“Do Not Pay” Becomes “Do Not Go To Court”…. Browder’s AI Lawyer In Court Idea Falls “Very” Flat With US State Bar Associations

Well he got all the publicity he needed!

PBS reports

A British man who planned to have a “robot lawyer” help a defendant fight a traffic ticket has dropped the effort after receiving threats of possible prosecution and jail time.

Joshua Browder, the CEO of the New York-based startup DoNotPay, created a way for people contesting traffic tickets to use arguments in court generated by artificial intelligence.

Here’s how it was supposed to work: The person challenging a speeding ticket would wear smart glasses that both record court proceedings and dictate responses into the defendant’s ear from a small speaker. The system relied on a few leading AI text generators, including ChatGPT and DaVinci.

The first-ever AI-powered legal defense was set to take place in California on Feb. 22, but not anymore.

As word got out, an uneasy buzz began to swirl among various state bar officials, according to Browder. He says angry letters began to pour in.

“Multiple state bar associations have threatened us,” Browder said. “One even said a referral to the district attorney’s office and prosecution and prison time would be possible.”

In particular, Browder said one state bar official noted that the unauthorized practice of law is a misdemeanor in some states punishable up to six months in county jail.

“Even if it wouldn’t happen, the threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up,” he said. “The letters have become so frequent that we thought it was just a distraction and that we should move on.”

State bar associations license and regulate attorneys, as a way to ensure people hire lawyers who understand the law.

Browder refused to cite which state bar associations in particular sent letters, and what official made the threat of possible prosecution, saying his startup, DoNotPay, is under investigation by multiple state bar associations, including California’s.

In a statement, State Bar of California Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona declined to comment on the probe into DoNotPay but said the organization has a duty to investigative possible instances of unauthorized practice of law.

“We regularly let potential violators know that they could face prosecution in civil or criminal court, which is entirely up to law enforcement,” Cardona said in a statement.

Leah Wilson, the State Bar of California’s executive director, told NPR that there has been a recent surge in technology-based legal representation that has emerged to fill a void in affordable legal advice.

“In 2023, we are seeing well-funded, unregulated providers rushing into the market for low-cost legal representation, raising questions again about whether and how these services should be regulated,” Wilson said.

Even if the use of AI in court was not being challenged, some observers have questioned just how effective DoNotPay’s AI tools would be for people in need of legal services, with some having mixed to shoddy results attempting to use its basic features.

Browder has been known for drumming up attention with stunts. Earlier this month, he claimed on Twitter that the company would pay any lawyer $1 million to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court wearing AirPods that would pipe AI-generated arguments from its “robot lawyer.”

Founded in 2015, DoNotPay has raised $28 million, including funding from prominent venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, according to analytics firm PitchBook.