Correctly and effectively instructing juries is one of the most important—and challenging—responsibilities of a trial judge. Instructions should provide jurors with understandable and accurate explanations of the law and their duties as jurors. Instructions also should be presented in a neutral, even-handed manner. The Jury Instructions Committee of the Ninth Circuit (Committee) has prepared this Manual of Model Criminal Jury Instructions (Manual) to help judges perform this task.
As the title states, these instructions are only models. They are not mandatory, and they have been neither adopted nor approved by the Ninth Circuit. See Caveat. They also must be carefully reviewed, with additional legal research and analysis performed when needed, before being used in any specific case, and they should be tailored or modified when appropriate. The Comments that follow many of the model instructions may be helpful. In addition, these model instructions are not intended to discourage judges from using their own forms and techniques for instructing juries.
This 2022 edition of the Manual incorporates new and modified instructions and is current as of December 2021. The Committee meets quarterly to review the most recent decisions from the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit that may affect jury instructions. The Committee also considers comments received from judges, court staff, and practitioners and modifies these instructions as appropriate. Because any instruction can be revised at any of these quarterly meetings, the print edition of the Manual provides only a “snapshot” of the model instructions as of December 2021. Accordingly, the Committee encourages all users to consult the online edition to find the most recent version of these model instructions. The online edition is available at www.ce9.uscourts.gov/jury-instructions/model-criminal.
The Committee also significantly reorganized the presentation of the model instructions in this 2022 edition. In earlier editions, substantive criminal jury instructions were presented in numerical order based on the relevant section of Title 18 (and other applicable titles) of the United States Code. In the current reorganization, the Committee presents substantive criminal instructions in separate substantive chapters organized by subject matter. To assist users, the Committee has included a table listing the former instruction numbers from the 2010 edition and the corresponding numbers in the 2022 edition. The Committee encourages users of this book to make suggestions for further revisions, updates, and improvements.
Finally, the Committee expresses its deep appreciation to all previous Committee members whose efforts and insights continue to be reflected in this continuing work and also to the dedicated and accomplished staff of the Ninth Circuit who have assisted the Committee in this project throughout the years. These talented prior staff members include Nicholas Jackson, Esq. and Debra Landis, Esq. Today, the Committee enormously benefits from, and is extremely grateful for, the many contributions of staff attorney Aejung Yoon, Esq. The Committee also recognizes the substantial past contributions from Joseph Franaszek, Esq., who provided many years of volunteer service to the Ninth Circuit at the earliest stages of these model instructions.
These model jury instructions are written and organized by judges who are appointed to the Ninth Circuit Jury Instructions Committee by the Chief Circuit Judge. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals does not adopt these instructions as definitive. Indeed, occasionally the correctness of a given instruction may be the subject of a Ninth Circuit opinion.
Ninth Circuit Jury Instructions Committee