Reference from Coast to Coast: Jury Instructions UpdateBy Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen, Published on July 27, 2007
Several years ago our column covered jury instructions for the 50 states. Much has changed since then in the world of legal research sources, but the need for jury instructions-whether model, standard, pattern or one-of-a kind, hasn't diminished. Jury instructions continue to provide legal researchers with succinct descriptions of causes of actions as well as sample wording for juries to consider. Therefore, a researcher will find them helpful to enumerate the elements of a claim before an issue reaches the courthouse door. If you are unfamiliar with the usefulness of jury instructions consider the article from Perspectives by Ellen Platt: "Jury Instructions: An Underutilized Resource" (7 #2 Perspectives 90, 1999). In some publications, model jury instructions include case citations or cross-references that allow the researcher to expand their understanding of a cause of action. Whether these instructions are understood by the jury pool is up for discussion - consider California's adoption of plain language jury instructions in 2004 and 2005 for civil and criminal cases. We'll leave formulating understandable language to the lawyers but help you find state jury instructions available online.
This time around we're concentrating on accessing publicly available electronic versions of state jury instructions. We're not including complete bibliographic information for print editions because while that information is always helpful to us, it is readily available in local research guides, a Jury Instructions Bibliography from the Maricopa Superior Court as well as standard bibliographic sources such as Legal information Buyer's Guide, Legal Looseleafs in Print or Worldcat. Five years ago, available online instructions included Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawai'i, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri (revisions only), New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia (Proposed version only) and Wyoming (Civil; revisions only). So, how have the states fared in five years?
Criminal Jury Instructions
Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Practice in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware
Florida Standard Jury Instructions In Civil Cases
Florida Standard Jury Instructions In Criminal Cases
Hawai'i Civil Jury Instructions
Hawai'i Criminal Jury Instructions
Idaho Civil Jury Instructions
Idaho Criminal Jury Instructions
Recent Civil Jury Instructions
Model Civil Jury Instructions
Missouri Approved Instructions: Civil and Criminal [Recent Orders]
Criminal Jury Instructions (MCJI) [Additions since 1999]
Model Civil Jury Charges
Criminal Jury Charges
Uniform Jury Instructions - Civil
Uniform Jury Instructions - Criminal
With the exception of Wyoming, those jury instructions publicly available five years ago continue to be available. Several of their sister states have joined in providing full text access while some provide updated additions or recent orders reflecting new language. Overall, there has been little change in the full-text public electronic availability of state jury instructions. Keep in mind that electronic access may be available via Lexis and Westlaw-you can check their directories without incurring any cost by going to Lexis and Westlaw. Casemaker, the databases available to many bar associations as part of a consortium, surprisingly only has jury instructions for Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina and Ohio at this time. Loislaw includes the jury instructions for Arizona and Massachusetts in their State Bar CLE publications databases. Other commercial publishers may also play a role in your search. For example, Pennsylvania jury instructions are available for purchase electronically via PBI.org by individual instruction.