Technological Opacity & Procedural Injustice

56 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2017 Last revised: 1 Apr 2018

See all articles by Seth Katsuya Endo

Seth Katsuya Endo

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: August 18, 2017


From Google’s auto-correction of spelling errors to Netflix’s movie suggestions, machine-learning systems are a part of our everyday life. Both private and state actors increasingly employ such systems to make decisions that implicate individuals’ substantive rights, such as with credit scoring, government-benefit eligibility decisions, national security screening, and criminal sentencing. In turn, the rising use of machine-learning systems has led to questioning about whether they are sufficiently accurate, fair, and transparent. This Article builds on that work, focusing on how opaque technologies can subtly erode the due-process norm of participation.

To illuminate this issue, this Article examines the use of predictive coding — a form of technology-assisted review in which supervised machine-learning software is taught to predict the relevance of collected documents for discovery productions. The use of predictive coding in civil discovery highlights the new challenge to the participation norm because the processes generally do not provide any explanations for the outputs, much less non-technological accounts that are tied to the underlying substantive legal issues. Thus, even if predictive coding results in reasonably complete, accurate, and cost-efficient productions, the “black-box” nature of the process may harm the element of legitimacy that comes from litigants understanding and being able to more fully participate in judicial processes. This harm, however, has not been addressed by the developing jurisprudence, probably because most of the early cases involved high-stakes litigation between sophisticated parties who could afford computer experts. But the participation issue — and related equality concerns — will become increasing problematic as the technology’s use expands beyond this privileged posture. In response to these issues, this Article proposes a reinvigorated Mathews framework that explicitly weighs predictive coding’s impact on the participation norm to better future proof the doctrine.

Keywords: civil procedure, discovery, predictive coding, procedural justice, technology, technology-assisted-review, TAR

Suggested Citation

Endo, Seth Katsuya, Technological Opacity & Procedural Injustice (August 18, 2017). 59 B.C. L. REV. 821 (2018), Boston College Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 821, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Seth Katsuya Endo (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

PO Box 357069
Gainesville, FL 32635
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics