Louisiana Needs Plain Civil Jury Instructions

On January 6, 2011, Chief Justice Catherine D. “Kitty” Kimball announced that the Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed the following five members to sit on the newly established Committee to Study Plain Civil Jury Instructions:

-Committee Chairman: H. Alston Johnson, III, Phelps Dunbar law firm

-Judge James E. Stewart, Second Circuit Court of Appeal

-Judge Rosemary Ledet, Orleans Parish Civil District Court

-Judge Guy Holdridge, 23rd Judicial District Court

-Julie J. Baxter, Rhorer Law Firm.

Louisiana desperately needs civil jury instructions that are short, concise, and easy for the lay person to understand. Currently, it is common for the instruction to the jury to be over 25 legal pages and take over one hour to read aloud to the jury. The instruction is also given at the end of the trial and after all evidence has been heard, rather than at the beginning of the trial, which would give the jury a better idea of what to look for when hearing the evidence.

According to the Chief Justice, “Instructions that are given to juries in civil trial should be in language that is plain and easy to comprehend so that juries are not confused by complicated legal language. We know that this is a matter the members of the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) are also interested in, and with the assistance of the LSBA leadership, the Louisiana Supreme Court has established this Committee of distinguished and experienced members of the bench and bar to make recommendations on plain civil jury instructions for Supreme Court consideration.”