilege, essentially forcing attorneys to reveal their strategic methods and sources.

Moreover, Wetherington considers such regulation impractical and biased, given that AI already permeates most technologies lawyers use, ranging from legal research tools to standard word processors and email systems.

Wetherington offers an alternative view, arguing that the rapidly evolving AI technology should be regulated under existing rules rather than new ones. The lawyer underscored that already-existing regulations, such as Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 and O.C.G.A. 9-11-11 regarding the signing of pleadings, offer a suitable framework to uphold the integrity of legal proceedings. The issue at hand, Wetherington stated, is not the tool, but its use.

However, as standing orders on AI continue to garner attention in the judicial system, Wetherington advised court administrators to proceed with caution and inclusivity, emphasizing that all stakeholders — from judges and lawyers to court staff and tech experts — must be part of the decision-making process.

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Charting the AI Legal Landscape

Viewing AI as a potential game-changer for the legal profession, Wetherington acknowledged the awe-inspiring potential benefits and risks this technology brings. Yet, he urged that we must never lose sight of the human element at the heart of the legal profession, cautioning against the potential dangers of algorithmic bias, over-reliance on AI predictions, and the risk of dehumanizing legal processes.

While the ethical considerations surrounding AI usage are significant, they are just “a fraction of the challenges” legal professionals may face, according to Wetherington. “As we embark on this journey, we must not lose sight of the human element at the heart of our profession and we should fight to protect it.”

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