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Feedback sought on new civil jury instructions

By Justice James D. Ward

The Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions seeks assistance from California attorneys and judges regarding the state’s new civil jury instructions (CACI). The committee would like to learn the experiences of users of the instructions and get from them suggestions for correction or change.

The 850 instructions, with accompanying authorities, printed in two volumes consisting of more than 2,500 pages, are not static. They are a living statement of California law. The extensive authorities must be updated regularly, and the language of the instructions must adapt to changes in the law. The Judicial Council has entrusted the maintenance of the instructions to the 24-person advisory committee, which was appointed by the chief justice and consists of appellate and trial jurists, plaintiff and defense attorneys, and an academic whose specialty is legal language. 

The committee and staff want the help of the legal community, particularly in specialty areas of the law.  Users of the instructions can give valuable insight to the committee.  The committee feels very strongly CACI belongs to the legal community, which has a vested interest in maintaining the instructions. At the same time, the committee has a responsibility to the entire legal community and cannot abandon its neutral position because of suggestions by individuals and groups with an agenda or particular point of view. 

The process for change takes about six months and is structured to achieve maximum involvement of the legal community. On receiving suggestions, the committee makes changes it deems appropriate and circulates the changes for public comment through an extensive mailing to the legal community and by posting at courtinfo.ca.gov. Comments are edited and sent to the Judicial Council. The council and its rules and projects committee review the work, make changes they deem necessary and adopt a final form of the instructions. Only then can the material be printed by the publisher.

Suggestions for additions or changes to the instructions should be sent to Lyn Hinegardner at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, CA, 94102; e-mail: civiljuryinstructions@jud.ca.gov.

Justice James D. Ward of the Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District,  chaired the civil subcommittee of the Task Force on Jury Instructions.

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