Competing Algorithms for Law: Sentencing, Admissions, and Employment

43 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2020 Last revised: 12 Mar 2021

See all articles by Saul Levmore

Saul Levmore

University of Chicago Law School

Frank Fagan

South Texas College of Law Houston; EDHEC Augmented Law Institute

Date Written: June 17, 2020


Algorithms have found their way into courtrooms, college admission committees, and human resource departments. While defendants and other disappointed parties have challenged the use of algorithms on the basis of due process or similar objections, it should be expected that they will also challenge their accuracy, and attempt to present algorithms of their own in order to contest the decisions of judges and other authorities. The problem with this approach is that people who can transparently see why they have been algorithmically denied rights or resources can manipulate an algorithm by retrofitting data. Demands for full algorithmic transparency by policymakers and legal scholars are therefore misguided. To overcome algorithmic manipulation, we present the novel solution of algorithmic competition. This approach, versions of which have been deployed in finance, works well in law. We show how the state, a university, or an employer should set aside untested data in a lock-box. Parties to a decision then develop their respective algorithms and compete. The algorithm that performs best with the lock-box data wins. While this approach presents several complications which the Article discusses in detail, it is superior to full disclosure of data and algorithmic transparency.

Keywords: Artificial Inteligence, AI, Evidence, COMPAS, Algorithms, Recidivism, Adjudication, Statistics

Suggested Citation

Levmore, Saul and Fagan, Frank, Competing Algorithms for Law: Sentencing, Admissions, and Employment (June 17, 2020). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 2, p. 367, 2021, Available at SSRN:

Saul Levmore (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-9590 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

Frank Fagan

South Texas College of Law Houston

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States

EDHEC Augmented Law Institute

Roubaix, 59057

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