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Canadian Courtroom Faces First Instance of AI-Generated Fake Legal Cases

In a groundbreaking incident in British Columbia, Canada, artificial intelligence (AI) is believed to have created fictitious legal cases, marking the first such occurrence in the country’s legal history.

AI ‘Hallucinations’ in Legal Proceedings

Lawyers Lorne and Fraser MacLean of B.C. Supreme Court stumbled upon what appeared to be fabricated case law, submitted by opposing counsel in a significant family law dispute. Lorne MacLean, K.C., expressed deep concerns about the incident’s ramifications, highlighting the potential existential threat to the legal system if AI-generated materials are not fact-checked. “The impact of the case is chilling for the legal community,” MacLean stated, underlining the risks of wasteful expenditure, court resource depletion, and the possibility of erroneous judgments.

The Case in Question

The case involved a high-net-worth family matter concerning the welfare of children. The opposing lawyer, Chong Ke, reportedly used ChatGPT for drafting legal briefs supporting a father’s application to visit China with his children. This resulted in the submission of one or more non-existent cases to the court. Ke admitted to the court her unawareness of the potential unreliability of AI chatbots like ChatGPT and apologized for not verifying the cases’ existence.

Broader Implications and Legal Community’s Response

This incident reflects a growing trend where AI ‘hallucinations’ have infiltrated legal systems, including several cases in the United States. These incidents have embarrassed lawyers and raised concerns about undermining confidence in legal proceedings. Notably, a judge fined New York lawyers for submitting an AI-generated legal brief containing fictitious cases. Former lawyer Michael Cohen also reported mistakenly providing his lawyer with AI-created fake cases.

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Rising Alarm in Legal Circles

Legal experts in Canada are now advising caution. Vancouver lawyer Robin Hira, not involved in the case, recommends against using ChatGPT for research, suggesting its use be limited to drafting and followed by thorough review. Lawyer Ravi Hira, K.C., warns of significant consequences for lawyers misusing AI, including potential costs, contempt of court charges, and law society discipline.

Legal Authorities’ Stance on AI

The Law Society of BC had previously cautioned lawyers about AI use, offering guidance. The society has yet to comment on the current case or the potential disciplinary actions against Ke. Moreover, the Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court and Canada’s federal court have issued directives advising judges against using AI.

Future Implications

The MacLeans plan to seek special costs in court over the AI issue, but Lorne MacLean fears this could be just the beginning. He raises the alarming prospect of other AI-generated false cases having potentially slipped through the Canadian justice system unnoticed. The case serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for vigilance and thorough verification in the integration of AI into legal practices.

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