Jury instruction requests

December 2006
By Judge John Wittmayer, Multnomah County Circuit Court

The procedures and rules related to jury instruction requests are set forth in Uniform Trial Court Rule 6.060 and Multnomah County Supplementary Local Rule 6.015(4). Unfortunately, it seems to be unusual instead of common for a trial lawyer to understand her/his obligation to comply with these rules.

UTCR 6.060(1) and (2) require that jury instruction requests be submitted in writing, an original and one copy for the court, and that they be delivered concurrently to opposing parties. SLR 6.015(4) requires that they be submitted to the trial judge "by noon of the day of trial assignment at daily call by the presiding judge." If the trial assignment is made after daily call, they need not be submitted by noon on the day of assignment. Practice tip: bring your proposed jury instructions, verdict form, trial memorandum, etc. to daily call with you, so you can deliver them to the assigned judge before you leave the courthouse after call.

In civil cases, it is very common for lawyers to request both UCJI 13.01, Pleadings and Issues, and UCJI 13.02, Summary of Pleadings Not Evidence (To Be Used After Summarizing Pleadings). But, it is very rare for a lawyer to actually submit with these requests a proposed summary of the pleadings for the judge to read to the jury. It is a waste of everyone's time for the lawyers and the judge to try to work out an agreed summary of the pleadings right before trial or right before the judge instructs the jury. Practice tip: the lawyers should confer in advance, agree on a summary of the pleadings, and submit to the court an agreed upon summary of the pleadings along with their jury instruction requests.

Another common problem with jury instruction requests is that when a lawyer requests a uniform jury instruction, the lawyer does not include in the request the material that is to be filled into any blanks in the uniform instruction, and/or does not include in the request which of several alternative choices in the uniform instruction the lawyer is requesting. UTCR 6.060(3) requires this variable information be submitted to the court with the request for any uniform instruction.