Robot Judge

hands of a judge who is reading a paper with a gavel in front of them

Later this year, robo-judges will begin making rulings in Estonian small-claims courts. Robots will only be used in cases involving less than about $8,000. This is what clogged court systems have come to.

Criminal and civil courts are always busy, no matter where you live. Estonian authorities think the smaller small-claims matters can be decided by robots, freeing human judges for larger cases. If someone wants to appeal the robot’s decision, they can apply to go before a human judge.

Small claims cases are usually fairly cut and dried. Long ago, I launched a few of them and – believe me – you don’t go to the trouble and expense of it unless you’re certain you’re owed the money.

My first case was against Mike “Pinball” Clemons whose now-defunct marketing company stopped paying me for voice work. Several of my friends were in the same boat but I was the only one to take him on. This was his company’s M.O. and he needed a lesson! No one showed up to represent him and the Argos paid me off after I won. I still bristle when I see him held up as an icon of integrity.

The second time was against a TV producer who only got out of paying after she was jailed for counterfeiting. Her homemade twenties wouldn’t have been appreciated, anyway.

And I was in the process of filing another claim years later against a British production company that hired me to host a video and then went home, refusing to pay up. It was painful to watch myself on a video I was never compensated for as they apparently thought, what’s she gonna do? SUE us? I went one better. The video involved me interviewing some higher-ups at well-known financial companies in Toronto. I contacted one of them and told him the situation. Although he was mildly annoyed that I put him in the middle, I received a certified cheque for the full amount by courier within a week. Embarrassment works wonders.

Needless to say, I have long since changed the way I do business and have been taken advantage of only once in the years since. That company, I’m happy to report, is out of business. It’s been my experience that you can’t screw people over for very long before word gets around, especially nowadays with online reviews everywhere. One particular radio-related jerk is now living on a boat so his assets can’t be touched. (I’d like to kick his assets on behalf of some friends he scammed!)

In my business, I’ve always paid contractors and side-people before I paid myself. Reputation is everything. Word gets around. Mess with enough people and you’ll find yourself in front of a robot with its hand in your wallet.

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