Revelation in Unsealed Court Papers Shakes Up Legal Landscape
In an unexpected twist, Michael Cohen, the former attorney and confidant of ex-President Donald Trump, has admitted to using artificially generated legal citations in an effort to hasten the conclusion of court supervision in his case. The disclosure, detailed in recently unsealed court papers, raises questions about Cohen’s credibility, particularly as he is set to play a crucial role as a witness in an ongoing Manhattan criminal case against Trump.
Unawareness of AI Capabilities Raises Questions
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance violations and tax evasion in 2018, revealed in the court documents that he was unaware of the generative capabilities of AI platforms like Google Bard, which can produce fictitious information. Cohen likened these services to “super-charged” search engines, introducing complexities to the legal arena and prompting scrutiny into the understanding and responsible use of AI technology in legal proceedings.
Significance in Ongoing Trump Legal Battle
The timing of Cohen’s admission is crucial, given his central role as a witness in the Manhattan case against Trump, focusing on an alleged hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump and his legal team have consistently sought to undermine Cohen’s credibility, portraying him as untrustworthy. Cohen’s admission of incorporating AI-generated content adds an additional layer of complexity to the assessment of his reliability as a witness.
AI’s Impact on Legal Profession
This incident underscores the broader challenge faced by the legal profession, mirroring similar issues across various industries, as it grapples with the responsible use of artificial intelligence. Cohen’s case is not an isolated occurrence, as other attorneys have confessed to integrating fabricated legal citations produced by comparable AI services in their legal submissions.
Google Bard’s Emergence as an AI Tool
Earlier this year, Google introduced Bard in response to ChatGPT, a technology integrated into Microsoft’s Bing search engine. These tools aim to swiftly generate text based on user prompts but have been noted for occasionally fabricating information—a phenomenon dubbed “hallucinations.”
Blame Shifts to Cohen’s Lawyer
In an attempt to mitigate the repercussions of his actions, Cohen places the blame on his lawyer and longtime friend, Schwartz. Cohen asserts that Schwartz neglected to verify the accuracy of the AI-generated citations before submitting them to the judge. While attributing the oversight to an “honest mistake” and “inadvertence” rather than an intentional effort to deceive, Cohen appeals to the judge for leniency toward Schwartz.
A Watershed Moment for Legal Ethics
As the legal community grapples with the integration of AI into various facets of the profession, Michael Cohen’s admission stands as a watershed moment. It prompts a reevaluation of ethical standards and responsibilities associated with the use of AI-generated content in legal proceedings. Beyond impacting Cohen’s credibility as a witness, this incident underscores the challenges in ensuring the responsible and transparent utilization of emerging technologies within the legal realm.