BAJI vs CACI
What is CACI?
CACI (Pronounced "Kay See") is the name of the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, the official civil jury instructions and verdict forms approved by the council on July 16, 2003. "CACI" means "California Civil Instructions."
Are the CACI mandatory?
The Judicial Council has not mandated use of CACI to the exclusion of other jury instructions. However, under rule (2.1050) of the California Rules of Court, the CACI instructions are designated as the “official instructions for use in the state of California.” The rule further states that use of the new instructions is “strongly encouraged” and they are recommended for use unless a judge “finds that a different instruction would more accurately state the law and be understood by jurors.” Rule (2.1050(a)(e).) So CACI instructions are clearly preferred, and there is an affirmative burden to make a legal case for using a non-CACI instruction if there is a CACI instruction on the subject.
Can special instructions still be proposed?
Special instructions may be proposed under Code of Civil Procedure § 609, but they must conform to the format requirements of rule (2.1055). If there is no CACI instruction on a subject on which the trial judge determines that the jury should be instructed, or if a CACI instruction cannot be modified to submit the issue properly, another instruction may be given on that subject. The instruction should be accurate, brief, understandable, impartial, and free from argument. Rule (2.1050(e).)
Why did the Judicial Council authorize drafting new plain English jury instructions?
In 1996 the Blue Ribbon Commission on Jury System Improvement concluded "jury instructions as presently given in California and elsewhere are, on occasion, simply impenetrable to the ordinary juror." The commission recommended that jury instructions be redrafted in more understandable language. In response, the Judicial Council created the Task Force on Jury Instructions in 1997, and directed that it draft comprehensive, legally accurate jury instructions that are readily understood by the average juror.
Does CACI change the law in California?
No, the CACI instructions do not change the law. In drafting the new instructions, the Task Force was charged with accurately stating existing law in a way that is understandable to the average juror. The articulation and interpretation of California law remains within the purview of the Legislature and courts of review. Rule (2.1050(b).)
What is the status of BAJI?
BAJI no longer is officially approved by state court rules. Los Angeles Superior Court's BAJI Committee has disbanded. The Thomson-West company, who owns the BAJI copyright, continues to publish and update BAJI.