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PG I(B) Duty Of Court To Go Beyond The Standard Pattern Instructions
(1) Jury Instructions Are Not The Law—They Attempt To State The Law.
Through usage and custom, standard pattern instructions often are cited as legal authority. However, this is a mischaracterization. “Jury instructions are only judge-made attempts to recast the words of statutes and the elements of crimes into words in terms comprehensible to the lay person. The texts of standard jury instructions are not debated and hammered out by legislators, but by ad hoc committees of lawyers and judges. Jury instructions do not come down from any mountain or rise up from any sea. Their precise wording, although extremely useful, is not blessed with any special precedential or binding authority. This description does not denigrate their value, it simply places them in the niche where they belong.” (McDowell v. Calderon (9th Cir. 1997) 130 F3d 833, 841.)
As explained by the California Supreme Court with reference to CALJIC: “Though we cite CALJIC No. 12.00 for reference purposes, we caution that jury instructions, whether published or not, are not themselves the law, and are not authority to establish legal propositions or precedent. They should not be cited as authority for legal principles in appellate opinions. At most, when they are accurate, as the quoted portion was here, they restate the law.” (People v. Morales (2001) 25 C4th 34, 48 fn 7; see also People v. Alvarez (96) 14 C4th 155, 217 [“CALJIC 1.00 is not itself the law. Like other pattern instructions, it is merely an attempt at a statement thereof.”]; People v. Salcido (2007) 149 CA4th 356, 366.) Nor do the CALJIC Use Notes have any force of law. (Alvarez, at 223, fn 28.)
“Neither [the courts] nor the CALJIC authors have the ‘power to rewrite the statute so as to make it conform to a presumed intention which is not expressed. [The courts] [and the CALJIC authors are] limited to interpreting the statute, and such interpretation must be based on the language used.’ (Seaboard Acceptance Corp. v. Shay (31) 214 C 361, 365.) ‘In interpreting statutes, we follow the Legislature’s intent, as exhibited by the plain meaning of the actual words of the law, whatever may be thought of the wisdom, expediency, or policy of the act.’ (California Teachers Assn. v. Governing Bd. of Rialto Unified School Dist. (97) 14 C4th 627, 632.) “The authors of CALJIC instructions lack the authority of the Legislature or the California Supreme Court.” (People v. Modiri REV GTD AND SUPERSEDED (2003) 112 CA4th 123, 138.)
See also FORECITE PG XI(A)(1) [CALCRIM Is Not the Law].
(2) Pattern Instructions Are Not Sacrosanct.
The rote recitation of general form instructions will not always suffice to fulfill the court’s instructional obligations. (People v. Thompkins (87) 195 CA3d 244, 250 [240 CR 516], see also, former California Rules of Court, Appendix, Div. § I, Section 5 [no preference for CALJIC instructions]; U.S. v. Lofton (10th Cir 85) 776 F2d 918, 922; Wright v. U.S. (D.C. Cir. 1957) 250 F2d 4, 11.) The court “should not require a party to rely on abstract generalities … but should instruct the jury in terms that relate to the particular case before it. [Citation].” (Fish v. L.A. Dodgers Baseball Club (76) 56 CA3d 620, 642 [128 CR 807] [overruled on other grounds in Soule v. General Motors Corp. (94) 8 C4th 548, 575, 580 [34 CR2d 607]; see also People v. Rollo (90) 20 C3d 109, 123, fn 6 [141 CR 177].)
“[T]he fact that pattern jury instructions are available should not preclude a judge from modifying or supplementing a pattern instruction to suit the particular needs of an individual case…. The thrust of such objection goes not to the use of pattern instructions themselves, but rather to the practice of rote reliance upon such instructions without modification, a practice that may develop simply by virtue of their existence….[P]attern instructions should be modified or supplemented by the court when necessary to fit the particular facts of a case.” (ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Discovery and Trial by Jury (3rd edition 1996) Standard 15-4.4 pp. 236-237.)
The trial court must give “no less consideration” to instructions requested by counsel than to those contained in CALJIC. (See former Appendix to Calif. Rules of Court, Div. I, Section 5.) There is more than one correct way to express a thought, and non-CALJIC instructions may be given when correct. (People v. Butler DEPUBLISHED (90) 225 CA3d 77, 86 [274 CR 742].) “[T]he so-called CALJIC stereotyped instructions are no more sacrosanct than any others. Unless a particular instruction fits the evidentiary situation and presents a fair and impartial picture of the issues, it should not be given.” (People v. Mata (55) 133 CA2d 18, 21 [283 P2d 372].) “Although the CALJIC pattern instructions perform an invaluable service to the bench and bar, that those instructions are not sacrosanct, is apparent from their treatment by the appellate courts.” (People v. Vargas (88) 204 CA3d 1455, 1464 [251 CR 904]; see also People v. Eckstrom (74) 43 CA3d 996, 1006 [118 CR 391]; Riordan & Gillette, Cal. Criminal Law, (CEB 1986) 32.18, p. 682.) “[T]he trial court is not obligated … to repeat the words chosen by the CALJIC committee however helpful they may be. Instead, the trial court’s obligation is to state the law correctly.” (People v. Runnion (94) 30 CA4th 852, 858 [36 CR2d 203].)
Accordingly, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys in California should “understand both [the] value of CALJIC recommendations, and their limitations.” [Emphasis added] (Id. at 841; see also People v. Lee (2005) 131 CA4th 1413, 1426 [“The CALJIC Committee cannot be expected to anticipate every issue that may arise at trial. Indeed, the introduction to CALJIC specifically states that the trial court may need to give an instruction that is not included in CALJIC”].) The McDowell court also pointed out that the 9th Circuit Manual of Model Jury Instructions stands on a similar footing. (Ibid.) “‘[Standard instructions] are not a substitute for the individual research and drafting that may be required in a particular case, nor are they intended to discourage judges from using their own forms and techniques for instructing juries.’[Citation to 9th Cir. Man. of Model Instr., Introduction].” (Ibid.)
(3) Federal Constitutional Principles Require The Judge To Look Beyond The Standard Pattern Instructions.
“A jury cannot fulfill its central role in our criminal justice system if it does not follow the law. It is not an unguided missile free according to its own muse to do as it pleases. To accomplish its constitutionally-mandated purpose, a jury must be properly instructed as to the relevant law and as to its function in the fact-finding process, and it must assiduously follow these instructions.” (McDowell v. Calderon (9th Cir. 1997) 130 F3d 833, 836.)
(4) CAVEAT: The Superior Court Of Los Angeles No Longer Maintains CALJIC.
See U.S. v. Vidal (9th Cir. 2007) 504 F3d 1072, 1084. [The maintenance is currently performed by several retired judges and members of the bar.]
(5) CALCRIM Is No More Sacrosanct Than Was CALJIC.
(See FORECITE PG XI(A) and PG XI(B).)
(6) Duty To Tailor Standard Pattern/Model Instructions To Reflect The Facts And Legal Theories Presented At Trial. See FORECITE PG V(A)(3)(a).