US Lawyer Steven Schwartz of the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman has earned himself a sanction after using ChatGPT for legal research, which then cites imaginary cases.
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The lawsuit began like so many others: Aman named Roberto Mata sued the airline Avianca, saying he was injured when a metal serving cart struck his knee during a flight to Kennedy airport in New York.
When Avianca asked a Manhattan federal judge to toss out the case, Mata’s lawyers vehemently objected, submitting a 10-page brief that cited more than a half-dozen relevant court decisions. There was Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines and, of course, Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, with its learned discussion of federal law and “the tolling effect of the automatic stay on a statute of limitations.”
There was just one hitch: No one – not the airline’s lawyers, not even the judge himself – could find the decisions or the quotations cited and summarized in the brief. That was because ChatGPT had invented everything.
The lawyer who created the brief, Steven Schwartz of the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, threw himself on the mercy of the court, saying in an affidavit that he had used the artificial intelligence programme to do his legal research – “a source that has revealed itself to be unreliable.”
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Schwartz, who has practiced law in New York for three decades, told Judge P. Kevin Castel that he had no intent to deceive the court or the airline. Schwartz said that he had never used ChatGPT and “therefore was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.” He had, he told Castel, even asked the program to verify that the cases were real. It had said yes. Schwartz said he “greatly regrets” relying on ChatGPT “and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.” Castel said in an order that he had been presented with “an unprecedented circumstance,” a legal submission replete with “bogus judicial decisions, with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations.” He ordered a hearing for June S to discuss potential sanctions.
Tim Boucher, an author, has written over 100 novels in less than a year using ChatGPT. These novels were created with the assistance of ChatGPT and have managed to sell over 500 copies.