Nathalie Smuha

Dr Nathalie Smuha is a legal scholar and philosopher at the KU Leuven Faculty of Law, where she examines legal and ethical questions around artificial intelligence and other digital technologies. Her research focuses particularly on the  impact of AI on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. She is the academic coordinator of the KU Leuven Summer School on the Law, Ethics and Policy of AI, and a member of the Leuven.AI Institute and the Digital Society Institute. Previously, she has held visiting positions at the University of Chicago Law School and at the University of Birmingham Law School. Her work has been the recipient of several awards, and she is a sought-after speaker at academic conferences and events.

Besides her academic activities, Nathalie Smuha regularly advises governments and international organizations on AI policy. She coordinated the work of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI which drafted Europe’s Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, and she is a scientific expert in the Council of Europe’s (Ad Hoc) Committee on AI which is developing a new AI Convention. She is also a member of the UNESCO Expert Group on AI and the Futures of Learning, and a member of the OECD’s Network of Experts on AI. 

Nathalie Smuha holds degrees in law (BA, MA, PhD from KU Leuven / LL.M. from the University of Chicago) and in philosophy (BA, MA from KU Leuven). She is a member of the Brussels and the New York Bar.

As an Emile Noël Fellow, Dr Smuha will examine the use of algorithmic systems in the judiciary, and how this can impact the rule of law against the background of a global rise in authoritarian tendencies.

Research Project

Judging Algorithmic Judges: A Rule of Law-Analysis of the Use of Algorithmic Systems in the Judiciary.

Algorithmic systems are increasingly deployed in the judicial branch of power to facilitate a range of judicial tasks. While they can enhance efficiency, these systems also raise concerns as regards their impact on individuals and their rights, and as regards their impact on societal interests such as the rule of law. When not accompanied by adequate oversight and accountability mechanisms – especially if developed by private actors or by the executive branch of power – such systems can hamper core rule of law-principles, such as the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, legality and legal certainty, and the separation of powers. Crucially, these concerns arise in a context that is already marked by a ‘rule of law crisis’ in the European Union, and by an increase in authoritarian tendencies across the world.

The aim of this research project is hence to connect these two sets of problems and to analyse shortcomings in the current legislative framework to counter them. By examining the societal risks at stake, this project aims to identify safeguards to strengthen the rule of law against the risks posed by algorithmic systems in the judiciary, and to ensure that the rule of law can withstand the challenges of an artificially intelligent age.