The Innovation of Litigation.

IBM Watson: Artificial Intelligence in the Courtroom

What is Watson?

IBM made quite the splash in 2011 with a public demonstration of Watson’s ability in a game of Jeopardy. The supercomputer took part in the well planned, public-relations event to demonstrate the power of their artificial intelligence system. Over a span of three days Watson competed against two Jeopardy champions including Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 games in a row. At the end of the three-day contest Mr. Jennings finally conceded defeat by writing “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords” on his video screen.

Watson’s cognitive computing system learns through the use of techniques such as machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, human interaction and reasoning. In order to replicate a human’s ability to answer questions, Watson accesses 90 servers with a combined data store of over 200 million pages of information, which it processes against six million logic rules. Watson learns in three different ways: by learning from its users, learning from prior interactions, and being presented with new information.

Artificial Intelligence in the Courtroom

 Since 2011, Watson has found uses in spaces ranging from the culinary industry to the film industry and many in between. More importantly, Watson has recently started making its way into the courtroom. In 2017 IBM partnered with Judge Anthony Capizzi who has served the Montgomery County Juvenile Court in Dayton, Ohio since 2004. Judge Capizzi’s is a specialized juvenile treatment court which holds a weekly session that seeks to aid juveniles who are addicted to drugs. Judge Capizzi is particularly concerned with making sure he makes the decision that serves the juvenile’s best interest.  The kids that come before him are at risk directly or indirectly due to the prevalence of drugs, abuse, as well as other factors. Every decision the court makes affects the child as well as the family in the long term. Judge Capizzi prioritizes having the best and most up-to-date information possible when ruling from the bench.

Litigation attorneys will be familiar with the challenges Judge Capizzi faces. The judge gets about five to seven minutes with each juvenile on his docket with a mountain of paperwork corresponding to each juvenile. The court’s docket routinely includes 80 to 90 total juveniles though it has had as many as 120. This kind of load would strain most courts, but unlike most courts Judge Capizzi must oversee the continuing treatment and rehabilitation of these juveniles.

Most of these children are before the court through no fault of their own. Many have been abused and neglected or become dependent on drugs because of family issues. Overseeing treatment and rehabilitation can get complicated according to Judge Capizzi. Judge Capizzi receives information from probation officers, educators, behavioral health experts, and physical health experts. That’s not all, the judge also needs to know about the child’s employment, family history, mental history, and drug test results. 

Not only must the judge consider such a large amount of different information, he needs to make sure he has the latest information. According to Judge Capizzi, it is fair to say that in half of his cases there is something that happens in the case in the 48-hour window between the clerk arranging the case file and the hearing in court. When that happens, the Court has to spend half of the precious few minutes it has with that juvenile getting updated on the changes of the case. Though Judge Capizzi’s court is under strain with this kind of load, this is not a unique challenge to Capizzi’s court or to juvenile courts in general. Many courts simply do not have the resources to process the large amounts of information germane to each case. 

Enter Watson Care Manager

IBM describes Watson Care Manager as a cloud-based care management solution which focuses on individual-centered care. However, the amorphous nature of IBM’s product may be why it could be so useful to courts across the country. Judge Capizzi worked closely as a design partner with the IBM team to configure the Watson Care Manager system to the specific needs of his Court, including the providers, officers, therapists, and countless others involved in the process.

For example, the probation team accesses Watson through a simple and user-friendly interface. Officers can input new information into the system and the information is immediately available for the court or any other member of the team to see. If there is some change in the middle of the night the judge will be aware as soon as he opens his computer the following morning. The Watson Care Manager is integrated with the county’s case management system so it draws on structured data as well as natural-language text inputted by users to provide the most current and relevant summaries of information for the judge.

Although we are still in the early days of AI adoption in litigation, case studies like Judge Capizzi’s show great potential for early adopters. If you’re interested in an IBM Watson partnership, IBM is always interested in taking on new partners with interesting case studies:

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Trial by Tech is a blog brought to you by Baylor Law’s Executive LL.M. in Litigation Management—the first program in the nation designed exclusively for lawyers who aspire to direct effective litigation strategy, control electronic discovery, leverage technology, manage a team, and lead their company’s or firm’s efforts to manage a high-volume, high-stakes docket.

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