A Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado (United States) temporarily suspended a lawyer who cited “false” jurisprudence generated by the artificial intelligence (AI) platform ChatGPT. The lawyer also lied by stating that an intern had made the errors, according to a state disciplinary ruling.
Zachariah C. Crabill was suspended on Nov. 22 for at least 90 days, with the remainder of his 366-day suspension suspended. This sanction will be subject to the completion of a two-year probationary period, according to an opinion issued by the Office of the Disciplinary President of the Court.
Crabill, who obtained his license in 2021 and worked as a prosecutor for a year in the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, was hired by a client to prepare a motion to challenge a sentence in a civil case, according to a disciplinary agreement.
Despite having no prior experience drafting these types of motions, Crabill acknowledged spending more than six hours reviewing templates and previous motions from his law firm before drafting an initial draft. Concerned about the delay, he used ChatGPT to find case law to support his client’s position.
However, the lawyer did not verify the accuracy of the cases cited by ChatGPT before including them in his libel. It was only on the morning of the hearing that he became aware of possible errors in the subpoenas and admitted not having reviewed the cases. Instead of addressing the issue during the hearing, he falsely attributed the errors to a legal intern when the judge raised concerns about the accuracy of his case law citations.
Crabill subsequently filed an apologizing affidavit in court about a week after the hearing and withdrew from the case. He attributed his lack of honesty to a state of panic and shame, pointing to personal challenges, such as the loss of his brother and mother, as well as the pregnancy of his wife.
The disciplinary ruling concluded that Crabill breached his duty to act competently and diligently towards his client, as well as deliberately lying to the court, thereby breaching professional rules. This case highlights the importance of responsibility and ethics in the use of advanced technologies in the legal field.
See text of the sanctioning resolution.
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