MITRE Brings a Technical Perspective to the Global Rule of Law

February 2016
Topics: Law, Data (General), Public Health (General), International Relations
A stable legal foundation—the rule of law—is essential to developing nations. MITRE recently co-sponsored a World Bank conference and shed light on how technology can make a difference to international judicial systems.
MITRE’s Brad Brown, Julie Bowen, and Paul Bielski discuss the World Bank’s annual Law, Justice, and Development Week.

The World Bank's motto is "Working for a World Free of Poverty." Defeating poverty involves much more than money, of course, which is why the World Bank sponsors an annual Law, Justice, and Development Week. The LJD 2015 theme explored the role of governance and the law in the social and economic advancement of nations.

The "rule of law" is a legal concept defined by the American Bar Association’s World Justice Project as a system where everyone, including the government, is accountable under the law; a fair and accessible legal process exists; laws are fair and widely understood; and lawyers and judges are diverse and competent.

Currently, more than four billion people across the globe exist outside the rule of law—a staggering statistic. More than 2,000 people—including World Bank staff members and senior officials from other international financial institutions; government officials; international development practitioners; and lawyers, judges, scholars, and representatives from civil society—attended the mid-November gathering in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to improve the odds for developing nations.

The event also had a new co-sponsor, MITRE’s Center for Judicial Informatics, Science, and Technology, also known as CJIST. Bradford Brown, CJIST portfolio director, notes, "We want to provide technical assistance in a way that supports MITRE's mission and the rule of law—because no peaceful and prosperous society can exist without the rule of law."

Judicial Systems, Data Analytics, and Market Disruption

Participants focused on the value of law in producing sustainable development outcomes and in serving as a catalyst for justice from different perspectives. Other topics included anti-counterfeiting, healthcare, and technology integration—areas MITRE understands well.

Julie Bowen, vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, led a panel titled "Technology, Data, and Computation to Promote the Rule of Law." Other panel members included Dan Katz, associate professor of law and the director of the Law Tech Lab at the Chicago Kent College of Law (which is affiliated with the Illinois Institute of Technology and also a MITRE academic partner); Oliver Goodenough, professor of law and director of the Center for Innovation at the Vermont Law School; and MITRE's Karl Branting, an artificial intelligence engineer.

"Julie and her colleagues really opened the eyes of a lot of World Bank directors and program managers," says Brown, who put together the panel with Rowena Gorospe of the World Bank. "They saw that data, technology, and related analysis could really make a difference to judicial systems around the world."

Data analytics is causing market disruption, which is significantly impacting judicial systems. At the same time, the legal environment is moving from one supported by experts alone to what Katz refers to as "an ensemble" approach that involves experts, crowds, and algorithms.

Branting, who is currently working on a courts-related project for CJIST, talked about improving access to justice by making use of legal advisory systems. He believes these systems have the potential to support defendants who don’t have the benefit of legal advice and counsel.

A Natural Fit for International Outreach

MITRE has supported the U.S. Federal Judiciary with technical and organizational guidance for many years. Through CJIST, we are now reaching out to the international legal community with our domain knowledge and familiarity with how civil courts operate. Supporting LJD 2015 seemed like a natural fit—and gave MITRE the chance to introduce many of the attendees to an unfamiliar concept: federally funded research and development centers.

"This was an excellent opportunity for MITRE to collaborate with international organizations we may not have worked with before," says Paul Bielski, CJIST's executive director. 'The conference focused on timely, relevant topics that are of interest to MITRE and our sponsors."

Bielski and Brown also met with representatives from the University of Montreal's Cyberjustice Laboratory. MITRE will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the lab to support our entry into the Global Forum on Law, Justice, and Development, an organization of more than 100 members that discusses solutions to the world's problems related to law, justice, and equality in developing countries.

"Our efforts with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] support MITRE's mission," Bielski adds. "These partnerships will help us work with governments in the right way to enhance access to justice and to support the rule of law."

—by Alison Stern-Dunyak

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