Robot Lawyer Battles Human Regulators

Correction: This article misstated that the State Bar of California’s Closing the Justice Gap Working Group was still in operation. It was dissolved after the state bar’s annual fee-licensing bill, signed into law on Sept. 18, directed the agency to halt its work on proposals to allow nonlawyers to practice law.

Life moves pretty fast for artificial intelligence start-up DoNotPay. On Jan. 8, CEO Joshua Browder announced the company would pay $1 million to any attorney who would allow the company’s “robot lawyer” to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. The bold offer initiated a wave of skepticism and intrigue across the legal community.

On Jan. 25, Browder—revealing threats of a jail sentence from State Bar officials—announced the company had ditched all plans of deploying its cybernetic barrister. The CEO says they will now focus on their core mission of helping consumers with issues like bank fees and unwanted subscriptions. While all this may have come as a shock to Browder and his team at DoNotPay, the discourse over AI’s place in the legal profession has been ongoing for years.

Notwithstanding the deep complexities involved in the AI’s backend, its user application is straightforward. DoNotPay’s program would have “argued” by having the attorney parrot statements provided by the AI in real-time through a pair of wireless earbuds connected to the attorney’s cellphone. Ostensibly, the program would simultaneously be listening and responding (through the lawyer) to questions and comments from the justices.

The Supreme Court was not the first place Browder sought to test DoNotPay’s AI. The initial real-world experiment was to take place on Feb. 22 in a California traffic court which is what sparked the backlash from state bar officials across the country. Although Browder will not say who specifically sent letters or threatened a

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Fired State Attorney spox faced performance scrutiny before Andrew Warren’s suspension

A fired spokesperson for the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office claimed to be the victim of an “illegal firing.” The move made headlines days after the controversial suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren. But files in her personnel folder suggest Melanie Snow-Waxler’s performance had come under scrutiny months before Warren’s departure.

A memo by Warren’s Chief of Staff, Gary Weismandetails dating back to June, just a month after her hiring, and had concerns in the State Attorney’s Office relying on outside communications consultants during her tenure.

That’s a different picture than one Snow-Waxler painted after her termination in August, when she issued a statement characterizing her “illegal firing” as “part of a troubling pattern of retaliation.” In a statement to WTSPshe described being told to report to a new supervisor following Warren’s suspension, and shortly after that, was given an ultimatum to resign or be fired.

“I had only begun my job with the State Attorney’s Office in May. This was an exciting opportunity for me as I have always believed in criminal justice reform,” Snow-Waxler told the news outlet.

“My goal was ensuring that the residents of Hillsborough County received timely, truthful information about the actions of the State Attorney to keep our community safe and pursue justice. I will continue to provide truthful information to the public. I will fight for justice.”

The Weisman memo, though, asserts continued problems with Snow-Waxler keeping up with developments in major cases and understanding legal terminology.

It also states that immediately after Snow-Waxler started work on May 9, Warren asked her to develop a strategic communications plan for the agency and to develop a familiarity with prosecution work. But by June 10, concerns arose about her job performance.

“State Attorney Warren expressed significant frustration that Ms. Snow-Waxler had

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