The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit referred an attorney for potential further disciplinary measures after the attorney cited a nonexistent case created by ChatGPT. Park v. Kim, Case No. 22-2057 (2d Cir. Jan. 30, 2024) (Parker, Nathan, Merriam, JJ.) (per curiam).
Minhye Park sued David Dennis Kim for an action related to a wage dispute. During the district court proceedings, Park continually and willfully failed to respond to and comply with the district court’s discovery orders. Kim eventually moved to dismiss based on Park’s failure to comply with court orders and discovery obligations. Park opposed. After weighing the requirements of Rules 37 and 41(b), the district court concluded that dismissal was appropriate. Park appealed.
The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal, concluding that Park’s noncompliance amounted to “sustained and willful intransigence in the face of repeated and explicit warnings from the court that the refusal to comply with court orders . . . would result in the dismissal of [the] action.”
Separately, the Second Circuit addressed the conduct of Park’s attorney during the appeal, including a citation to a nonexistent case that was generated using the artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT. After receiving Park’s reply brief, the Court ordered Park to submit a copy of one of the cited decisions. Park’s attorney responded that she was “unable to furnish a copy of the decision,” explaining that she had difficulty locating a relevant case through traditional legal research tools and therefore used ChatGPT to provide the case caption ultimately cited in the brief.
The Second Circuit found that citation to a nonexistent case suggests conduct that falls below the basic obligations of counsel, and thus referred the attorney to the Court’s Grievance Panel for further investigation and consideration of a referral to the Court’s admission committee. The Court explained that any attorney appearing before it is bound to exercise professional judgment and responsibility, which impose a duty to certify that any papers filed with the court are well grounded in fact and legally tenable. Recognizing that ChatGPT is a significant technological advancement, the Court explained that the use of such tools does not excuse an attorney from separately ensuring that submissions to the Court are accurate or legally tenable. The Court concluded that referral to the Grievance Panel was warranted because the brief presented a false statement of law and the attorney made no inquiry at all, let alone a reasonable inquiry into the validity of the arguments presented. The Court also ordered the attorney to provide a copy of the ruling to her client.
Practice Note: The Second Circuit noted that several courts around the United States have proposed or enacted rules addressing the use of AI tools before a court but explained that such rules are unnecessary to inform attorneys that court submissions should be accurate.