On October 27, 2014, the Civil and Criminal Model Jury Instructions Committees, formerly under the Utah Supreme Court's authority, became standing committees of the Utah Judicial Council. The committees continue to draft new and amended instructions reflecting Utah law. The Judicial Council supports the committees' efforts to create instructions for use in jury trials through this Second Edition of the Model Utah Jury Instructions (MUJI 2d). The Judicial Council does not review jury instructions for legal sufficiency.
An accurate statement of the law is critical to instructing the jury, but accuracy is meaningless if the statement is not understood, or is misunderstood, by jurors. As Utah Code of Judicial Administration Rule 3-418 provides, MUJI 2d is intended to be an "accurate statement of the law using simple structure and, where possible, words of ordinary meaning." These instructions are a summary statement of Utah law, but they are not the final expression of the law. Thus, in any case before them, a judge may review a model instruction for legal sufficiency.
At times there may be multiple versions of an instruction. Alternative instructions are provided only when 1) the law itself is unclear, 2) there is no controlling statutory or case law, or 3) the statutory law and/or case law are incomplete, internally inconsistent, or inconsistent with each other. The alternative instructions are different statements of the law based on differing authority. The order of the alternatives does not imply preference. When an alternative instruction is provided, the judge should determine which version of the instruction, if any, is appropriate in a particular case.
MUJI 2d is drafted without using gender-specific pronouns whenever reasonably possible. However, sometimes the simplest, most direct statement requires using pronouns. The criminal committee uses pronouns of both genders as its protocol. In the trial of criminal cases, often there will not be time to edit the instructions to fit the circumstances of a particular case, and the criminal instructions are drafted so that they might be read without further concern for pronoun gender. The civil committee offers multiple pronouns as its protocol. In the trial of civil cases there is often more time to edit the instructions. Further, in civil cases, the parties are not limited to individual males and females but also include government and business entities and multiple parties. Judges and lawyers should choose the pronouns that fit the circumstances of the case at hand. Judges and lawyers are also encouraged in civil cases to use party names instead of "the plaintiff" or "the defendant." In these and other circumstances, judges and lawyers should edit the instructions to fit the circumstances of the case.
Judges should instruct jurors at times during the trial when the instruction will be most helpful. For example, instructions relevant to a particular part of trial may be given just before that part. The fact that an instruction has historically been categorized as an opening or closing instruction does not mean there is not a better time during the trial to read it. To protect the integrity of the process or to help the jurors understand their responsibilities, a judge might repeat an instruction during or at the end of trial.
When preparing written instructions, judges and lawyers should include the title of the instruction. This information helps jurors organize their deliberations and decision-making. Judges should provide a copy of the written instructions to each juror. This is permitted under the rules of procedure and is a sound practice because it allows each juror to follow the instructions as they are read and to refer to them during deliberations.
There are areas of the law in which there are no Utah model instructions. When this comes up, the judge must still instruct the jury on the law. The judge's task is to further the jurors' understanding of the law and their responsibilities though accuracy, clarity, and simplicity. To assist in this task, links on this page lead to principles for plain-language drafting and to the pattern instructions of some other jurisdictions.
MUJI 2d is a continual work in progress, with new and amended instructions being published periodically on the state court web site. In order to provide the best instructions possible, both the Civil and Criminal Model Jury Instructions Committees recently adopted the practice of accepting formal comments on each instruction. The Judicial Council encourages lawyers and judges to share their experiences and suggestions with the standing committees. Judges and lawyers who draft a clearer instruction than is contained in these model instructions are also encouraged to share it with the appropriate committee.