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U.S. Lawyers Sanctioned For Using An AI Chatbot To Generate Fake Case Citations

Two New York lawyers face penalties after submitting a legal brief containing fabricated case citations generated by an AI chatbot, ChatGPT.

Credits: REUTERS

In a Manhattan court ruling, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel imposed sanctions on Steven Schwartz, Peter LoDuca and their law firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, ordering them to pay a total fine of $5,000. The judge found that the lawyers had acted in bad faith, resorting to conscious avoidance and providing false and misleading statements to the court.

Responding to the court's decision, Levidow, Levidow & Oberman released a statement expressing respectful disagreement with the judgment, asserting that their actions were not in bad faith. They claimed to have made an honest mistake, placing their trust in technology and unaware that ChatGPT had generated fictional cases. Steven Schwartz's lawyers declined to comment, while Peter LoDuca's lawyer mentioned that they were reviewing the ruling and did not provide an immediate response.

Earlier, Schwartz admitted in May that he had employed ChatGPT to assist with research for a personal injury case against Avianca, the Colombian airline, inadvertently incorporating the false citations into the brief. Notably, only LoDuca's name appeared on the prepared document attributed to Schwartz.

Avianca's legal representatives alerted the court in March about the missing cases mentioned in the brief, leading to the subsequent developments. Bart Banino, Avianca's lawyer, stated that regardless of the lawyers' utilization of ChatGPT, the court reached the appropriate conclusion by dismissing the personal injury case. In a separate ruling, the judge granted Avianca's motion to dismiss the case due to late filing.

While acknowledging that lawyers can use AI tools for assistance, the judge emphasised the ethical responsibility of attorneys to ensure the accuracy of their filings. The judge's order stressed that the sanctioned lawyers had persisted in defending the fabricated opinions despite doubts raised by both the court and the airline. Furthermore, the lawyers were instructed to inform the genuine authors of the false cases, who were identified by the court, about the imposed sanctions.

  • U.S. lawyers fined $5,000 for including fictitious AI-generated case citations in a legal brief.

  • The judge finds lawyers acted in bad faith, making false statements and avoiding responsibility.

  • Lawyers claim good faith mistakes, unaware that AI technology could generate fake cases.

  • Avianca's lawyers initially flagged missing cases; court dismisses personal injury case.

  • Judge emphasizes lawyers' responsibility to ensure accuracy and permits AI assistance but sets limits.

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