March 30, 2015 • Legal Terminology
At the end of a personal injury trial, the judge will give the jury legal instructions. He will specify to the jury that they cannot deviate from these instructions, even if they do not agree with them. The jurors are finders of fact, and they will be determining who is right and who is wrong. The jury will then apply the facts that they have found, to the legal instructions that is given by the judge.
The presiding judge instructs the jury to consider what is admissible before delivering a verdict.
There are two places where the judge sources these instructions. The first is Case Law or Common Law, which is the law that has been established over many years. The second place where the judge gets these instructions from is called the PJI or the Pattern Jury Instructions. A group of scholars across New York and practicing attorneys have united together to fashion the most important key instructions for each individual type of case, which have been put together in the PJI.
If you ever navigated a ship or understand sea navigation, this is like the Rules of the Road.
The judge is supposed to tell the legal instructions that fit the specific cases or which fall into specific patterns. Hence, the law will be different for a medical malpractice case or an accident case, or different from a wrongful death case. Before the judge actually begins to give instructions to the jury, he will have a conference with the attorneys, which is called a charge conference.
During this conference, each of the attorneys will tell the judge what they believe the legal instructions should be.
The judge will listen to legal arguments in his chambers in the presence of a court reporter, and each of the lawyers will present to the judge specific legal instructions that they believe should be given to the jury. The judge will then make rulings of law about which arguments he is going to apply, and which legal instructions he is going to apply. After the conference, the judge will go into the courtroom, make sure there are no disturbances, so that he can clearly explain to the jury all the legal instructions.
It usually takes about an hour to explain all the particular instructions that the judge has decided to tell the jury. Once that is done, the jury will leave the courtroom and go into a separate room to begin deliberations. The jury will deliberate over whatever facts they have gathered during the trial and will arrive at a conclusion as to who is right and who is wrong.
However, while doing this and while arriving at a decision, they will have to take into account the legal instructions that were given to them by the judge for this particular case. None of the jurors can ignore these instructions, and none of them can pass any verdict that is not in keeping or abiding by these instructions.