Research Project

Autonomy in Law

Motivation/Research Problem

Autonomy refers to the capability of a system to achieve certain goals independent from external control. An autonomous system has the ability to operate in a complex and changing environment even without pre-defined instructions. Legal analysis at its core is a process whereby justice is achieved through the application of certain rules onto issues arising out of a conflict. In abstract, in each legal analysis, first the facts are analyzed to find the main issues that form the basis of the conflict. The appropriate rules then are found and applied to the issues. In essence, legal analysis consists of the application of law on facts. In reality, the picture is much more complex as legal analysis is shaped through the interactions between facts, legal rules, norms, and socio-economic contexts among others. To achieve autonomy in law, a system first needs to find the issues and the applicable legal rules with minimal supervision. One can imagine a legal specialist AI which hears or reads a complaint from which it distills the relevant facts and applies the most pertinent rules. This level of autonomy presents a host of legal, ethical, and socio- economic issues. Therefore, autonomy should be studied in both (i) the ways in which it can be achieved and (ii) the ways in which it impacts individuals and society.

Research Team
  • PI: Farshad Ghodoosi J.S.D., Ph.D.
  • Co-PI: Nhut Tan Ho, Ph.D.
Research Questions and Research Objectives
  • How does an autonomous system sift through opinions and regulations to find the most relevant laws?
  • How can artificial intelligence and natural language processing help in both fact-finding and sifting through opinions and rules?
  • How can artificial intelligence help stakeholders such as consumers and employees better understand the legal issues, contractual terms, and their rights and as a result gain more bargaining power?
  • How can artificial intelligence affect legal interpretation and the discovery and recommendations of ordinary and legal meanings of texts?
  • How can an autonomous system make legal decisions?
  • How can artificial intelligence along with advances in crowdsourcing and network theories help foster new alternative dispute resolution mechanisms other than courts?
  • What does the future of the legal profession look like with the increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence?
  • What are the potential impacts of emerging technologies such as blockchain and quantum computing on achieving autonomy in law?
Research Methods
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Text Mining
  • Experimental Research
  • Interactive Experiments and; Network Games
  • Doctrinal and Historical Analysis
Research Deliverables
A series of academic papers in leading outlets addressing and setting out the framework for autonomy in law.
Research Timeline

June 2021- March 2022 —

  • PHASE I: Fostering a framework for understanding autonomous legal decision making
    • Investigating the existing research in the area of autonomy in law and computational law
    • Building a team of researchers and advisors
    •  Writing an academic paper on the framework of autonomy and; law, the ways it can be achieved, and its ethical and legal impacts

September 2021 – September 2022—

  • PHASE 2: Investigating an autonomous system of digesting and flagging consumer contracts and contractual terms and; conditions online
    • Reviewing existing research in the area of consumer law and boilerplate agreements
    • Building a team of researchers and advisors
    • Conducting a series of studies and textual analysis of consumer contracts (terms and; conditions)
    • Writing an academic paper detailing the histography, development, and impacts of consumer contracts

May 2022 – May 2023  —

  • PHASE 3: Understanding the ambiguity threshold in law and autonomous tools to detect and interpret ambiguity
    • Reviewing existing research in computer science and law on ambiguity threshold
    • Building a team of researchers and advisors
    •  Suggesting ways in which statistics and artificial intelligence can help detect and solve ambiguity
    • Writing an academic paper on ambiguity threshold in law using computational legal studies

September 2023 – September 2024 —

  • PHASE 4: Developing a network-based dispute resolution mechanism based on artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, and network theory
    • Investigating existing research in alternative dispute resolution and arbitration
    • Building a team of researchers and advisors
    • Building a framework for a new semi-autonomous dispute resolution mechanism
    • Conducting a series of experimental studies on the suggested network-based dispute resolution
    • Writing an academic paper detailing and suggesting a new semi-autonomous network-based dispute resolution mechanism
Research Impact

This project investigates and highlights the impacts of artificial intelligence on legal decision making. It proposes the ways in which autonomy in law can be achieved through advanced artificial intelligence and the ways in which it can impact individuals and society. This project makes CSUN one of the very few institutions that provides novel research and insights in the area of autonomy and law. What further makes this project unique is that the research streams are conducted with the advisory role of NASA/JPL. This project fosters a team of researchers and advisors who are interested in this field while providing cutting-edge research. Further, this project aims to provide insights to policy makers and affect the trajectory of public policy in the area of autonomy in law.