Friday, November 24, 2023

Detrimental Reliance On ChatGPT Draws Colorado Sanction

Cutting edge discipline imposed by stipulation before the Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Zachariah C. Crabill (attorney registration number 56783) for one year and one day, with ninety days to be served and the remainder to be stayed upon Crabill’s successful completion of a twoyear period of probation, with conditions. The suspension took effect November 22, 2023.

In April 2023, a client hired Crabill to prepare a motion to set aside judgment in the client’s civil case. Crabill, who had never drafted such a motion before working on his client’s matter, cited case law that he found through the artificial intelligence platform, ChatGPT. Crabill did not read the cases he found through ChatGPT or otherwise attempt to verify that the citations were accurate. In May 2023, Crabill filed the motion with the presiding court. Before a hearing on the motion, Crabill discovered that the cases from ChatGPT were either incorrect or fictitious. But Crabill did not alert the court to the sham cases at the hearing. Nor did he withdraw the motion. When the judge expressed concerns about the accuracy of the cases, Crabill falsely attributed the mistakes to a legal intern. Six days after the hearing, Crabill filed an affidavit with the court, explaining that he used ChatGPT when he drafted the motion.

Business Insider  had more of the story as recounted by Law Week Colorado

"When ChatGPT saved me hours of work, it was a tiny ray of sunlight in an otherwise abysmal situation," Crabill said in an email to Insider. "My experience is not unique, sadly I've heard many attorneys say they too were 'thrown to wolves' early in their career."

Once the motion was complete, the lawyer submitted it to his boss to review and, ultimately, filed it with the Colorado court — but he missed the critical step of checking the AI chatbot's work.

His excitement quickly turned into horror when he realized ChatGPT created multiple fake lawsuit citations in the motion.

"I think all my cases cited from chatGPT are garbage … I can't even find the cases in Lexis…" Crabill said regarding the motion, according to screenshots of his text messages reviewed by Law Week Colorado.

The errors can likely be chalked up to hallucinations, when ChatGPT generates seemingly convincing responses that are actually not grounded in fact.

He told the judge he used the AI chatbot to help strengthen the document. The judge later reported him to a statewide office.

Soon after, he was fired, The Washington Post first reported. Crabill maintained to Insider that using ChatGPT was not the reason he was fired, though he didn't respond when asked for further clarification.

Despite losing his job, Crabill said he still believes AI has the power to make lawyers more productive. He has started his own company that offers legal services through AI.

"I still use ChatGPT in my day-to-day, much like most people use Google on the job," Crabill said.

Baker Law Group didn't respond to Insider's request for comment before publication.

(Mike Frisch)

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