Appellate Insights

Dec 12, 2022 Alana H. Rotter
CACI Instructions Are Not Always Correct

The Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (i.e., CACI instructions) get heavy use in California’s trial courts, both because they are convenient and because some judges insist on them.  But beware:  CACI instructions have their limits.  Those limits include:

  • CACI instructions are not themselves legal authority; the applicable case law and statutes ultimately govern.
  • Appellate decisions have disapproved specific CACI instructions, resulting in those instructions being changed or dropped.
  • Even where a CACI instruction is legally correct in a vacuum, it may be misleading, or incomplete, in light of your case’s particular facts.

►  The practical message:  Instructions are often a dispositive part of a jury trial, and a fertile source of appeals. When preparing your proposed instructions, or reviewing the other side’s proposed instructions, don’t assume that just because an instruction comes from CACI, it’s correct.  Scrutinize each instruction to assess its accuracy and applicability, and propose modifications or alternatives as needed.

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