Wayne Schiess, director of Legal Writing at the University of Texas Law School (as well as my teacher when I was there) has been blogging about some common sense plain English language revisions for jury instructions in Texas court rooms. I whole heartedly applaud any efforts we can make to turn “what the judge tells the jury about the law” into “something that reasonable people can understand”.
Who knows how many cases have mistakenly turned because a jury misunderstood the legal mumbo jumbo that is now quite frequently given to them?
I also agree with Schiess when he writes:
It's easy to poke fun at archaic jury instructions. Harder to rewrite them…
Read Schiess’ latest blog entries for some concrete examples of poorly worded instructions (as well as his efforts to come up with some well needed reform language).