Monday, December 15, 2008

New Ohio Jury Instructions

Sometimes announcements get overlooked or are not widely spread around, even though of importance to many people. In case you missed it…..

Ohio Jury Instructions (OJI) were reorganized by the Ohio Judicial Conference back in November to simplify their use by judges and practitioners. LexisNexis was required to provide a complete OJI database with updated numbering of all instructions to WestLaw and Casemaker for their online versions. (See Notice)

In the new revision, Volume 1 ''General Instructions'' has been eliminated, and the applicable general instructions included in the civil and criminal volumes. There is one civil volume, now organized by general subject matter areas, and one criminal volume. There are, however, still three binders. The criminal volume will now be comprised of two binders with a separate tab for ''Traffic'' offenses.

The numbering of all instructions has also been revised and simplified. Instructions will now be identified as ''CV''(Civil) and ''CR''(Criminal). For example, current 4 OJI 503.01, dealing with Aggravated Murder, becomes CR 503.01. A ''Correlation Table'' will be included in each volume containing previous and new section numbers. Both volumes have newly designed, slightly larger loose-leaf binders. The format of individual instructions has not changed.

Jury instructions, while perhaps being one of the jurisprudence’s lesser celebrated entities-- behind all of the rules, statutes, and case law—none the less can serve lawyers and judges by providing insight into matters now before them, especially when current conditions or circumstances are more novel or usual.

Black’s Law Dictionary describes model jury instructions as “directions or guidelines a judge gives a jury concerning the legal aspects of a case, usually approved by the state’s bar or similar group.” Put another way, Indiana’s Third District Court of Appeals in 2005 said “the purpose of an instruction is to inform the jury of the law applicable to the facts of a case without misleading it and to enable it to comprehend the case clearly so it can arrive at a just, fair, and correct verdict.” ( Case )

“Standardized” or “model” instructions to a jury were first attempted in Ohio in 1922, but it wasn’t until 1958 that Ohio Jury Instructions were published and privately circulated by the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association. In 1960, a “Standard Civil Outline—Negligence” was released, followed by a companion criminal outline in 1962. Ohio Jury Instructions have been since been revised four times.

Jury instructions in Ohio are codified in ORC 2945.10 and 2945.11. Civil Rule 51, Criminal Rule 30, and Jury Standard 16 also pertain to jury instructions. [“Ohio Trial Court Jury Use & Management Standards” in “Appendix B” of Ohio Rules of
Superintendence” @ ]


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