Charlie Buttrey

April 1, 2024

This seems a fitting post for April Fools Day.

The other day, I was doing some legal research into a particularly arcane issue, and decided to see if an AI-generated Chat GPT bot might be able to lend me hand. I explained the issue and asked if there were are any decisions on point and, in a matter of seconds, up popped three citations to three decisions in three jurisdictions, complete with the names of the parties, the states in which the courts issuing the decisions were located, and the dates of the decisions.

I then went into the legal databases to find the cases. I couldn’t find any of them.

I then returned to the Chat GPT bot and typed in something like “each of the cases you provided was fictional!”  I do not remember the exact response (I don’t recall at the moment which AI Chat Bot I used), but it was something along the lines of: “I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I’ll try not to do that again.”

Like me, a Massachusetts attorney (whose name is left unstated in the court record) representing a woman named Darlene Smith used an AI-powered Chat Bot to do some legal research. Unlike me, he didn’t then bother to check the citations that the Bot spit out to make sure that the cases weren’t, you know, totally bogus. They were.

And it’s going to cost him $2,000.

It turns out that Ms. Smith’s attorney filed three separate pleadings (motions and legal memoranda) with fictitious or nonexistent cases. The court discovered that the cases were bogus, and asked the attorney how it was that they came to be included in the pleadings. His response was that he was “unfamiliar” with the fictitious cases and their origin, and that the pleadings had been prepared by interns in his office, who had used generative AI to assist in drafting the pleadings.

This is not the first time that courts have come across pleadings with fictitious citations. And it’s really not hard to avoid citing bogus cases; just do the research, for heaven’s sake.

And the $2,000 fine seems pretty light.  Making false representations to the court is an ethical violation that can lead to suspension or disbarment.

© 2020 Charlie Buttrey Law by Nomad Communications