Steven Schwartz, who used ChatGPT to write a legal brief, is pictured outside federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in New York.

Molly Crane-Newman | New York Daily News | Getty Images

A New York federal judge on Thursday sanctioned lawyers who submitted a legal brief written by the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, which included citations of non-existent court opinions and fake quotes.

Judge P. Kevin Castel said that the attorneys, Peter LoDuca and Steven Schwartz, “abandoned their responsibilities” when they submitted the A.I.-written brief in their client’s lawsuit against the Avianca airline in March, and “then continued to stand by the fake opinions after judicial orders called their existence into question.”

Castel ordered both LoDuca and Schwartz, along with their law firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, to each pay $5,000 in fines. He also ordered them to notify each judge falsely identified as the author of the bogus case rulings about the sanction.

“The Court will not require an apology from Respondents because a compelled apology is not a sincere apology,” Castel wrote in his order in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. “Any decision to apologize is left to Respondents.”

The judge, in a separate order Thursday, granted Avianca’s motion to dismiss the suit, which the attorneys filed on behalf of Roberto Mata, who claimed his knee was severely injured on an August 2019 flight to New York from El Salvador when he was hit by a metal service tray.

Castel said Mata’s suit was filed after the expiration of a two-year window allowed for legal claims related to international air travel under the Montreal Convention.

The judge said he might not have sanctioned the attorneys if they had come “clean” about Schwartz using ChatGPT to create the brief opposing Avianca’s motion to dismiss the suit.

But Castel said the lawyers exhibited “bad faith” by making false and misleading statements about the brief and its contents after Avianca’s lawyers raised concerns that the legal citations in the brief were from court cases did not exist.

“In researching and drafting court submissions, good lawyers appropriately obtain assistance from junior lawyers, law students, contract lawyers, legal encyclopedias and databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis,” Castel wrote in his order.

“Technological advances are commonplace and there is nothing inherently improper about using a reliable artificial intelligence tool for assistance,” Castel wrote. “But existing rules impose a gatekeeping role on attorneys to ensure the accuracy of their filings.”


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