Attorney Stevens A. Schwartz on Thursday apologized to US District Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Manhattan federal court for citing bogus legal cases fabricated by ChatGPT. Schwartz and another lawyer, Peter LoDuca, said they were remorseful for citing non-existent precedent cases in a case against an airline company.
For more than two hours, a visibly angry Judge Castel grilled Schwartz on citing invented cases, but the lawyers from Tribeca law firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, said they were humiliated for relying on an artificial intelligence chatbot that they thought harnessed cases they could not access otherwise.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to your honor, to this court, to the defendants, to my firm,” Schwartz to Castel shamefacedly. “I deeply regret my actions in this manner that led to this hearing today. I suffered both professionally and personally [because of] the widespread publicity this issue has generated. I am embarrassed, humiliated, and extremely remorseful.”
Schwartz said he believed that ChatGPT would serve like a normal search engine but didn’t know the emerging technology could make up bogus cases that never existed. He said he believed that the case laws generated by the AI were available in sources he couldn’t reach or that were yet to be published and made publicly available.
“I have never been involved in anything like this in my 30 years,” said Schwartz, who was forced to pause and compose himself as he tearfully made the apology. “I can assure this court that nothing like this will happen again. I just never could imagine that ChatGPT would fabricate cases.
“My assumption was I was using a search engine that was using sources I don’t have access to. It just never occurred to me ChatGPT would be making up cases. I just assumed it couldn’t access the full case. I continued to be duped by ChatGPT.”
Schwartz was representing Robert Mata who was suing Avianca, a Columbian airline, for the injury he sustained when a metal serving cart hit his knee during a flight to New York City in 2022. The fictitious cases presented by Schwartz to support his argument included Miller vs. United Airlines, Petersen vs Iran Air, and Varghese vs. China Southern Airlines. Lawyers for Avianca found out that the cases were fictitious and notified Castel who summoned Schwartz to court to defend himself.
“Can we agree that’s legal gibberish?” Castel asked the morose attorney, and Schwartz responded that “Looking at it now, yes.”
LoDuca said he relied on the research that Schwartz made and thought that all the cases he cited were genuine. Judge Castel said he will give his ruling on a possible sanction at a later date.