Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2021
1. Civil procedure is not an area of law known for its innovative disposition. The roots of civil procedural law for most of the European jurisdictions can be found in the Romano-canonical procedure and this common foundation has seen little profound change since.
This long history does not mean that civil procedure is insulated from innovation. On the contrary, its sometimes arcane and paper-driven methods and procedures leave much room for improvement, an endeavour in which recent changes such as the ‘Potpourri’ legislation in Belgium have only been incrementally successful. Perhaps a shock treatment is necessary for fundamental change within this area of law, and such a shock is what AI aspires to be.
2. Artificially intelligent civil procedure goes beyond the mere digitisation of procedure, promising rather a digitised justice in which the daily work of legal actors is to a large extent assisted by machines, changing the nature of judicial decision-making as we know it today. A thorough examination of the possible impact of AI on civil procedure would, at this point in time, largely amount to conjecture. Therefore, this chapter focuses on one phenomenon of which the shape is already discernible, even though successful applications within the area of civil procedure are still few and far between. This phenomenon is quantitative or algorithmic legal prediction (henceforth QLP), colloquially known as predictive justice. As a book chapter of limited length does not lend itself to an in-depth study of this phenomenon, this chapter will only scrape the surface of some topics. The interested reader will find more information in the referenced material. Even though this edited volume focuses on Belgium, this chapter will only briefly touch upon this jurisdiction given the general absence of Belgian initiatives in this field. Rather, the hurdles Belgium needs to overcome in order to facilitate the AI revolution in its civil procedure will be outlined in the final part of this chapter.
3. This chapter provides a brief introduction to legal analytics and quantitative legal prediction (part 2), followed by a short overview of some existing use cases of QLP (part 3). Potential use cases and their advantages are discussed (part 4), whilst the challenges that QLP poses are highlighted as well (part 5).