By: Kendall Pack
Pras Michel joined Lauryn Hill and fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean onstage in Newark, New Jersey on October 18, 2023 to kick off their tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hill’s album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. One storm cloud hanging over the otherwise exciting news of a Fugees tour is the fact that, in April of this year, Michel was convicted of a variety of crimes including, “conspiracy, concealment of material facts, making false entries in records, witness tampering, and serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign power.” While Michel has yet to be sentenced, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
However, the day after the Newark concert, the New York Times reported that Michel was seeking a new trial, citing a laundry list of issues with his attorneys, leading ultimately to a claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel.”
Michel’s new legal team argues that the trial team in his international conspiracy case failed on multiple levels, including the alleged use of an AI software to create closing arguments littered with “frivolous claims.” Furthermore, Michel claims that at least two of his trial lawyers had a financial interest in the AI software, EyeLevel.AI, citing a shared address between their Los Angeles law office and CaseFile Connect, a partner company to EyeLevel.AI.
Michel’s bid for a new trial comes only months after another firm faced criticism for an error-riddled court filing built in part by AI. In that matter, Mata v. Avianca Inc., two lawyers from the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman submitted a brief in their client’s suit against an airline that included citations to six fictitious cases fabricated by an AI program. This amalgamation of real authors and titles tied to false cases and articles led to a dismissal of the suit and a $5,000 fine against the lawyers and their firm. The judge in that matter noted that “there is nothing ‘inherently improper’ in lawyers using AI ‘for assistance,’” but that “lawyer ethics rules ‘impose a gatekeeping role on attorneys to ensure the accuracy of their filings.’”
Soon after the Mata case collapsed, judges, beginning with Judge Brantley Starr of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, began issuing judicial standing orders on AI. Brantley’s order “requires litigants in his court to file a certificate attesting either that no generative AI will be used in filings or that any generative AI use will be ‘checked for accuracy … by a human being.’” As for why he ordered the certificate, Starr stated that it is necessary because generative AI is “prone to hallucinations and bias.” At least three other federal judges have followed suit, and at least two courts expressly prohibit AI.
While Michel’s trial team denies all the claims against them, those claims raise a variety of ethical issues that lawyers must contend with when dealing with the pitfalls of representing celebrity clients. Attorney David L. Hudson, Jr. stated, “Some lawyers might find the idea of representing high-profile clients on the public stage to be an exciting career opportunity…many hoping to use the public forum to the advantage of their client and their firm.” But the high-profile nature of representing a celebrity in court can be a double-edged sword.
Michel’s claims invoke the ABA’s Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically Rule 1.1, which states, “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” If Michel’s claims are true and the claims generated in part by AI were indeed frivolous, his trial lawyers may have failed in their thoroughness and preparation, and his bid for a new trial could result in a collateral ethics claim against those lawyers.
It is certainly within the realm of possibility that Michel’s trial lawyers, excited about the prospect of the attention the case would bring to their firm, hoped to use it as a testing ground to show off EyeLevel.AI’s capabilities. It is possible that alone is enough for Michel to at least argue deficiency of counsel.But whatever the outcome, it is likely that Michel’s case will shine a spotlight on the issue of AI in litigation. And for anyone worried about losing Michel to prison right in the middle of the Fugees’ reunion tour, the Beatles have shown us that even death cannot stop musicians from making new music, for better or worse. Can AI-generated concerts be far behind?
 Gary Gerard Hamilton, Concert Review: Lauryn Hill’s 25th ‘Miseducation’ celebration passes with a grade curve, Associated Press (Oct. 18, 2023) https://apnews.com/article/lauryn-hill-miseducation-fugees-6dfb486000e93ccac58faf7c292a6973 [https://perma.cc/2YW3-NBKN].
 Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Just. Off. of Pub. Aff’s, U.S. Entertainer Convicted of Engaging in Foreign Influence Campaign (Apr. 26, 2023), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-entertainer-convicted-engaging-foreign-influence-campaign#:~:text=Michel%20was%20convicted%20of%20conspiracy,has%20not%20yet%20been%20set [https://perma.cc/N9B7-LQTS].
 Mike Ives, Fugees rapper Pras Michel says lawyer used A.I. for “ineffectual” defense, The New York Times (Oct. 19, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/19/us/fugees-pras-michel-ai.html [https://perma.cc/68EX-EP5F].
 Sara Merken, New York lawyers sanctioned for using fake ChatGPT cases in legal brief, Reuters (Jun. 26, 2023), https://www.reuters.com/legal/new-york-lawyers-sanctioned-using-fake-chatgpt-cases-legal-brief-2023-06-22/ [https://perma.cc/YQ8J-MN4H].
 Jessiah Hulle, AI Standing Orders Proliferate as Federal Courts Forge Own Paths, Bloomberg Law (Nov. 8, 2023), https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/ai-standing-orders-proliferate-as-federal-courts-forge-own-paths [https://perma.cc/G76C-VCWZ].
 David L. Hudson, Jr., Celebrity Attorneys Face Challenges, Ethical Pitfalls, ABA Journal (Aug. 1, 2018), https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/celebrity_attorneys_ethical_pitfalls [https://perma.cc/JMZ7-XN9X].
 Model Rules of Pro. Conduct r. 1.1 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Discussion Draft 1983).
 Ives, supra note 3.
 Chris Welch, The Beatles’ Final Song is Now Streaming Thanks to AI, The Verge (Nov. 2, 2023), https://www.theverge.com/2023/11/2/23943290/now-and-then-the-beatles-new-song-ai [https://perma.cc/YP6U-5Q3G].