During People v. Zachariah C. Crabill, Crabill was suspended for a minimum of 90 days, along with the remainder of his probation stayed subsequent to a two-year probational period. The defendant was reprimanded due to the use of a popular AI platform to make false case law citations. Crabill not only lied to the court about leaning on a legal intern to do the work, but also breached his duty of acting competently for his client. The defendant claims he was not trying to evade liability by lying to the court, rather trying to save himself from embarrassment.
There are two rules within this case that are fundamental for the understanding of the defendant’s position:
- Perjury: Perjury is the act of intentionally lying under oath, or falsifying the truth, in any sense during a proceeding. In the US, perjury is a federal offense which can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
- Client-Lawyer Relationship: According to the American Bar Association, “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation”.
In this case, Crabill did not raise any issue until the presiding judge vocalized concerns about the validity of the aforementioned case law citations. It was only then when the defendant spoke up to the judge and claimed that he “…leaned a little too heavily on a legal intern in this case, who I believe got some mistake in case cites,”. With that, Crabill also breached his duty to a client-lawyer relationship by using ChatGPT. By Crabill making the choice to use AI, the client did not receive competent representation as the defendant did not use legal knowledge, skill, or reasonable preparation to represent his client.
Based on the facts of this case, which have been verified by the disciplinary agreement, Crabill deliberately misrepresented facts to the court in violation of multiple rules. Not only were rules violated, but also the trust of Crabill’s client. This includes the duties of competence that were not only expected, but required of Crabill to provide.