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How AI Transforms the Courthouse Experience

by Keith Fentress / August 28, 2023

As a  court planner for many years, I have witnessed numerous trends, including increased security, new courtroom technology, the evolution of treatment courts, and many others. Artificial intelligence (AI) is now an emerging trend in the courthouse, and it is time to take notice.

The AI predictions range from inconsequential to the genesis of a doomsday scenario, but I believe the truth lies in the middle. AI can be harnessed for good - it is here, and we should strive to make it useful.

There are many articles on how AI can shape legal research and litigation, but I would like to focus on applications for the courthouse. AI systems can make the courthouse a more publicly accessible, safe, and user-friendly experience. Here are some thoughts to consider.

Empowered Courthouse Wayfinding

AI can help the public navigate their way around courthouses. Traditional courthouses, especially court complexes, can be a labyrinth, leading to public confusion and delays in court proceedings. Digital maps and navigation apps can be developed using AI, providing real-time, personalized information and guidance on the courthouse premises. This can be done on smartphones or through information kiosks.

We are all familiar with the dot on the map indicating where we are and route planning like Google Maps. Imagine having similar capabilities but with directions to a specific room in a courthouse. Such directions could be integrated with court schedules, ongoing hearings, and public “traffic” volume in the courthouse.

I am currently working in a justice complex fragmented into seven facilities. How wonderful would such a tool be to help visitors find their way to a specific department or courtroom? I must admit that I would use the app myself in this complex. Such an app could save time for the public and reduce stress and frustration, making the courthouse seem less intimidating and more accessible and user-friendly.

AI-Infused Administrative Processes

Another emerging area for AI is streamlining administrative processes. Such processes include AI–powered chatbots on court websites and mobile apps to handle common inquiries from the public, such as information about the status of a case, filing procedures, and document submission requests. Chatbots work 24/7 and can free up staff for more complex responsibilities.

AI document management systems can help digitize, index, and store court documents. Such systems can speed up staff work on case management, docketing, and scheduling. Using natural language processing, such systems can categorize and tag documents in a way that helps the public search and retrieve publicly available information. As the AI system is used, machine learning will speed up the process and deliver more accurate results.

Jury Orientation

AI tools can be used during jury orientation to deliver content to prospective jurors engagingly. Videos, animations, and interactive modules can explain legal concepts, trial procedures, and the judicial system, ensuring better comprehension.

Case scenarios can also be generated using AI to simulate or mimic the trial experience. Jurors could participate in mock trials using AI-generated evidence, arguments, and witnesses. This “hands-on” approach can help jurors better understand courtroom dynamics and what to expect during a trial.

AI can also improve the jury orientation process by tracking juror engagement with orientation materials. Such data can help refine and improve future jurors' orientation process.

Courthouse Security

Having a more secure courthouse is a goal in many locations. AI can assist through enhanced video surveillance capabilities. Cameras can be equipped with facial recognition and behavioral analysis. Such tools can help identify unauthorized individuals, monitor crowd movements, and detect suspicious behavior in real time. These systems can alert security personnel to potential threats, enabling a swifter response.

In addition, AI can evaluate people entering the courthouse against known databases of offenders or persons of interest. Alerting security personnel that a wanted offender has entered the building can help keep the courthouse and its occupants safe.

Final Thoughts

In preparing this blog, I asked ChatGPT how AI could enhance the public’s courtroom experience. The response included:

  • Real-time transcription and translation that can benefit people with hearing impairments or non-native language speakers
  • Automated case updates to keep the public informed on hearing dates, changes in case status, and key milestones
  • Predictive case outcomes can help parties make informed decisions about pursuing litigation or seeking alternative resolutions
  • Enhanced virtual courtroom attendance to better interact with the court, present evidence, and make statements while being remote
  • Virtual legal assistance powered by AI to perform research and provide legal assistance to pro se participants and others needing support with the legal system
  • Sentiment analysis and behavior monitoring, which includes using AI to analyze body language regarding one’s emotional state in the courtroom
  • Interactive courtroom displays that can provide visual aids during court proceedings to remove complexity and help the public follow the arguments and understand the evidence presented

Some of these AI services could be very useful, and others are quite scary. I, for one, am not ready for robot judges, but AI can improve the court process.

AI is and will continue to be used in the courts. In my view, it is time for courts to harness the positive aspects of the technology. AI can promote more streamlined processes, keep courthouses safer, and provide a friendlier user experience.

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Tags: Courthouse Planning

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Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress is the founder and president of Fentress Incorporated. He has an extensive history of consulting to real property organizations. His skills include change management, program evaluation, and business process improvement. He enjoys adventure travel and outdoor pursuits like backpacking, canoeing, and snorkeling.