Michael Cohen's attempt to end his probation early was marred by the inclusion of fake legal cases, sourced from an AI tool, in his court filing.
Cohen, who served as Trump's attorney, found himself in a precarious situation when Federal Judge Jesse Furman noticed the cited cases in Cohen's application were non-existent.
This discovery led to a questioning of Cohen's current lawyer, David Schwartz, and hints at possible sanctions.
At the heart of this debacle was Google Bard, an AI tool Cohen employed to aid his legal strategy. Unbeknownst to Cohen, the tool had the capability to fabricate legal precedents, which he then passed on to Schwartz as legitimate references.
Schwartz, in turn, included these false cases in the legal filing without conducting proper verification, Forbes reported.
This oversight has brought to light the potential pitfalls of relying on AI for legal matters, especially in serious judicial processes.
The mishap has been a source of embarrassment for Cohen's legal team. Danya Perry, Cohen's personal attorney, emphasized that Cohen, not being a practicing lawyer, was unaware of the risks associated with using AI tools for legal research.
Mr. Cohen is not a practicing attorney and has no concept of the risks of using AI services for legal research—nor does he have an ethical obligation to verify the accuracy of his research," Perry argued to the court. Schwartz including the fake cases was “embarrassing but clearly an inadvertent and ultimately (we submit) inconsequential mistake,” Perry argued, but Cohen “engaged in no misconduct and should not suffer any collateral damage from Mr. Schwartz’s misstep.
Cohen's legal troubles date back to 2018, relating to hush money payments made for Trump. He was initially sentenced to a three-year prison term, which he began serving the following year.
Cohen was released to home confinement where he completed his prison term and began a three-year probation period.
In December 2022, Cohen filed a request to end his probation early, leading to the current situation. The judge's discovery of the fake cases in early December 2022 prompted a need for an explanation from Cohen's legal team.
Cohen, Schwartz, and Perry submitted explanations to the court. They admitted the inclusion of the AI-generated cases was a mistake, highlighting the unintentional nature of the error.
Perry stated that Cohen had mistaken Google Bard for a traditional search engine, not realizing its potential to generate fictitious information. This misunderstanding led to the unintentional submission of false cases in the legal filing.
Schwartz's inclusion of these cases without verification reflects a broader issue of reliance on technology in critical legal processes. The incident serves as a cautionary tale about the need for thorough vetting of information sourced from AI tools.
Michael Cohen's attempt to shorten his probation has inadvertently shed light on the risks of using AI. This incident underscores the importance of human oversight and verification in the legal process, especially when employing new technologies.