DoNotPay's CEO says threat of 'jail for 6 months' means plan to debut AI 'robot lawyer' in courtroom is on ice

Joshua Browder
Joshua Browder tweeted on Wednesday that "it seems likely they will put me in jail for 6 months" if he deployed his company's AI "robot lawyer" in an actual courtroom.Stephen Lam
  • DoNotPay's CEO says he will hold off on deploying an AI 'robot lawyer' in traffic case hearings.

  • Joshua Browder said that he received 'threats' over the plan and feared facing 'jail for 6 months.'

  • He drew attention to his app, which uses Chat GPT tech, with tweets about its possible use in court.

The DoNotPay app's so-called 'robot lawyer' won't be making its stealth appearance in court anytime soon.

The company's CEO Joshua Browder tweeted on Wednesday that he got "threats from State Bar prosecutors" and that "it seems likely they will put me in jail for 6 months," if the app doesn't rein in its courtroom ambitions. He added that the firm would focus on its bot offering that purports to help customers challenge their bills.

Browder had previously tweeted that he planned to test the app at a traffic hearing in February, with DoNotPay's AI program quietly advising a defendant through ear pieces. He didn't disclose the case or venue at the time, citing the furtive nature of the planned experiment.

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The ploy always carried a risk, as states closely regulate who can practice law. Regulatory bodies known as state bars, which can license and discipline attorneys, have oversight powers in this area.

Giving legal advice, especially in court, can be deemed the "unauthorized practice of law," a violation that some states consider a crime, said Ellen Murphy, a professor of practice at the Wake Forest University law school, who co-wrote the 2018 book, "The Unauthorized Practice of Law for Nonlawyers."

Browder's tweets didn't identify where he received the threat of jail time. Legal industry regulators don't carry out criminal enforcement, which would be a separate matter for the criminal courts, Murphy told Insider.

Browder did not immediately respond to Insider's Twitter DMs seeking comment ahead of publication.

The idea of experimenting with legal advice isn't new. States like Utah are relaxing some restrictions, to potentially allow non-lawyers to try new ways to provide legal services. But regulators may still be a while away from contemplating a full-fledged AI lawyer in court.

"We're seeing some reform in regulations around the unauthorized practice of law, and we're becoming less rigid," said Murphy. "But are they going to extend that to non-humans?"

Read the original article on Business Insider