During the course of civil or criminal litigation, the litigator may be called upon to prepare jury instructions for submission to the judge. To ensure uniformity among judges’ instructions to juries, many states have standardized instructions for use in civil and/or criminal cases. These instructions may be designated approved, model, pattern, or standard instructions. Such jury instructions may be promulgated by a state’s supreme court, bar association, or judicial association. In some states, these instructions serve only to guide the judge. In other states, the judge may be required to read verbatim these instructions to the jury. Jury instructions are often useful for determining the elements of an offense.
There are several sources of sample jury instructions available in print, from a state's judiciary website, from a state's law library or trial court law library website, and via Lexis Advance and WestlawNext. In addition to the text of instructions, references to statutory authority, case law, and secondary sources are provided along with editorial commentary.
This TimeSaver is a selective listing of sources of jury instructions.
To locate state jury instructions in the Law Library’s collection, search the Law Library’s WebCatalog by the subject heading ‘jury instructions’. You will retrieve a listing of subject headings that include ‘jury instructions’ along with the name of the state for which instructions are in the collection (e.g. ‘Jury Instructions Massachusetts’).