Generative AI is already beginning to alter legal practice. If optimistic forecasts prove warranted, how might this technology transform judicial opinions—a genre often viewed as central to the law? This symposium essay attempts to answer that predictive question, which sheds light on present realities. In brief, the provision of opinions will become cheaper and, relatedly, more widely and evenly supplied. Judicial writings will often be zestier, more diverse, and less deliberative. And as the legal system’s economy of persuasive ability is disrupted, courts will engage in a sort of arms race with the public: judges will use artificially enhanced rhetoric to promote their own legitimacy, and the public will become more cynical to avoid being fooled. Paradoxically, a surfeit of persuasive rhetoric could render legal reasoning itself obsolete. In response to these developments, some courts may disallow AI writing tools so that they can continue to claim the legitimacy that flows from authorship. Potential stakes thus include both the fate of legal reason and the future of human participation in the legal system.

Richard M. Re, Artificial Authorship and Judicial Opinions, George Washington Law Review (2024).
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations