Riding the High Horse of Jury Instructions
Judge John Kane, senior judge for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, has written a great piece on jury instructions entitled, Riding Jury Instructions to Victory. Here's his first paragraph:
As trials become increasingly drawn out and complex, a frequent refrain is that juries are incapable of deciding multi-issue cases because the inexorable advances of science and technology make them far too sophisticated for men and women of ordinary experience and education to understand. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger jumped on that bandwagon saying, "Even Jefferson would be appalled at the prospect of a dozen of his stout yeomen and artisans trying to cope with some of today's complex litigation." Jurors are not incompetent. The failure of comprehension lies with us, the lawyers and judges. It is not the responsibility of jurors to divine meaning by stirring the entrails of the legal monstrosities we create. With strategically timed and sufficient instructions coupled with common-sense innovations, a jury can justly decide a case.
Hear! Hear! Judge Kane's article mirrors a recent statement that I heard at a Fifth Circuit CLE: If your reader says you're not clear, you're not.
Hat tip to Raymond Ward of the (new) legal writer.