California Judicial Branch and its Task Force on Jury Instructions
The National Center for State Courts has selected the California Judicial Branch and its Task Force on Jury Instructions as recipient of the first G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation.
“In making its decision, the NCSC Center for Jury Studies wanted to recognize that one of California’s most unique contributions to the area of jury improvement is its attention to the importance of understandable jury instructions,” said Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies. “Having understandable jury instructions is a critical prerequisite for jurors to be able to fulfill their legitimate role in the justice system.”
Chaired by Justices Carol Corrigan and James Ward (ret.), California’s Task Force on Jury Instructions included appellate justices, trial judges, attorneys from various segments of the bar, lay persons, and academics. Committee members revised all of the state’s civil and criminal jury instructions, then presented them to the California Judicial Council for consideration. In 2003, the task force’s recommendations for civil instructions were approved, and in 2005 the recommendations for criminal instructions were approved. The revised instructions are on the California Web site, making them freely available to judges, lawyers, and citizens. This level of sustained attention and support for improving the state’s pattern jury instructions attracted the attention of the Center for Jury Studies when considering nominees for the Munsterman Award.