Colombian judge uses ChatGPT in ruling, makes humane decision

The judge ruled in favor of the child stating that the child’s medical expenses and transport costs should be paid by his medical plan, considering his parents' limited income.
Deena Theresa
AI on court
AI on court

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A judge in Colombia consulted OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT in preparing a ruling in a children's medical rights case, a local radio station reported.

Juan Manuel Padilla, a judge in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, said that he had sought advice from the chatbot in a case that involved excluding an autistic child from paying fees for medical appointments, therapy, and transportation, considering his parents' limited income. It is to be noted that he also used precedent from previous rulings to confirm his decision.

On Tuesday, Padilla told Blu Radio that ChatGPT and other such AI programs could prove helpful to "facilitate the drafting of texts" but "not to replace" judges. On January 30, the judge ruled in favor of the child, stating that the child’s medical expenses and transport costs should be paid by his medical plan, and wrote in his judgment that he had consulted ChatGPT on the case. The first labor court of Cartagena argued that it applied Law 2213 of 2022, according to which virtual tools can be used in certain cases.

However, the judge hasn't specified to what extent the text-generating bot had helped him. 

Columbian law allows the use of technologies where possible

Padilla defended his use of the technology, insisting that "by asking questions to the application, we do not stop being judges, thinking beings."

In this case, Padilla said he asked the bot: "Is autistic minor exonerated from paying fees for their therapies?" among other questions.

It answered: "Yes, this is correct. According to the regulations in Colombia, minors diagnosed with autism are exempt from paying fees for their therapies."

In 2022, Colombia approved a law that suggested public lawyers should use technologies where possible to make their work more efficient.

"Judges need to be aware of the evolution of justice and technology. Since the pandemic, in Colombia, we began to implement technologies in the courts and this is a huge window, today it could be ChatGPT, but more tools may emerge later for judges to use. This artificial intelligence helps us come up with very understandable sentences, with good writing and so on," Padilla explained.

The judge also argued that ChatGPT performed services that a secretary previously provided. And it did so "in an organized, simple and structured manner" which could "improve response times" in the justice system.

'Not ethical to use ChatGPT'

Since ChatGPT's launch, it has been in the news for various reasons. The Microsoft-backed AI chatbot has helped produce code, essays, news articles, student assignments and write exams in seconds. It also hit 100 million users in two months, making history as the fastest-growing platform.

Not everyone is pleased, though.

Professor Juan David Gutierrez of Rosario University, an expert in artificial intelligence regulation and governance, wrote on Twitter that "it is certainly not responsible or ethical to use ChatGPT as intended by the judge in the ruling in question".

He said that he had asked the same questions to ChatGPT but got different responses. Gutierrez also called for urgent "digital literacy" training for judges.

Octavio Tejeiro, a judge in Colombia’s supreme court, told The Guardian that though people feared robots would replace judges, the tool would probably soon become accepted.

 "The justice system should make the most of technology as a tool but always while following ethics and taking into account that the administrator of justice is ultimately a human being. It must be seen as an instrument that serves the judge to improve his judgment. We cannot allow the tool to become more important than the person," he told The Guardian.

ChatGPT itself is unsure of providing advice on legal matters

Colombian judge uses ChatGPT in ruling, makes humane decision
ChatGPT's response to our query.

Padilla too, clarified that, although ChatGPT is a pretty good tool, "the final sentence is the judge's own and private decision".

“It is the first sentence at the national level that has used artificial intelligence, for which I am surprised, however, understanding the concern of many, my decision is completely personal, private, and autonomous, but artificial intelligence helps to build a chain of texts that help to get the sentence and make the decision," he asserted.

He also added that judges in the future can continue to rely on other intelligence services for their sentences. "I know a group of judges and friends who are very happy because we know that this system can help us transcribe things that are on the Internet and bring it very logically and short to what we need," he said.

Ironically, ChatGPT is not too sure of its problem-solving skills. When we asked the AI chatbot if judges can use the platform for ruling on legal cases, it was not enthusiastic. It mentioned that "while AI models like ChatGPT can assist with information gathering and research, they are not capable of making legally binding decisions and do not have the authority to interpret and apply the law", and added that the resolution of legal cases must be made by a human judge.

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