Friday, June 21, 2024

SC to use AI-powered tools to improve court legal research

Supreme Court (SC) chief justice Alexander G. Gesmundo said the judiciary intends to tap the power of technology, particularly AI or artificial intelligence, to improve the court processes in the country.

SC chief justice Alexander G. Gesmundo gives the keynote address on the first day of the 14th Biennial National Convention and Seminar of the Court Legal Researchers Association of the Philippines in Zamboanga City
Photo from the Supreme Court Public Information Office

Gesmundo made the declaration during his keynote speech on the first day of the 14th Biennial National Convention and Seminar of the Court Legal Researchers Association of the Philippines (CLERAP), held at the Palacio del Sur Convention Center, Marcian Garden Hotel, Zamboanga City on Feb. 15.

The three-day convention, with the theme “Strengthening Legal Research Amidst Challenges and Adversities,” gathered over 300 legal researchers from trial courts in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The chief justice also shared how the SC’s blueprint for judicial reform, the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 or the SPJI, can significantly improve the productivity of the courts, including the work done by court legal researchers.

“The SPJI will, among others, allow us to ride this wave of technological advancement, capitalizing on artificial intelligence (AI) not just for court operations, but also for legal research. This, in turn, will facilitate the speedy disposition of cases,” said Gesmundo.

He added, “As the SPJI notes, in other jurisdictions, AI-powered applications are already being used in two particular areas of law and the administration of justice, which could clearly benefit the Philippine judiciary as well — AI-enabled transcription to support court stenography, and AI-powered tools to aid legal researchers.”

“Court legal research is so often like looking for a needle in haystacks upon haystacks — and AI could be the magnet that makes that search faster and easier, to the benefit of the people that we ultimately serve,” said Gesmundo.

Through artificial intelligence, “the SPJI will enable faster and easier access to legal references. It will usher in the redevelopment of the Judiciary E-Library, which will include AI-enabled tech to improve its legal research capabilities,” said the chief justice.

He added that “through natural language processing — the same technology behind ChatGPT — we will install a search engine that will provide more accurate and reliable results; using machine learning, search algorithms will constantly self-improve based on the feedback of users. AI-enabled tech will also generate analysis based on words and phrases, including their context, from previous cases or legal precedents, and predict and suggest possible outcomes for new cases.”

Gesmundo concluded, “Today I call on you to fully embrace technology in this undertaking and in the performance of your duties. Harness it to work more efficiently and expeditiously and invest in the skills and resources needed to enable the shift that we envision. Be active agents of reform, bearing in mind that these innovations are meant not to supplant us, but to support us, and, in turn, those who rely on us and our work.”

Associate justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr., on the other hand, noted how technological advancements have posed new challenges for court legal researchers, such as “how to sift through a ton of information and to evaluate, assess, and interpret the reliability and quality of online resources and manage vast amounts of information.”

Kho ended his remarks by stressing the significant role of court legal researchers in the success of the SPJI.

“Court legal researchers should be in lockstep with the Court’s technology-driven improvements,” he said.

Deputy clerk of court and chief technology officer Jed Sherwin G. Uy also gave a presentation on the Supreme Court’s plans for modernization of court processes, including the Human Resource Information System (HRIS) and the Financial Management Information System (FMIS).

The modernized HRIS, targeted to be rolled out in the first- and second-level courts within the last quarter of 2023, will “provide a facility to submit and receive job applications online, see their status, and see where they are pending.

“Employees of the judiciary and those who have previously submitted their applications online would no longer need to resubmit the same set of documentary requirements as the Court would already have in its possession this information,” said Uy.

The upgraded FMIS, on the other hand, will allow “the finance offices to quickly compute salaries and deductions based on prevailing schedules, process them individually as they come instead of doing per batch, and timely release salaries and allowances, and retirement benefits.”

Other modernization plans of the SC include the upgrading of the E-Library to offer an integrated library management system covering libraries of the tertiary courts and those being maintained in various halls of justice.

This will be followed by equipping the e-library with artificial intelligence that can enable thorough and comprehensive legal research.

The training courses offered by the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) will also be made available online through the PHILJA Learning Management System (LMS).

“The LMS will allow justices, judges, court officials, and personnel to access and/or attend courses “on-demand” at our most convenient time, regardless of our location. This will also empower us to have complete control of our time and allow us to focus on our duties when needed,” said Uy.

Finally, with the launch of the Judiciary Electronic Payment Solution or JEPS, “court fees may now be assessed uniformly and paid online using any smart device, anytime, anywhere,” said Uy.

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