Friday, April 18, 2008
Judicial Council Receives Honor for Jury Instruction Revisions
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Judicial Council of California announced yesterday that its Task Force on Jury Instructions has been selected to receive the National Center for State Courts’ first-ever G. Thomas Munsterman Award for its work updating the state’s civil and criminal jury instructions.
The center was to present the award last night to the task force’s co-chairs—Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Corrigan and retired Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice James D. Ward—at a special ceremony in Columbus, Ohio during the National Conference on Pattern Jury Instructions, which the center is co-hosting with the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Judicial Conference.
Headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., the center is a nonprofit court reform organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. It bestows the award—named for the founder and former director of its Center for Jury Studies—in recognition of states, local courts, organizations, or individuals who make significant improvements to, or innovations in, jury procedures, operations, and practices.
Center for Jury Studies Director Paula Hannaford-Agor said that the NCSC, in making its decision, “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.” She added that “understandable jury instructions [are] a critical prerequisite for jurors to be able to fulfill their legitimate role in the justice system.”
Corrigan and Ward were scheduled to accept the award on behalf of Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who is chair of the Judicial Council, the policymaking body for state courts. Corrigan served as a justice on the First District Court of Appeal at the time she co-chaired the task force.
George appointed the task force in 1998, charging it with drafting legally accurate jury instructions in plain English. Its goal was to make jurors’ experiences more rewarding and meaningful by offering an alternative to the often confusing legal terminology that had been used in trial courts for more than 70 years.
The Judicial Council approved the task force’s recommended civil jury instructions in 2003 and its recommended criminal jury instructions in 2005. Both are now widely used by trial court judges throughout California, and are available on the California Courts Web site.
The task force ceased operating in 2005, and its work is now carried out by the Judicial Council’s Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Walter Croskey of this district’s Div. Three and the Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions, chaired by First District Court of Appeal Justice Sandra Lynn Margulies.
Croskey and Margulies were also scheduled to attend the ceremony.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company