Redrafting California's Jury Instructions

THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF FORENSIC LINGUISTICS, Malcol, Coulthard, Alison Johnson, eds., Forthcoming

Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2009-42

27 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2009  

Peter Tiersma

Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School (Deceased)

Date Written: November 12, 2009

Abstract

California was a leader in the pattern jury instruction movement. Beginning in the 1930s, committees of judges and lawyers acting under the auspices of the Los Angeles Superior Court began to publish standardized (fill-in-the-blank) jury instructions. These pattern instructions saved judges and lawyers a great deal of time and were well regarded as being legally accurate. But the legal accuracy came at a cost. The instructions, which generally parroted the language of statutes and judicial opinions, were often quite stilted, used obscure language, and were hard for jurors to understand.

In the late 1990s the California Judicial Council, as part of a broader reform effort, appointed a task force to draft more user-friendly instructions. This article describes that process and then compares some of the old to the new instructions, including those on evidence, burden of proof, homicide, and the death penalty.

Suggested Citation

Tiersma, Peter, Redrafting California's Jury Instructions (November 12, 2009). THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF FORENSIC LINGUISTICS, Malcol, Coulthard, Alison Johnson, eds., Forthcoming ; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2009-42. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1504984

Peter M. Tiersma (Contact Author)

Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School (Deceased)

United States

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