Lessons in Artificial Intelligence

By Francie Skaggs, CCLS

Recently, there have been several articles in circulation about attorney Steven Schwartz from Levidow, Levidow & Oberman who used ChatGPT to conduct his research. Attorney Schwartz has become the poster child for poor judgment when using AI after using cases he found on the popular AI program to support his argument. Those cases turned out to be fake law.

June 8, 2023, must have been a suspenseful day for the New York attorney as he was ordered to appear before Hon. Kevin Castel for an order to show cause hearing in the Southern District of New York to explain why he “ought not to be sanctioned” for fraudulently citing six “bogus” cases to support an argument when defending his client Roberto Mata against Avianca Airlines, Inc. for negligence. 

Where did this attorney go wrong? He used ChatGPT, a popular AI program to do his research. According to the June 8 ruling, Attorney Schwartz’s firm did not have an account with Westlaw or Lexis Nexis and used ChatGPT to conduct his research.

In his ruling, Judge Castel found that he did not use “bad faith” in his ruling and therefore did not sanction him.  Attorney Schwartz may have been relieved that he was not sanctioned but learned a valuable lesson after becoming the poster child for one of the most recent cautionary tales about AI.

Upon this decision, I wanted to find an attorney’s point of view on using ChatGPT as a research tool. I asked California employment law attorney Erin Doyle for her perspective. She responded that though she has never used this program, even when using Westlaw or Lexis Nexis, it is important to always confirm that cases are not only genuine but also that they have not been appealed.

The moral of this story is to always check your sources and make sure that laws are accurate. In a world of demanding schedules, AI may appear to be a shortcut solution, but allowing it to replace human intelligence can be fatal. AI is a tool that we can use, but we must always be in charge. We need to keep our own minds sharp, and our critical thinking skills even sharper.


Maruf, Ramishah. “Lawyer Apologizes for Fake Citations from ChatGPT.” CNN Business. CNN, May 28, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/27/business/chat-gpt-avianca-mata-lawyers





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