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My cousin R2D2 meets 12 angry bots | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, July 02, 2021 @ 2:30 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
Where is technology taking the legal profession? We hear say the pandemic has brought the justice system into the 21st century. It forced us to quickly embrace a load of technology including electronic filings and virtual proceedings such as Zoom. However, are we in for some surprises, getting more than we wished for? I have some predictions, concerns and suggestions. Being a boomer technophobe, (retired from practice fortunately), my prognostications are as good as anybody’s.

Take mediations. (Please!). Zoom mediations. From my in-person experience I have found that the other side never listens to its opponent’s opening statement. They just tune out. I therefore see a button on the screens with an image of earmuffs. As the plaintiff’s side starts opening, the defendant’s lawyer just hits it and they are silenced. A voice then says something like, “While you’re saving time listening to that drivel, would you like to enjoy some music? Press 1 for classical … etc.” Meanwhile to feign attention, your system utters expected reactions to the other side, such as well timed “Uh huhs.” Then comes the appropriate, “Go on, we’re listening.” 

As George Burns said, “Sincerity — if you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

And with virtual mediations, gone are the days of the ordered in great lunches. However I can see technology being adapted to use food as a weapon, olfactory speaking. The other side makes you a Mickey Mouse offer that really stinks. Rather than just say no, you click some App and the opponent’s breakout room gets permeated with the scent of parmesan cheese. I suggest this would be a remarkably effective deterrent. If it were me in that room, I’d come out waving a white flag. “Hit pause please; here’s a blank cheque.”

Technology is also adapting to examinations for discovery. Lawyers are not supposed to coach their clients as they testify. But how many lawyers can swear they never gave their clients now and then during pointed questioning a kick in the shins? Will virtual discoveries eliminate this verboten practice?

Not necessarily. Like with Pavlov’s dogs, technology will no doubt step up to the plate, (or should I say, under the table), to make sure your client makes the right choice of answers. The lawyer and client will wear a set of headphones and when the lawyer’s brainwaves sense the client is about to say something stupid, the lawyer will squirm activating from the client’s side a large swinging boot. Hey, they laughed at Edison. Lightbulb pshaw! I’m just calling them as I see them.

Trials of course will be radically different. Although there is talk about doing away with juries in civil matters given the large expenditures in time for jury trials, I would say juries will not totally disappear. Artificial intelligence will be the order of the day and the jurors will all be robots. This will save both time and money. Gone will be the day where the sheriff sends out those letters to prospective jurors many of which usually respond they cannot serve as they are exempt, being police officers, lawyers or serial hackers.

And of course jury selection should speed up. The court registrar draws a card out of a drum announcing a name and occupation and the robot stands up and lawyers can accept or challenge: 

“Zarkon 768 — fish packer at Costco.”   

Personally, I was always easy with jury selection though I would likely challenge any robot with a face like a Picasso painting. I find I something untrustworthy about anybody with one ear on his chin, no mouth and three noses.   

And the judge would not have to send this jury out for a voir dire while the lawyers argue over admissibility of evidence. The judge would just say to the jury, “Pay no attention to these lawyers now. They’re just blabbing.” 

The jury would likely respond in unison: “We obey.”

(During this hiatus, that Costco robot might just offer the visitors in the body of the court some samples of chopped herring).

Which brings me to the judge. Why not? After all robots are putting together cars, performing surgery and beating grandmasters in chess. Do we see the future trials adjudicated by robot judges? 

“Oyez, oyez oyez, all rise for Her Majesty’s Justice, HAL.”

I suppose the lawyers’ gossip chatter about judges would be similar as it is now with some twists.

“How’s Justice C-3PO?”

“He’s a hanging judge. But fortunately my last appearance before him resulted in a mistrial. His battery ran out.”

Being a technophobe my main concern would be the expected tech glitches. But then of course there is no problem as you always have the availability, comfort and ease of tech support. Just go online. Or hit some chat box. Or ask your personal robot.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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