Judge fines fake ChatGPT case lawyers

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By Emily Hinkley on

First major AI sanctions

A US judge has issued a joint fine to two lawyers involved in a case where non-existent cases were submitted to the court after ChatGPT was used for legal research.

In what are thought to be the first major sanctions arising from using artificial intelligence in the legal field, Steven Schwartz and his co-worker Peter LoDuca were slapped with a joint $5,000 (£3,926) fine and ordered to inform the judges whose names were wrongfully invoked in the fake cases to provide information.

The original personal injury case was disrupted by the revelation that a claimant’s legal team member submitted a legal document containing several bogus cases.

The claimant’s lawyer, Peter LoDuca, had not prepared his own legal research but instead allowed his colleague, Steven Schwartz, to prepare it for him which he did using ChatGPT.

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New York District Judge Peter Kevin Castel said Schwartz and LoDuca acted in bad faith and misled the court when they “consciously avoided” signs the cases they were using as examples were fake.

However, he found “nothing inherently improper about using a reliable artificial intelligence tool for assistance”. Instead sanctioning the lawyers because of their lack of responsibility and decision to double down on the error after the court had questioned them.

The lawyers’ firm, Levidow Levidow & Oberman, P.C., said it hasn’t decided whether to appeal yet but released a statement to Forbes saying they “fully intend to comply” with the court’s order, but “respectfully disagree” that anyone at the firm “acted in bad faith”.

“We continue to believe that in the face of what even the court acknowledged was an unprecedented situation, we made a good faith mistake in failing to believe that a piece of technology could be making up cases out of whole cloth,” the statement continued.