Tue, Sep 17, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Legal tech could be the judiciary’s salvation

By Chen Chih-hsiung 陳鋕雄

Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) earlier this year said that the judiciary is on the edge of a cliff, as public trust in the judicial system has dropped to 40 percent.

He praised a young judge who died from working too hard, calling him a role model for all judges.

Do judges really have no choice but to become either “dinosaur judges” who cannot be trusted or “model judges” who die from overwork — or, even worse, dinosaur judges who die from overwork? Is there another way?

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

As information and communications technology continues to progress, the development of “legal tech” that meets legal needs through the application of technology is booming in Europe, the US and some Asian countries.

Judicial reform has mostly been based on supplier-centered thinking with the aim of creating a more trusted system, but legal tech is based on demand-centered thinking, which satisfies the needs of the public and the legal professionals in a more convenient, efficient way. Although they appear contradictory, they are in fact complementary.

The new lows in judicial mistrust and new highs in lawsuits prove that people do not need encouragement to launch a lawsuit, but need to be dissuaded from doing so. Reducing the number of lawsuits would give judges sufficient time to handle each case, improving judicial quality and avoiding wrongful verdicts.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS

With a deluge of disputes, alternative channels must be established to give people planning to take their case to court other ways of resolving their dispute.

For example, one of the most mature applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal system is the electronic discovery approach.

Originating in the UK and the US, e-discovery has been adopted by some civil law countries to allow both parties in a legal dispute to fully exchange evidence in a reliable system.

When both parties know the other party’s trump card, most settle their dispute out of court.

Discovering the key evidence from the huge amount of data provided by the two sides requires the help of AI. Some court decision prediction systems analyzing similar past rulings can also help the parties decide on their litigation strategies, or whether to settle.

Promoted by search engine Lawsnote and other institutions, the first Legaltech Hackathon took place in Taipei on Sept. 7, with more than 30 teams finishing the competition.

The civil sector is enthusiastic as the country is officially entering the legal tech era.

If Taiwan wants to relieve judges’ workloads and improve judicial quality, legal tech should not be limited to a civil movement, but should be promoted as part of the infrastructure of the judiciary.

In some Asian countries, such as China and Singapore, local governments have been promoting legal tech through their economy ministries rather than the justice ministries.

The government has the ability to change the rules for legal services and facilitate the trustworthy exchange of information, so the government’s attitude will have a strong effect on the development of legal tech.

Hopefully visionary decisionmakers will be able to understand the significance of this trend and head in the right direction, forming a legal ecosystem that will revamp the image of Taiwan’s judiciary.

Chen Chih-hsiung is an associate professor in National Chiao Tung University’s Institute of Technology Law.

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