Polish Ministry of Justice random case allocation system

In 2018, the Polish Ministry of Justice implemented the “System of Random Allocation of Cases” (or the System Losowego Przydziału Spraw), an algorithmic system that randomly matches judges with cases across the judicial system (Algorithm Watch 2019).

The initiative has faced intense public scrutiny since first being piloted in three Polish cities in 2017. While no quantitative investigations have been done over the topic, qualitative evidence suggests that the system’s process of matching cases is not random (ibid). Watchdog groups and activiststs raise the contention that the system’s randomness is impossible to verify given the opacity of the algorithm. While the Ministry has released documents explaining how the algorithm operates, it refuses to release the source code to the public, declining a 2017 freedom of information request by NGOs ePaństwo and Watchdog Polska to divulge the details of the system (ibid). 

Equally troubling, the Ministry has bought into the alluring yet unfounded façade of objectivity presented by computational systems, declaring that “the selection will be made solely by a machine, a computer system that is blind like Themis, and chooses without emotions, without views or biases, and in a manner fully free from possible accusations of corruption“ (ibid). The Polish Ministry of Justice needs to understand the susceptibility to bias inherent to all automated decision-making systems.

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