A new app funded by conservative interest groups has the potential to streamline our justice system. This app, the Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Sometimes Kennedy and Now We’ve Got Neil Gorsuch Know-It-All System, or STAR-SKAN, uses artificial intelligence to distill the views of present and former Republican appointees to the Supreme Court into a handful of algorithms that can be uploaded and stored forever on a computer or iPhone and used to decide any issue touching on constitutional law. No more need for cases to wend their way through the lower courts to focus on specific actions and their effects. No more waiting months for briefing, argument and deliberations in the Supreme Court. The STAR-SKAN algorithms can resolve the knottiest legal questions in seconds—almost as fast as Donald Trump can tweet the answer. As a virtual, rather than flesh-and-blood, Justice, with artificial rather than emotional intelligence, STAR-SKAN avoids the vagaries of individual life events and will preserve the legacy of conservative Justices going all the way back to Roger Taney more reliably than any living Justice could.
Let’s get started with simple and straightforward Algorithm 1: Tap the icon titled Citizens United. Up comes the answer: “Money Talks.” And so it is, no matter what Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor may say. People with lots of money may influence elections and elected officials all they want. People without money must make up for it by travelling many miles in cars they don’t own to purchase identification cards they can’t afford simply in order to vote.
Now, to prove the elegance of STAR-SKAN, ask yourself who can best pay for speech? That’s right: Not Ruth Bader Ginsburg or even Steven Breyer but giant, for-profit corporations formed for commercial purposes. And that brings us to STAR-SKAN Algorithm 2 (accessed through the icon Hobby Lobby). Corporations are artificial entities created for convenience. They have no actual mouths, larynxes or brains. But the rules of STAR-SKAN give them rights to speak and exercise religious beliefs that supersede the rights of actual people who do have physical organs. Indeed, physical organs of real people can be harmed when artificial beings exercise these artificial rights.
These first two algorithms are often employed in conjunction with the powerful STAR-SKAN Algorithm 3 of originalism for constitutional analysis. Just click on the “Originalism” button to answer every question. Then let the system use as much originality as it chooses in opining about how a white male slave owner would have dealt with a situation he never dreamed would have existed over two centuries ago.
The “originalism” algorithm can be used as a short cut for all voting and civil rights questions. Plug in Siri or Alexa under the icon that looks like the emancipation proclamation with an X drawn through it. She will tell you not only to turn right at every intersection but also to ignore everything that has happened since the adoption of the Constitution in its original form. This includes the 13th and 14th Amendments to the constitution, the statutes enacted pursuant to those amendments, and the bloody civil war that our country fought to outlaw badges of slavery. STAR-SKAN has already established that money talks; originalism confirms that those most disadvantaged by our nation’s history should be expected to face barriers to exercising voting and other rights not originally intended for them. “Q.E.D.”, concludes Siri—if Congress funds the add-on for spicing up computer generated opinions with Latin and out of context quotes from ancient documents.
Finally, STAR-SKAN Algorithm 4: The fundamental notion of habeas corpus. This Latin phrase is translated by STAR-SKAN to mean you already have the person’s body, so you might as well keep it—and by the way there is probably not much you will do to it that we will find to be cruel and unusual.
STAR-SKAN will keep a narrow, conservative ideology ascendant no matter who wins future elections, remove judicial appointments from politics and public oversight, and take the unpredictable discretion and independence of judges out of the courts and our system of justice once and for all. Demand that your Congressman vote to install STAR-SKAN now. Or tweet our President and ask him to have the workers at Mar-a-Lago install it before he deports them. We already have drones for some governmental functions and computerized tools for many others. The time is ripe for automating judicial dogmatism as well.
James B. Kobak Jr. is senior ethics counsel in New York.