Michael Cohen Used Artificial Intelligence in Feeding Lawyer Bogus Cases

Donald Trump’s former fixer had sought an early end to court supervision after his 2018 campaign finance conviction. He enlisted the help of Google Bard.

Michael D. Cohen in a sports jacket and tieless shirt.
Michael D. Cohen acknowledged that Google Bard had invented the cases that he had given to his lawyer, who passed them on to a judge.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times
Michael D. Cohen in a sports jacket and tieless shirt.
Benjamin Weiser
Jonah E. Bromwich

By Benjamin Weiser and Jonah E. Bromwich

Dec. 29, 2023

Michael D. Cohen, the onetime fixer for former President Donald J. Trump, mistakenly gave his lawyer bogus legal citations concocted by the artificial intelligence program Google Bard, he said in court papers unsealed on Friday.

The fictitious citations were used by the lawyer in a motion submitted to a federal judge, Jesse M. Furman. Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and served time in prison, had asked the judge for an early end to the court’s supervision of his case now that he is out of prison and has complied with the conditions of his release.

The ensuing chain of misunderstandings and mistakes ended with Mr. Cohen asking the judge to exercise “discretion and mercy.”

In a sworn declaration made public on Friday, Mr. Cohen explained that he had not kept up with “emerging trends (and related risks) in legal technology and did not realize that Google Bard was a generative text service that, like ChatGPT, could show citations and descriptions that looked real but actually were not.”

He also said he had not realized that the lawyer filing the motion on his behalf, David M. Schwartz, “would drop the cases into his submission wholesale without even confirming that they existed.”

The episode could have implications for a Manhattan criminal case against Mr. Trump in which Mr. Cohen is expected to be the star witness. The former president’s lawyers have long attacked Mr. Cohen as a serial fabulist; now, they say they have a brand-new example.

The ill-starred filing was at least the second this year by lawyers in Manhattan federal court in which lawyers cited bogus decisions generated by artificial intelligence. The legal profession, like others, is struggling to account for a novel technology meant to mimic the human brain.

Artificial intelligence programs like Bard and ChatGPT generate realistic responses by hazarding guesses about which fragments of text should follow other sequences. Such programs draw on billions of examples of text ingested from across the internet. Although they can synthesize vast amounts of information and present it persuasively, there are still bugs to be worked out.

The three citations in Mr. Cohen’s case appear to be hallucinations created by the Bard chatbot, taking bits and pieces of actual cases and combining them with robotic imagination. Mr. Schwartz then wove them into the motion he submitted to Judge Furman.

Mr. Cohen, in his declaration, said he understood Bard to be “a supercharged search engine,” which he had used previously to find accurate information online.

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Mr. Schwartz, in his own declaration, acknowledged using the citations and said he had not independently reviewed the cases because Mr. Cohen indicated that another lawyer, E. Danya Perry, was providing suggestions for the motion.

“I sincerely apologize to the court for not checking these cases personally before submitting them to the court,” Mr. Schwartz wrote.

Barry Kamins, a lawyer for Mr. Schwartz, declined to comment on Friday.

Ms. Perry has said she began representing https://sebelumnyaada.com Mr. Cohen only after Mr. Schwartz filed the motion. She wrote to Judge Furman on Dec. 8 that after reading the already-filed document, she could not verify the case law being cited.

In a statement at the time, she said that “consistent with my ethical obligation of candor to the court, I advised Judge Furman of this issue.”

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