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  • Writer's pictureP Xenos and M Bacina

Decentralized Aragon Court onboarding jurors to settle disputes

Decentralized management platform Aragon has begun onboarding jurors for its decentralized Aragon Court. The Court is set to be launched in mid-February of this year.

The Aragon Court was developed as a community governed decentralized organization, with the objective of operating as a digital jurisdiction and an online decentralized court.

Aragon is seeking to eliminate “traditional artificial barriers such as national jurisdictions or the borders of a single country." and the Aragon Court will operate as a sort of code-binding arbitration system.

On 7 January, the Aragon Court began letting members convert the network’s native token ANT into the ANJ token, which they are able to stake and earn rewards once the court has been launched. Any person can become a juror, only if they possess at least 10,000 staked and activated ANJ tokens (on today's price about USD$58).

How does it work?

Once a dispute is raised, the system singles out jurors to adjudicate it, with the chance of being called to jury duty proportional to the number of ANJ tokens a community member has activated. The jury decision is reached under a majority rules Schelling Game in which those voting with the majority are rewarded, where the minority jurors are penalised.

This is part of a series of rules baked into the Court designed to prevent a Sybill attack (where someone buys up enough ANJ tokens to get a majority on a jury and vote their way all the time).

Jurors can earn fees from subscription fees charged by people who may use the court, and Jurors who are drafted into a case will receive 10 DAI (currently ~USD$10). Anyone will be able to stake ANJ on the outcome of the case (and any appeals within the Aragon Court) to "bet" on the outcome of the decision.

Will there be any legal standing for the Aragon Court?

Luis Cuende, executive director at Aragon Association says that the Aragon Court is not required to come into agreement with local authorities as project is “ entirely decentralized and border less.” This effectively means that while Aragon Court decisions won't have any legal standing, if they are directing payments out of smart contracts, then the winning party will have the (digital) money immediately and for practical purposes it will likely be uncommercial or difficult for a disgruntled party to turn to their local courts for redress. According to the company, each aspect of the decentralized network is geared to be governed by people participating in its operation, with jurors being randomly selected to solve disputes between two parties.

On how rulings by jurors within the project are to be executed, Cuende explained:

They are automatically executed by smart contracts — juries provide their decisions, and then the smart contract rewards or penalizes the winning and losing parties respectively. There is no trust involved or centralized parties who can tamper with the system.

To clarify the above, there is some trust involved, just within the Aragon Court system and smart contracts operating same, and presumably trust that Aragon Jurors not seeking to contact the parties to a dispute and collude on outcomes.

The Aragon Court also implements a bond system. An individual is required to post a bond upon opening a case, and this serves as a guarantee for the period of the arbitration process. It is then returned to the individual if the case is settled in favor of the applicant.

Decentralised Courts

While Aragon Court claims to be the world’s first digital jurisdiction in the making, legal systems around the world have also been experimenting with blockchain and smart contracts.

As of mid-December of last year, China’s smart courts in what are referred to as “courts of the future”, allowed citizens to be able to communicate with non-human, virtual, AI-powered judges in front of multiple screens, negating the need for them to physically appear in court. It is said that over 3.1 million Chinese litigation activities from March to October of last year had been settled through the blockchain and AI-powered smart internet courts.

What's Next?

The Aragon Court is a fascinating experiment in decentralised dispute resolution, and given it's focus on low fees and high automation, it will be interesting to see if there is a take up in the Aragon Court to resolve matters which may have be uncommercial to take to traditional Law Courts. There will be a 2-3 month "precedence period" in which test cases will be run in the Aragon Court to identify bugs and outcomes.

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