The Volokh Conspiracy

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Judge Suggests Courts Should Consider Using "AI-Powered Large Language Models" in Interpreting "Ordinary Meaning"


That's from Judge Kevin Newsom's concurrence yesterday in Snell v. United Specialty Ins. Co.; the opinion is quite detailed and thoughtful, so people interested in the subject should read the whole thing. Here, though, is the introduction and the conclusion:

I concur in the Court's judgment and join its opinion in full. I write separately … simply to pull back the curtain on the process by which I thought through one of the issues in this case—and using my own experience here as backdrop, to make a modest proposal regarding courts' interpretations of the words and phrases used in legal instruments.

Here's the proposal, which I suspect many will reflexively condemn as heresy, but which I promise to unpack if given the chance: Those, like me, who believe that "ordinary meaning" is the foundational rule for the evaluation of legal texts should consider—consider—whether and how AI-powered large language models like OpenAI's ChatGPT, Google's Gemini, and Anthropic's Claude might—might—inform the interpretive analysis. There, having thought the unthinkable, I've said the unsayable.

Now let me explain myself….

I think that LLMs have promise. At the very least, it no longer strikes me as ridiculous to think that an LLM like ChatGPT might have something useful to say about the common, everyday meaning of the words and phrases used in legal texts….

Thanks to Howard Bashman (How Appealing) for the pointer.