AI legislative advocacy focus of law students’ visit to D.C.

With artificial intelligence (AI) a hot topic in the news and AI technologies rapidly proliferating, there is an urgent need for legal experts to help navigate tech policy needs and the legal ramifications along these new frontiers. As public debate over AI has now reached a fever pitch, a group of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students and their professor from William S. Richardson School of Law traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate by invitation in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE-USA) Congressional Visit Days (CVD), April 4–5.

Emile Loza de Siles, an assistant professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law, is one of a few artificial intelligence and law scholars in the United States. Her scholarship emphasizes law and systems engineering approaches to AI governance, particularly as to biases and AI-mediated discrimination; and AI transparency and the rule of law. She has served on the IEEE’s Artificial Intelligence Policy Committee since 2019, on international AI working groups, and in other roles. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization with 150,000 members in every Congressional District in the United States and more than 400,000 worldwide.

students in front of supreme court

The five law students who participated with Loza de Siles were her artificial intelligence and social justice students last fall, and this CVD experience built upon their legislation and advocacy projects in that course. They are: Samantha BarthChloe BerridgeSkye Aʻolani JansenTatyanna Serraro and Irene Sun.

During their CVD experience, Loza de Siles and these students met and trained with more than 100 IEEE members from around the country. On Capitol Hill, Loza de Siles and her students participated in 20 congressional meetings, including with legislative counsel and other staff members of all four of Hawaiʻi elected officials, as well as senators and representatives for California, New York, Pennsylvania and Utah. In these meetings, the UH law school delegation discussed AI, data privacy, and tech policy and the needs for legislation to protect consumers while fostering trustworthy AI markets and innovation.

“Nothing pleases me more than to lift up our students so that, through their learning about law and technology, their tenacity and courage; and their thoughtful, creative, and diligent work, they may contribute, find life-changing career paths, and lead in this critically essential domain,” said Loza de Siles. “Our Richardson Law students conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and were agile and convincing in their advocacy. I look forward to the great contributions that they will each make in our noble profession and to continuing to foster technology and law learning as our students move into public and private practice.”

Continuing, she said, “I am deeply grateful to Dean Camille Nelson for her enthusiastic support and to my IEEE colleagues for collaborating with me to bring this ‘national first’ experience to our Richardson Law students.”

This CVD participation marks the first of any law school in the United States in IEEE’s almost 30-year history of bringing technology leaders to Congress to advocate for scientific research and innovation.

The cost of the trip was covered by the Dean’s Innovation Fund, which was seeded with a $1-million gift in 2022 from UH alumnus Jay H. Shidler to allow Nelson to strategically support faculty in bold new ideas involving technology and innovation and to invest in the development of new and emerging innovations in support of business, social justice and 21st century law practice.

“This is the kind of idea we envisioned when Mr. Shidler presented us with his gift to create the Dean’s Innovation Fund,” said Nelson, who recently used the fund to hire the UH law school’s first Innovator in Residence. “The experience these students will receive under the guidance of Professor Loza de Siles will elevate their education at Richardson and stay with them as they embark on their careers.”

The William S. Richardson School of Law embraces Hawaiʻi’s diversity and values as part of its collaborative, multicultural community which prepares students for excellence in the practice of law and related careers that advance justice and the rule of law. The law school is marking its 50th anniversary in 2023. Its part-time program is rated No. 21 and its full-time program No. 91 in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of law schools.