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 or online via LexisNexis and Westlaw. In addition to the text of instructions, references to statutory authority and case law are provided along with editorial commentary.
This TimeSaver is a selective listing of sources of jury instructions.
Writing Jury Instructions
For writing jury instructions, the following publications may be of use.
Ray, Mary Barnard and Barbara J. Cox, Beyond the Basics: A Text for Advanced Legal Writing (2d ed. 2003). Reserve, KF250 .R38 2003
Schultz, Nancy L. and Louis J. Sirico, Jr., Legal Writing and Other Lawyering Skills (4th ed. 2004). Reserve, KF250 .S38 2004
Chapter 25, pages 289 - 296 discusses drafting jury instructions.
Search Library Catalogs
To locate state jury instructions in the Law Library’s collection, search the Law Library’s WebCatalog by the subject heading ‘Instructions to Juries.' You will retrieve a listing of subject headings that include ‘Instructions to Juries’ along with the name of the state for which instructions are in the collection (e.g. ‘Instructions to Juries Massachusetts’).