Colombian judge holds a court hearing in the metaverse

What was the decision about?

After a judge used ChatGPT to write a verdict, the decision of an administrative court in Colombia on February 10th of 2023 put the Colombian judicial system in the spotlight once again. This time, a Magdalena Administrative Court judge opted to advance a first hearing through the metaverse.  

The judgement concerned a request for a hearing in the metaverse as part of a direct restitution process. The plaintiff’s legal representation requested that the initial hearing planned in this matter be held in the metaverse to assist the growth and innovation of technical tools. An agent from the Public Prosecutor’s Office also expressed his support for the initiative of the hearing scheduled with the use of the Meta Platforms Inc. platform, known as virtual reality; it was also noted that this practice related to the use of information and communication technologies will be given priority.

Some Court considerations

It is crucial to note that the judge described the legitimacy of the usage of the Head-Mounted-Display (HMD) was authorized under Colombian judicial process legislation during this occasion but did not emphasize the requirement for this. I am going to use the terms «necessity» and “purpose” in the following to refer to this distinction.

First, the judge used once again ChatGPT “for a better comprehension of various notions regarding the metaverse” as her colleague from a previous ruling, as I explained in a previous post. The judge posed tree questions: «What is an avatar?», «What is the most effective way for confirming the validity of people connected to a virtual meeting and/or audience? And «What is the mechanism of authenticating the legitimacy of an avatar in the metaverse? For all these inquiries, the judge copies the transcripts from ChatGPT and uses this as an argument that she had enough information to hold the hearing in the metaverse. As other scholars have mentioned already, the deliberative and non-conscious decision of using these technological tools for the administration of justice could have potential risks. But, for the sake of this piece, I will point out some questions regarding the use of the Metaverse as a judicial instrument.

Why is an open debate of these problems important?

You might be familiar with a cartoon on perception. It depicts two guys at opposing ends of a number, one at the top and one at the bottom. One of them points to the number «six» and speaks it. «Nine,» replies the other man, pointing to the number. Who is correct? It all depends on your point of view or perspective.

We all live in a world of beliefs that we’ve formed based on what we’ve seen, learnt, and experienced throughout our lives. Thus, some may applaud the use of these tools in the judicial system because they belong to the industry that makes or promotes those tools, while others may disagree on the risks of these tools for the judicial system. But I believe we can all agree on one thing, if we are going to use them: why do I need these tools for this specific issue? – The discussion about ‘Necessity’[1]. First and foremost, respecting others’ ideas does not imply betraying our own. It only asks us to accept that others have the right to see the world in their own way.

The interdisciplinary approach to these problems ensures that human rights and dignity are respected. The necessity for a multi-stakeholder approach must therefore be recognized by judges, policymakers, and development practitioners. A call is made for the joint construction of technological governance within the Colombian judicial system, not to «check the box» or meet international goals, but to be a part of a process from beginning to end, permeated by transparency, dialogue, and joint working groups among the various stakeholders, like the design thinking process[2].

Which is the need that I want to address with technology?

Design thinking is a powerful tool for organizations in a variety of industries, including the legal sector, to address problems for the customers of their goods and services. The appeal of design thinking as a world-improving tool is that it allows teams to produce ground-breaking ideas with or without technology. I am not an expert in design thinking methodology, but what I have taken from it in contrast to the Technological Impact Assessment are the essential phases[3]. Since both are non-linear, iterative processes used by teams to understand people, question assumptions, reframe challenges, and build novel solutions to prototype, test, and audit, the design thinking process and the Impact Assessment process have many parallels.  

What is the problem you are attempting to address; I would ask the judge using the Metaverse for this court hearing? (Step 1: Investigate your users’ requirements) What specific needs is the judge addressing by using the metaverse? Without going into detail about the problems of justice in Colombia, it can be stated that the primary issues are inefficiency and access hurdles, which have battered the system’s legitimacy. On the other side, budget implementation, administration, and operator certification all have an influence on judicial service quality. Consequently, the key issues within the judicial system may be characterized as follows: a lack of effective judicial access; ii) late dispute settlement; iii) a lack of available legal counsel; and iv) citizens’ lack of understanding of their own rights.

Not recognizing which problem to solve (need) will result in a waste of human and economic resources. Moreover, if the judge was attempting to address an issue linked to fostering innovation inside the legal system, the next question I will ask is if there is any additional value to involving technology or whether we can achieve the same outcomes without it?

Lastly, if we decide to handle the problem with a specific technology, the question is, have I weighed the risks and rewards of selecting this solution and am I prepared to accept them? (purpose) Because if technology does not bring value to any digital transformation process, it may hurt the organization or raise inefficiency. Perhaps we should go back to the beginning and start rethinking the main issues for the judicial system and how technology can help, as well as the risks (complexity of the sector, resistance to change, use of sensible information, budget, cybersecurity, and so on) because we are no longer concerned with statistics and products, but with people’s rights.

Let’s bring back the thoughtful and suitable application of technology: A social and purposeful technology.

[1] Maria Lorena Florez Rojas and Juliana Leal Vargas, ‘The Impact of Artificial Intelligence Tools: An Analysis of the Public Sector in Colombia’ in Carolina Aguerre (ed), Artificial Intelligence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Ethics, Governance and Policies (1st edn, CETyS, UdeSA, FairLAC 2020) <;.

[2] Christian Bason and Robert D Austin, ‘Design in the Public Sector: Toward a Human Centred Model of Public Governance’ [2021] <; accessed 23 August 2021; Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel and Ulrich Weinberg, ‘Design-Thinking’ [2009] Innovation lernen – Ideenwelten öffnen.

[3] Maria Lorena Flórez Rojas, ‘Pensamiento de Diseño y Marcos Éticos Para La Inteligencia Artificial: Una Mirada a La Participación de Las Múltiples Partes Interesadas’ (2023) 35 Desafíos <; accessed 22 February 2023.

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