Verdict - Summer 2015 - (Page 29)

> FEATURE STORY Recent Updates to Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions (Civil), July 2013 - Present BY JOEL WILLIAMS O ur system of civil justice consider, much less include in the charge. In The Council first issued the Suggested requires that jurors, fact, even where a non-pattern charge may Pattern Jury Instructions in 1980. Since then, in very short order, present the law more clearly, more succinctly, there have been five editions with periodic develop a firm grasp of and perhaps more accurately, many judges updates that reflect evolving changes in the law that applies to will continue to rely upon the pattern. The rea- the law and the Council's continued focus any given case. This is sons behind this thinking are numerous, but on its objective to provide pattern instruc- a tough task considering that most of us are generally speaking, judges are understand- tions "that are accurate, understandable, and professionally trained and often struggle to ably concerned with uniformity and reduc- convenient." (Id. at 2.) Recent updates have grasp how abstract legal principles apply the facts of our cases. Nevertheless, trial court judges do their best to charge the jury on the law, using a combination of pattern and nonpattern instructions that have been presented It is vitally important to do everything possible to help the trial judge simplify the law so the jury will have the best chance to fully understand their obligations. This includes staying up-to-date on any changes made to the pattern jury charges. by the parties. In normal cases, it will take the trial judge between thirty minutes and an hour ing the risk of error. The Council of Superior been substantive, namely because of the 2013 to instruct the jury. Court Judges, in its Preface to the Pattern changes to Georgia's Evidence Code. This Instructions, explains: article and the accompanying table, which Afterwards, the jury is expected to understand the law and apply it correctly to the case The art of charging a jury is one of the may be removed from the magazine for use in they are deciding. Therefore, it is vitally impor- most refined duties of a trial judge ... [T]he a trial notebook, highlight the major changes tant to do everything possible to help the trial trial judge in each case has the unique task to the Pattern Instructions since July 2013. judge simplify the law so the jury will have the of objectively and clearly explaining to the best chance to fully understand their obliga- jury ... the applicable law which governs NEW PATTERN CHARGES tions. This includes staying up-to-date on any the facts they find to be true. This must be New additions to the Pattern Instructions changes made to the pattern jury charges. On done in such a manner that no harmful error have come about, by and large, in response to more than one occasion, this author has partici- is committed in stating or failing to state ... the 2013 changes to Georgia's Evidence Code, pated in charge conferences where the judge the law, but more importantly, should be done Title 24. These include Charge Nos. 02.112 did not have a copy of the most recent pattern in simple, straightforward, and understand- (Stipulations), 02.114 (Judicial Notice), 02.116 jury instructions. able language for the layperson. (Suggested (Limiting Instructions), and 02.118 (Conditional Pattern Jury Instructions, Vol. I (Civil Cases), Admissibility). (SJPI at pp. 4-5.) As their names Fifth Ed., updated January 2015 ("SJPI")). suggest, these charges provide guidance to These days, more and more judges restrict the number of non-pattern charges they will Summer 2015 29

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Summer 2015

President’s Message
GTLA President’s Gala
Trying a Sex Abuse Case Against a Local Church in a Conservative Venue
New Strategies and Interventions to Curtail Discovery Abuses
High-Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent Bystanders
When One Award is Not Enough
Three Strategies to Fend off a Funding Attack
Recent Updates to Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions (Civil), July 2013 – Present
The Hidden Predator Act: How House Bill 17 Will Impact Victims’ Rights in Georgia
New Lawyers’ Corner: Trying a Low-Damage Jury Case
Professional Practice Pointers: Updates on E-filing, the Court of Appeals, and a New Traffic Division in DeKalb State
Case Updates: What’s New?
Workers’ Comp Updates
Notes: What’s New with GTLA Members
Welcome New GTLA Members!
Index to Advertisers

Verdict - Summer 2015