California Bar Journal
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make sure you’re getting it right and insulate yourself from reversal is to use statute or caselaw language,” she said. “Our view is that while it is difficult to ever make the law seem simpler, it is not impossible. There should be a way to take these concepts and explain them in ways that are accurate and more clear.”

The first set of instructions offers a broad overview, covering introductory and concluding instructions, elements of evidence and how jurors should approach evidence.

In the criminal portion, for example, the task force “intentionally hit the high points of the elements of crime, such as homicide and robbery,” Corrigan said. “There are many nuances to crime-based instructions that we have yet to complete.”

In the draft instructions, the task force followed such rules as avoiding double negatives, using short sentences and eliminating unnecessary words.

The defendant and the plaintiff are referred to by their names, “the people” are called “the prosecutor,” and a “preponderance of evidence” becomes “more likely than not.”

Corrigan called the revision effort “a risky undertaking.” She noted that despite two Supreme Court decisions and removal by the legislature of the words “to a moral certainty” in the reasonable doubt instruction, attorneys continue to challenge that instruction.

“You can only imagine what will happen when we start changing all the rules,” she said. “If we do this and don’t do it right, all manner of unpleasant things will transpire.”

Eventually, the Judicial Council will determine how to publish new instructions, possibly online. “Our goal has been to make them as readily accessible as can be and not to have them be a profit center for the Judicial Council,” Corrigan said.

The draft instructions will circulate among judges, bar associations, law school professors and others until August 1.

They are available on the California courts’ web site, Comments should be sent to Administrative Office of the Courts, Attn. Camillia Kieliger, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco 94103.

In a related development, a new web site to help jurors understand the basics of jury service was launched last month at

The site answers the most frequently asked questions by the estimated 10 million Californians called for jury duty each year. It also gives potential jurors a way to ask questions online and to express their views about jury duty.