O C F I T B L O G Legal Don’t Give Me That ChatGPT-4 Nonsense, Judge Says

Don’t Give Me That ChatGPT-4 Nonsense, Judge Says

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From Judge Paul Engelmayer’s order Thursday in J.G. v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Ed. (S.D.N.Y.), deciding on attorney fees to be awarded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

The Cuddy Law Firm also states that its requested hourly rates are supported by feedback it received from the artificial intelligence tool “ChatGPT-4.”

In fairness, the Cuddy Law Firm does not predominantly rely on ChatGPT-4 in advocating for these billing rates. It instead presents ChatGPT-4 as a “cross-check” supporting the problematic sources above. As such, the Court need not dwell at length on this point.

It suffices to say that the Cuddy Law Firm’s invocation of ChatGPT as support for its aggressive fee bid is utterly and unusually unpersuasive. As the firm should have appreciated, treating ChatGPT’s conclusions as a useful gauge of the reasonable billing rate for the work of a lawyer with a particular background carrying out a bespoke assignment for a client in a niche practice area was misbegotten at the jump.

In two recent instances, courts in the Second Circuit have cautioned lawyers for using ChatGPT, noting that the AI struggled to tell apart real and fictional case references. In Mata v. Avianca, Inc., Judge Castel penalized attorneys for “neglecting their duties by submitting made-up judicial decisions with fabricated quotes and citations from the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT.” Similarly, in Park v. Kim, the Second Circuit directed an attorney to the Circuit’s Grievance Panel for further review after discovering that her brief relied on “imaginary sources” generated by ChatGPT.

In claiming here that ChatGPT supports the fee award it urges, the Cuddy Law Firm does not identify the inputs on which ChatGPT relied. It does not reveal whether any of these were similarly imaginary. It does not reveal whether ChatGPT anywhere considered a very real and relevant data point: the uniform bloc of precedent, canvassed below, in which courts in this District and Circuit have rejected as excessive the billing rates the Cuddy Law Firm urges for its timekeepers.

The Court therefore rejects out of hand ChatGPT’s conclusions as to the appropriate billing rates here. Barring a paradigm shift in the reliability of this tool, the Cuddy Law Firm is well advised to excise references to ChatGPT from future fee applications.

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