January 19, 2015 • Legal Terminology
What are Requests to Charge in a Personal Injury Case
At the end of the trial, before giving closing remarks, the lawyer has to give the judge a list of various areas of law, based on which, he wants the judge to give instructions to the jury. This is called requests to charge. This list has to be provided by both lawyers to the judge, and the judge will go through these lists and decide what should be instructed to the jury.
The set of instructions given by the lawyers will be different. The defense attorney will have a set of instructions that he would want the judge to tell the jury, while the plaintiff’s lawyer will have a list of instructions that will be favorable to his client.
Holding a Charge Conference
After requests to charge have been submitted to the judge, there is a charge conference. This conference is held in the private chambers of the judge with the court stenographer present. At this conference, the judge will go through the lists and hear arguments from the attorneys about why he should or should not give specific instructions as asked in the requests.
During the conference, the judge will ask each attorney why he wants the particular charge given, and the concerned attorney will have to give an explanation. The opposing attorney will also get an opportunity to give his response, as to why that particular instruction or that particular area of law should not be given. After listening to both attorneys, the judge will then have to make a decision about whether the instruction should be given to the jury or not.
In this manner, the judge will go through every single request made, and make his decision. The judge will go through the list of the plaintiff’s lawyer first, and of the defense second. At the end, the judge will say that he has all the requests to charge, and the judge might even include some of his own, that he feels are important to instruct the jury.
Why is it done?
Requests to charge and having a charge conference is done because of the key reason that before the lawyers give their closing remarks, they are fully aware of the instructions that the judge is giving to the jury about what the law is regarding this particular case. This is critical because the attorneys will not get a chance to comment about some of the laws and some of the instructions that the judge is going to be giving to the jury.
For instance, the lawyers can tell the jury that they are going to hear from the judge specific instructions about what it means if a witness had lied, or they had determined that a witness had lied. Hence, when the judge gives the instructions, the jury will be tuned to it and they will be giving particular attention to what the lawyer had indicated in his closing argument.