One of the exciting things that came out of Microsoft Build during the analyst preview was that the company has been working to create virtual court solutions. I spend a surprisingly large amount of time following court cases and sitting in courtrooms. If done right, a virtual system could fix a lot of court-related problems.
It would allow judges to work around their schedules better and give attorneys improved access to online resources. It also might provide a way for jurors to improve their understanding by permitting them to do some research, although this could be especially problematic.
I’ll share some thoughts on virtual courtrooms and then close with my product of the week: a set of new earbuds from Microsoft that are so amazing they’ve changed my view on earbuds. Before now I’ve hated the things.
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People think courtrooms are about justice, and they aren’t really. The court is more like theater in that two sides come in and tell their versions of some event, and a judge or jury then picks the most compelling presentation. The best attorneys aren’t the best truth-tellers. They are the best actors and manipulators. They are the ones who are most effective at convincing a jury, regardless of the evidence, that they are right.
Judges are overworked and often have a hard time following trials. Jurors not only are massively underpaid, but also generally not trained to decide cases, particularly technical civil cases. The result tends to be based more on a combination of luck, funding and acting skills than on the facts of the case.
Public defenders and prosecutors often are significantly outmatched by better-funded opponents, but the winning side often discovers the meaning of the term “Pyrrhic victory” the hard way. In contrast, those on the losing side often rightly feel they were screwed by the process.
Saying there is room for improvement would be a massive understatement, and a joint effort by Microsoft and Accenture to come up with workarounds during the COVID-19 pandemic could provide a unique way to improve one of the most unfair processes I’ve ever seen. (I was mentored by a judge for a time because I’d wanted to become one, but the more I understood about the process, the less attractive that path became.)
The Artificial Intelligence Potential
While some AI efforts are designed to replace people — autonomous vehicles are a case in point — much of the current work is to use AIs to help people make both better and more timely decisions. The role of judge or juror requires not only balancing a large variety of distractions, but also making sense out of ever more massive piles of evidence.
An AI tool not only could help an attorney better prepare a case, but also could help a judge or juror — mainly if the attorney lacked the skills, time or resources — to better decide a case by automatically reorganizing the evidence optimally. It immediately could flag statements that weren’t supported by evidence or weren’t relevant to the case, or point to relevant evidence that might have been forgotten or left out of summations.