Having Your Day in Robot Court

43 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021 Last revised: 13 Dec 2023

See all articles by Benjamin Minhao Chen

Benjamin Minhao Chen

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Alexander Stremitzer

ETH Zurich

Kevin Tobia

Georgetown University Law Center; Georgetown University - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: May 7, 2021


Should machines be judges? Some say no, arguing that citizens would see robot-led legal proceedings as procedurally unfair because “having your day in court” is having another human adjudicate your claims. Prior research established that people obey the law in part because they see it as procedurally just. The introduction of artificially intelligent (AI) judges could therefore undermine sentiments of justice and legal compliance if citizens intuitively take machine-adjudicated proceedings to be less fair than the human-adjudicated status quo. Two original experiments show that ordinary people share this intuition. There is a perceived “human-AI fairness gap.”

However, it is also possible to reduce — and perhaps even eliminate — the fairness gap through “algorithmic offsetting.” Affording a hearing before AI judges and enhancing the interpretability of AI-rendered decisions reduce the human-AI fairness gap. Moreover, the procedural justice advantage of a human over AI appears to be driven more by beliefs about the accuracy of the outcome and thoroughness of consideration, rather than doubts about whether a party felt it had a good opportunity to voice its opinions or whether the judge understood the perspective of the litigant.

The results support a common and fundamental objection to robot judges: There is a concerning human-AI fairness gap. Yet, the results also indicate that the strongest version of this challenge — human judges have irreducible procedural fairness advantages — is not reflected in public views. In some circumstances, people see a day in robot court as no less fair than a day in human court.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, procedural justice, courts, judges, algorithms

Suggested Citation

Chen, Benjamin Minhao and Stremitzer, Alexander and Tobia, Kevin, Having Your Day in Robot Court (May 7, 2021). Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Vol 36 (2022), UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-20, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2021/020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3841534

Benjamin Minhao Chen (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Alexander Stremitzer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich, Zurich 8092

HOME PAGE: http://https://laweconbusiness.ethz.ch/group/professor/stremitzer.html

Kevin Tobia

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/kevin-tobia/

Georgetown University - Department of Philosophy

37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
United States

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