Use of AI for false legal refs results in $10K fine to attorney

Missouri attorney contracted with a California service for legal case citations in a lawsuit. The service used AI to generate the citations some of which proved to be fabricated and false.

The judge was not impressed and fined the attorney.


I don’t think a fine is enough. It used to be that if you cited fake cases, you could [easily] be disbarred.


If it was intentional, yes. But if it’s an attorney who was simply negligent - either in not checking the cites provided or in not really evaluating what AI legal software can and cannot do - that will get you a fine.

I don’t agree. If it was intentional, the attorney should be brought up on charges of fraud, etc. If it was negligent, the attorney should be brought before the bar to determine if that negligence is worthy of disbarment.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say a client hires an attorney for an important case. Let’s say the attorney cites fake cases and neither the judge nor opposing counsel figure it out. And then the attorney wins the case (or loses). Later, after everything has been resolved in favor (or against) the client, time passes, someone figures out that the cites are fake. Suddenly there will be all sorts of lawsuits, and a lot of things have to be unwound causing all sorts of damage to each of the parties, and perhaps third parties as well by that point. These lawsuits include the client against the attorney for malpractice. And the attorney will be brought before the bar. And is very likely to be disbarred.

What you are saying is akin to saying that someone caught drunk driving should simply get a fine, and only if they hurt/kill someone should they get a real punishment.


It’s called hallucination. I’m currently working with a Pilot at my company to review AI capabilities in MS office products. The Pilot is proving to be quite revealing at just how much is flipped (positive to negative sentiment) or fabricated or omitted.

Implications here are severe. My cousin is using AI for these purposes, they are supplementing their 1st year staff with these tools. The responsibilities have been given to the 3rd year staff to review - and vet. All citations.

His firm is running about 60% less labor for this 1st year billable hours in 2024. They are partnering with their clients to reduce costs.

I can’t imagine if they let false citations out the door.


Like I said, I don’t think the attorney is likely to be disbarred. AI legal tools are new technology. Many attorneys - I think most attorneys - are not fully informed of the limits and problems with using it. The analogy to drunk driving is wrong: while everyone knows (or is presumed to know) that drinking impairs your ability to safely operate a car, not everyone knows that AI legal tools will “hallucinate” legal cites that don’t exist.

YMMV depending on what state you’re in, of course. Here in Florida, it is very difficult to get disbarred for bad legal representation (as opposed to crimes or misusing client funds). It’s rare - and even among those rare cases, it’s especially rare for it to be based on the lawyer doing a bad job lawyering, as opposed to flagrantly ignoring deadlines or failing to inform clients while making decisions on their behalf (ie. settling without client consent).