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Lawyers Pay Sanctions for Defending AI-Generated Cases: A Hard Lesson on AI Use in Law

Take a moment to mark June 22, 2023, on your calendar, legal professionals. It was a day of reckoning when U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel slapped a hefty $5,000 fine on a couple of lawyers for recklessly trusting lawsuits churned out by ChatGPT, an AI language model by OpenAI. The culprits? Peter LoDuca and Steven A. Schwartz from the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, as reported by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Let's rewind and get the lowdown on what led to this debacle. Attorneys LoDuca and Schwartz got a bit too comfortable with AI, specifically ChatGPT. They used the AI model for legal reserach in court pleadings, leaning heavily on its capability to generate human-like text. Unfortunately, their trust was misplaced.

ChatGPT, despite its impressive abilities, bungled up. The AI model churned out bogus cases that our duo ended up defending in court, and that too without verifying their authenticity. One such fictitious case, the "Varghese" case, was cited by Judge Castel as total "gibberish," even though it contained internal citations and quotes from nonexistent cases. As Judge Castel put it, "other cases cited in 'Varghese' are real cases, but they don't stand for the propositions cited."

The plot thickened when Schwartz admitted in a May 25 affidavit that he used ChatGPT to "supplement" his research after finding no help from Fastcase. What started as a supplement quickly turned into the main course, leading the duo down a slippery slope.  The lawyers did not check the case law provided by ChatGPT.

Judge Castel weighed the "significant publicity" surrounding the case and the sincerity of the lawyers. He took into account their stated "embarrassment and remorse" and the fact that they had a clean disciplinary record with a low likelihood of repeating such actions.

Even so, the penalties came down hard. LoDuca, Schwartz, and their firm were slapped with a $5,000 fine. Responding to the order, Levidow, Levidow & Oberman told the New York Times and that while they intended to comply fully with Judge Castel's order, they respectfully disagreed with the finding that their lawyers acted in bad faith.

So, there you have it!  A poignant lesson for everyone who's gotten a bit too comfortable with AI in the legal field. Let June 22, 2023, serve as a reminder that while AI is a powerful tool, it can't replace the human touch and expertise required in law.

As the ABA puts it, "Lawyers must stay competent with changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology." Don't let the allure of AI lead you astray. Use it, but don't let it use you!