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Law and Artificial Intelligence:
Not a World Apart

18 May 2022, Utrecht

Symposium organised by the Special Interest Group on AI, Ethics & Law
of the Utrecht University Focus Area Human-Centered AI and the Utrecht University School of Law.

Update May 12th: the poster programme has been added.

Symposium Topic and target audience

Driven by the spectacular progress in AI in recent years, especially in machine learning and natural-language processing, there has been increasing attention for the question how artificial intelligence (AI) can support judicial decision-making. In particular algorithmic case outcome predictors have received much attention. Some hope that supporting judges with such algorithms can increase the efficiency, predictability and consistency of judicial decision-making. It has even been suggested that such algorithms can be used to automate decision-making in routine cases so that judges have more time for complex cases.

Others argue that the claimed benefits of such algorithms are based on misunderstandings concerning their nature and that for supporting or automating judicial decision-making a very different kind of AI system is needed, namely, knowledge-based algorithms that can apply legal knowledge to justify legal decisions. A more general concern with AI support for judges, whether data-driven or knowledge-based, is that this would force mechanical application of the law without room for individual justice and for creative interpretation of the law.

Another type of predictive algorithm are so-called algorithmic experts, which inform judges about a matter of fact relevant to a decision. For instance, algorithms that predict the probability of recidivism are already in use for informing decisions about requests for bail or early release from prison. While some claim that the use of algorithmic experts can lead to more accurate decisions of fact, others fear that such algorithms may be biased against minorities.

More generally, data-driven approaches have led to increasing concern about the fairness and explainability of algorithmic (support for) decision-making. Data collection may be biased, data may be outdated, incomplete, incorrect or sensitive, and the models learned from the data may be hard to inspect and explain.

The aim of the symposium is twofold: to discuss these issues and to bring together UU students and researchers from various backgrounds interested in these topics.

Preliminary programme

10.00-10.15: Welcome and opening
10.15-11.15am: key note speaker 1

Chair: Elaine Mak, vice dean Faculty of Law, economics and Governance, Utrecht University.
  • Giovanni Sartor, University of Bologna and European University Institute Florence. Predictive Justice.
11.15-11.45: Coffee Break
11.45-12.30pm: key note speaker 2

Chair: Elaine Mak.
  • Manuella van der Put, judge in the District Court of 's Hertogenbosch. Artificial Intelligence in the process of judicial decision-making. abstract
12.45-14.00: Lunch Break
14.00-15.00: panel discussion

Chair: Henry Prakken

  • Floris Bex, Utrecht University & University of Tilburg
  • Manuella van der Put, judge in the Court of 's Hertogenbosch.
  • Dory Reiling, Retired Senior Judge, Amsterdam District Court.
  • Giovanni Sartor, University of Bologna and European University Institute Florence.
  • Genevieve Vanderstichele, judge in the court of appeal of Ghent (Be) with leave of absence to read for a DPhil in Law at the University of Oxford.
15:-15:30: Tea Break
15:30-16.30: poster session

Chair: Cristiana Santos

  • Suzanne Flynn, Predicting crimes or presuming guilt? The potential impact of AI in predictive policing in the context of criminal trials in the EU and on the rights of the accused. abstract
  • Saar Hoek, Explainability and the GDPR. abstract
  • Daphne Odekerken, Transparent human-in-the-loop classification of fraudulent web shops. abstract
16:30-17:00: Drinks


Belle van Zuylen room, Academiegebouw, Domplein 29, Utrecht.


To register, send an email before April 30 to with the following information:

Your name
Your email address
Your UU department
Your status (Staff, Postdoc, PhD student, Bsc or Msc student, other)
Whether you want your email address to be added to the mailing list of the AI, Ethics & Law special interest group.

Call for posters

We invite English-language poster presentations on the topic of the symposium. A poster presentation consists of a physical poster plus a 'pitch' of a few minutes in a plenary session. Anyone who is a UU undergraduate or PhD student or a UU staff member can submit a poster. There will be no poster proceedings but (abstracts of) accepted posters will be published on this website.

Proposals for poster presentations must be submitted to Cristiana Santos at By May 6 (extended deadline), consisting of a title and an abstract of maximally 200 words.



Send an email to or