by Mark P. Painter

When the new ChatGPT was released to the public a couple weeks ago, I decided to try it out. To test its accuracy, I queried it on facts I knew. At least I thought I knew about my own life.

Turns out the Artificial Intelligence bot came from a different universe. It did seem to know I existed, and that I had been − or was still − on the Ohio First District Appellate Court. But the dates it gave varied widely.

The first time I asked about Judge Mark P. Painter I received this answer:

“Judge Mark P. Painter was a distinguished lawyer and judge from Cincinnati, Ohio. He served as a judge on the Ohio First District Court of Appeals from 1995 to 2009, and was appointed to the United Nations Appeals Tribunal in 2009, serving until 2013. During his time on the bench, Judge Painter authored over 800 judicial opinions and was highly regarded for his expertise in judicial ethics and reform. After retiring from the bench, he continued to write and speak about legal issues and mentored many lawyers and judges. Judge Painter passed away on March 5, 2019.”

Just like Twain (and later Tom Wolfe), the death report is somewhat exaggerated. Other parts are slightly inaccurate, except the complimentary ones. I tried again the next day, and asked for a longer bio. This is it, with factual corrections:

“Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Judge Painter graduated with honors from Elder High School in 1966 [Sycamore ‘65] having achieved the rank of Eagle Scout [Not]. He proceeded to the University of Cincinnati where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969 [‘70], and his Juris Doctorate in 1971 [‘73]. He began his law career working for a prestigious Cincinnati firm, but it was his subsequent service in the public sector that defined his later career path.

In 1975, Judge Painter was appointed to the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas [Not, would have been 28] where he built a strong reputation as a competent and steady adjudicator. He served with distinction on the court until 1983, when he was elected to the Cincinnati City Council [Not]. He was re-elected to the council four years later before taking a position as a Hamilton County Commissioner in 1992, where he served with distinction until 1996 [Not, Not].

In 1997, Judge Painter returned to the legal profession and worked as an attorney at Bricker & Eckler LLP [Not], specializing in government law and business-related cases. He then moved to Keating Muething & Klekamp LLP [Not] in 2001 and was made partner in 2004.

Judge Painter was tapped by Governor John Kasich to join the Ohio First District Court of Appeals in 2013 [Not,; elected in 1994]. As an appellate judge, Painter is a respected member of the court and an innovator when it comes to legal decisions. He has a developed a reputation for efficiently resolving complex motions, rendering decisions fairly and expediently, and on the occasions when the court is split in its opinion, his thoughtful analysis and judicious reasoning often proves to be the tipping point.

. . . [Four more Nots]

Outside of his professional life, Judge Painter enjoys music, playing the organ, baseball, fishing, and golf [None]. He and his wife are the proud parents of two adult children who are both lawyers [Not].

Mark Painter is an esteemed trailblazer and respected member of the legal system. His unwavering dedication to justice, fairness, and the rule of law have made him an indispensable member of the Ohio First District Court of Appeals and a figure of admiration and veneration for the legal community.

It also said that I was married to a person I never heard of. But Sue Ann Painter has been my only wife, and we have been married 37 years. It also told me my parents were people it apparently made up, as I could find no mention of them anywhere else, as with my four non-existent siblings (I have one).

My Parents were John Phillip (Phil) Painter, a WWII veteran and plasterer (later contractor) and Marg Painter, a homemaker. But ChatGPT has given me at least two different sets, neither of them my real parents. This is one set:

Doris Mae (Rix) Painter and Curtis Earl Painter are the parents of Judge Mark P. Painter, a respected judge on the 1st District of Ohio Court of Appeals. Doris Mae (Rix) Painter was a homemaker and Curtis Earl Painter was a U.S. Highway Inspector. They were both born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and were married in 1950.

My parents were married in 1941. I was a Boomer (born 1947) after my dad came back from the war.

Am I living in a parallel universe? I couldn’t find any link to these other people. No one named Painter was on City Council, the County Commission, or either law firm those dates − or probably ever. But in the AI universe all that happened.

After all the above, I tried once more:

Judge Mark P Painter of Cincinnati, Ohio was a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio from 1997 to 2016. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1983 and was a senior partner in the Cincinnati law firm of Jardine, Logan & O’Brien LLP prior to his appointment to the federal court.

Even weirder universe. I did graduate from UC Law, but in 1973. Never been a federal judge. And I had never heard of that law firm, but it does exist. In Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

Despite all the totally bogus segments, ChatGPT evidently likes me. Many of the words were just heaping general praise. It even made up many non-existent awards that I allegedly earned. Maybe it’s nice to everyone. To check that theory, I asked it to write short bios of the two worst judges that I knew. Both came back as having “served with distinction.”

So it must be designed for flattery rather than accuracy.


Mark P. Painter served as a judge for 30 years. He is the author of six books including “Write Well” and “The Legal Writer.”  


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