In 2015, an artificial intelligence program called, ROSS was created to perform legal research for overburdened law firms. ROSS was first employed in 2016 by law firm BakerHostetler. By 2018, their efficiency had increased so significantly, they became the most affordable and effective law firm in the United States. Within five years, use of ROSS was common. Soon after, a next-generation AI legal assistant debuted: RACHEL.
Building upon the success of Amazon’s Echo, RACHEL was sold in the form of a constantly listening graphite cube. It was used in courtrooms to analyze proceedings in real time and could preemptively throw objections to lines of questioning. Development of legal AI continued throughout the decade, with the debut of products MONICA and CHANDLER (powered by Bing). By 2032, almost all of the U.S. legal system was digitally automated.
Below is an excerpt from the Prologue of Jeffrey Toobin-Kardashian’s 2033 ebook, The System: How America’s Digital Courtrooms Changed Everything Forever and Ever and Ever.
America’s legal system has always been a vast and complicated machine. Our founding fathers, and generations of their children studied for years to gain a comprehensive understanding of legal practice, spending all their free time reading every book available. For one person to grasp all the nuances of American law has always been a daunting task. With the use of automated legal systems increasing dramatically over the past few decades, it may no longer be possible, or necessary.
Since the passage of the Totally Modern Courtrooms Act of 2027—not coincidentally the last law passed by manual assent from human congress—all legal matters are now resolved instantaneously by the People’s Honorable Ordinance, Edict, & Bill Expert (PHOEBE). PHOEBE was developed by the Army Corps of Software Engineers with input from all nine companies in the United States and its path to ubiquity is worth tracing.
After the collapse of the Trump regime in 2019 and the beginning of Reconstruction 2, technology paved the way for an overhaul of our infrastructures. The state of Bay Area played host to Constitutional Congress 3, which, although ending in deadlock and the exile of the New Whig, resulted in a mandate to scan, digitize, and analyze the laws of every jurisdiction in the United States. This led to the creation of LARD, the Law Archive Record Drive.
As this archive neared completion in 2024, it became clear that the most state-of-the-art legal AI at the time, MONICA, would not be able to upload, analyze, and synthesize the zyzzybytes of data it contained. Work was started to create a next-generation legal assistant that decided to name itself PHOEBE. When LARD was loaded into PHOEBE, the UI hung on a screen that said “Processing…” for 17 months, 20 days, 6 hours, and 25 minutes.
On May 4, 2026, PHOEBE finished ingesting LARD. It advised its operators that, should the option be presented to American policymakers, there was a 71.26587% chance that PHOEBE would be installed to replace the entire U.S. legal system. A tribunal was convened. Twelve of the remaining thirteen states sent two delegates each, with the state of Dakota Chevrolet abstaining. There was little debate. It was decided that PHOEBE would be ported to all remaining local and federal courthouses, with the state of Southwest Airlines agreeing to provide a holographic interface to humanize the machine.
Appropriating and re-using the barcodes that had by then been tattooed on every citizen’s inner thigh by order of Grand Liberty Wizard Trump, all violations of the law would, from that time on, be subject to the PHOEBE Process:
- An officer of the peace scans the citizen’s barcode
- A court date is added to the citizen’s National Calendar
- On the assigned date, the citizen reports to their local courthouse where their thigh is re-scanned thoroughly
- PHOEBE’s algorithm compares the citizen’s charge against a series of key qualifiers such as
- The statistical likelihood of the accused having actually committed the crime based on their recorded government history and citizenship
- Rates of conviction and acquittal within the citizen’s demographic
- Related offenses
- Net worth
- Total Chance
- Within fifteen minutes, the citizen receives an adjudication.
PHOEBE went online July 4, 2027. Many opponents of the program claimed that the automation would strip all remaining humanity from the justice system, and could result in criminals being subjected to the harshest punishments for minor offenses. Unfortunately, those who opposed PHOEBE’s legal omnipotence did little to stop it, aside from posting their discontent to social media. Just as unfortunately, posting negative opinions about American law on social media remained illegal.
Many of Grand Liberty Wizard Trump’s draconian edicts remained active (though no longer enforced). PHOEBE, having ingested all codified law, convicted all dissenters of treason, executed them, and then self-ratified these draconian measures out of its database. Later, iHeart Media Inc. engineers altered PHOEBE’s software operation order. Now, PHOEBE safely ratifies law before resolving pending sentencing requests. Most recently, iHeart Media Inc. unveiled it’s latest legal AI, JANICE, an 80 core processing unit that handles tort reform.
Louis is a Chicago-trained writer and comedian with beautiful hair, a pretty good face, and an abundance of modesty. With 10 years in technology and 15 in writing and producing comedy, his work can be read on www.cagematch.org, www.mcsweeneys.net, and numerous dismayed Facebook users’ walls (before being hastily deleted). He currently lives with his similarly gay boyfriend in the dystopian hellscape of Silicon Valley.
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