Judge's Corner

Article Index

Judicial Challenges The Honorable Janet Stauffer, 7th Judicial Circuit (August/September 2017)

Use of Fictitious Names for Parties in Civil Litigation in Oregon The Honorable James Hargreaves (Senior Judge, retired), Lane County Circuit Court (June/July 2017)

The Judge's Pledge The Honorable Susan Tripp, Marion County Circuit Court (May/June 2017)

Organizing for the Courtroom The Honorable Daniel R. Murphy, Linn County Circuit Court (March/April 2017)

A Two Year Journey with Odyssey in Juvenile Court The Honorable Lindsay Partridge, Marion County Circuit Court (January/February 2017)

Lane County Streamlined Jury Trial Project The Honorable Curtis Conover, Lane County Circuit Court (November/December 2016)

20 Ways to Further Justice The Honorable Ilisa Rooke-Ley, Lane County Circuit Court (October/November 2016)

Managing Multi-Party/Complex Litigation without Driving Your Judge Crazy (and maybe even making it easier for everyone) The Honorable Henry Kantor, Multnomah County Circuit Court (September 2016)

Managing Multi-Party/Complex Litigation without Driving the Judge's Staff Crazy The Honorable Eve L. Miller, Clackamas County Circuit Court (August 2016)

Do's and Don'ts in the Courtroom The Honorable Lisa Greif, Jackson County Circuit Court (June/July 2016)

Preparation for a Status, Case Management, or Pretrial conference - or how to get more out of a non-evidentiary proceeding in criminal and family court cases The Honorable Kirsten E. Thompson, Washington County Circuit Court (April/May 2016)

Postponements The Honorable Richard Barron, Presiding Judge, Coos/Curry County Circuit Court (March 2016)

Consider Trying More Cases The Honorable Suzanne Chanti, Lane County Circuit Court Judge (February 2016)

Professionalism - It Counts Both In and Out of the Courtroom The Honorable Brian Dretke, Union County Circuit Court Judge (January 2016)

Changes to Sex Changes The Honorable Beth A. Allen, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge (December 2015)

Top 25 Tips from a Senior Judge The Honorable Michael C. Sullivan, Senior Judge (retired), Deschutes County (November 2015)

How to Succeed at Power Point In the Courtroom The Honorable Michael McShane, US District Court (October 2015)

Effective Use of Evidence At Jury Trial The Honorable Matthew Donohue, Benton County Circuit Court (September 2015)

Making a Record for Appeal, The Honorable Charles M. Zennaché, Lane County Circuit Court (August 2015)

Access to Civil Justice in Oregon's State Courts, The Honorable David Brewer, Associate Justice, Oregon Supreme Court (July 2016)

What Jurors Want: A Look Into the Minds of Jurors, The Honorable John V. Acosta, United States Magistrate Judge (June 2015)

Handling the "Half-se" Hearing, The Honorable Mustafa Kasubhai, Lane County Circuit Court (May 2015)

Effective Voir Dire, Judge Thomas Hart, Marion County Circuit Court (April 2015)

The New Judge on the Block, Judge Lung S. Hung, Malheur County Circuit Court (March 2015)

The Gift of Finality: One PJ's Perspective, Judge Karsten H. Rasmussen, Lane County Circuit Court (February 2015)

ORCP 68 Attorney Fees - when, why and how to seek them, Judge Deanne L. Darling, Clackamas Juvenile Court (January 2015)

Difficult questions must be answered before they are asked, Judge Edward J. Jones, Multnomah County Circuit Court (December 2014)

Judicially Hosted Settlement Conferences, Judge Jamese L. Rhoades and Sr. Judge Don Dickey, Marion County Circuit Court (November 2014)

Working together to make discovery more efficient, The Honorable Youlee Yim You, Multnomah County Circuit Court (October 2014)

Court Trials - A Jury of One, The Honorable Katherine E. Tennyson, Multnomah County Circuit Court (September 2014)

Making the Most of Short Evidentiary Hearings, The Honorable Daniel R. Murphy, Linn County Circuit Court (August 2014)

Vouching, The Honorable Jay McAlpin, Lane County Circuit Court (July 2014)

Appropriate Jury Instructions Can Help Litigators Win Trials, The Honorable Paula Brownhill, Clatsop County Circuit Court (June 2014)

Evidentiary Hearings and Motion Practice in the era of Oregon e-court, The Honorable Benjamin Bloom, Jackson County Circuit Court (May 2014)

Motions in Limine - Tips for "Newer" Litigators, The Honorable Jodie Mooney, Lane County Circuit Court (April 2014)

Appropriate Jury Instructions Can Help Litigators Win Trials

The Honorable Paula Brownhill,
Clatsop County Circuit Court

(June 2014)

Appropriate jury instructions can help litigators win trials. All too often, however, lawyers wait too late to submit proposed instructions, do not consider how the instructions can help jurors, and do not tell jurors what the instructions mean.

Here are six suggestions to help you win your case with jury instructions.

  1. Start work on proposed instructions early in the case.
    As you develop your theory of the case and your trial strategy, figure out which instructions will be most helpful. The charge conference during trial with the judge and opposing counsel is too late to start thinking about jury instructions.

  2. Tailor instructions to your theory of the case.
    The law forms the foundation for your trial strategy. You must know the law and advocate for jury instructions that apply to your claims or defenses and your theory of the case. It is powerful to link your opening statement to your closing argument and weave the law, with reference to the judge's instructions, into your closing argument.

  3. Request special instructions when they will help jurors understand the law. You are not limited to uniform instructions. Draft special instructions when they will be helpful. Remember to correctly state the law, and be sure your requested instructions are supported by the pleadings and the evidence.

  4. Keep instructions short, simple, and easy for a lay person to understand.
    Many of Oregon's uniform instructions are hard to understand, even for lawyers. Jurors with no legal training often have no idea what many instructions mean. Try rewriting instructions in simple language. The Judicial Council of California approved plain English jury instructions years ago in an effort to help jurors understand the law and apply it correctly. Borrow from California if you want examples of easy-to-understand instructions.
  5. File requested instructions with the court and provide a CD to the judge.
    In every jury trial, I give jurors written jury instructions to take with them to the jury room. Unless the judge has a program to print the instructions (and I do not), it takes time to prepare the jury's version. File your requested instructions at least 24 hours before trial (earlier if required by Supplemental Local Rules), and offer the judge a disc with your requested instructions in Word format.
  6. Explain instructions during closing argument.
    The best trial lawyers explain complicated legal principles to jurors during closing argument. Do not read instructions to jurors; paraphrase and explain. For example, in a criminal trial, give jurors examples that show the difference between 'intentional' and 'knowingly' in terms jurors can understand. If you persuade the judge to give your proposed instructions but jurors don't understand them, you have not gained much.
  7. Keep in mind these general principles:

 

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