RULE 51. INSTRUCTIONS TO JURY
(a) Instructions to Jury--Written or Oral. Immediately after the jury is sworn, the court may instruct the jury concerning its duties, its conduct, the order of proceedings, the elementary legal principles governing the proceeding, and the procedure for submitting written questions of witnesses as provided in N.D.R.Ct. 6.8, if allowed by the court. The Court shall instruct the jury immediately before or after the arguments of counsel. The court shall instruct the jury only as to the law of the case. The instructions must be reduced to writing unless the parties otherwise agree. If written instructions are given they must be signed by the judge and must be taken by the jurors in their retirement. When oral instructions are given, they may not be taken by the jurors in retirement unless, after they have been transcribed, it is so ordered by the court. All instructions taken by the jurors in retirement must be returned into court with their verdict.
(1) A party may, at the close of the evidence or at an earlier reasonable time that the court directs, file and furnish to every other party written requests that the court instruct the jury on the law as set forth in the requests.
(2) After the close of the evidence, a party may:
(A) file requests for instructions on issues that could not reasonably have been anticipated at an earlier time for requests set under Rule 51 (a) (1), and
(B) with the court's permission file untimely requests for instructions on any issue.
(3) The court may require each request to be written on a separate sheet. North Dakota pattern jury instructions may be requested by reference to instruction number.
(b) Requested Instructions. At the close of the evidence or at an earlier time during the trial as the court reasonably directs, any party may file proposed jury instructions. The court may require each instruction to be written on a separate sheet, provided North Dakota pattern jury instructions may be requested by reference to instruction number only. The court shall inform counsel in writing of its action upon requested instructions prior to their argument to the jury. All instructions given by the court to the jurors must be read or given to them orally by the court without disclosing whether the instructions were requested.
(1) The court:
(A) must inform the parties of its proposed instructions and proposed action on the requests before instructing the jury and before final jury arguments;
(B) must give the parties an opportunity to object on the record and out of the jury's hearing to the proposed instructions and actions on requests before the instructions and arguments are delivered.
(2) The court may instruct the jury at any time after trial begins and before the jury is discharged.
(3) Immediately after the jury is sworn the court may give instructions concerning:
(A) jury duties and conduct;
(B) the order of proceedings;
(C) elementary legal principles governing the proceedings; and
(D) the procedure for submitting written questions to witnesses under N.D.R.Ct. 6.8, if the court allows written questions.
(4) The court's instructions must be in writing unless the parties otherwise agree.
(A) If written instructions are given, they must be signed by the court and provided to the jury for use during deliberations.
(B) If oral instructions are given, they may be provided to the jury for use during deliberations only if they are transcribed and the court orders them provided.
(C) All instructions used by the jury during deliberations must be returned to the court when the verdict is submitted.
(c) Exceptions to Instructions. The giving of instructions and the failure to instruct the jurors are deemed excepted to unless the court, before instructing the jurors, submits to counsel the written instructions it proposes to give to the jurors and asks for exceptions to be noted. Thereupon, counsel shall designate the parts or omissions counsel considers objectionable. Thereafter, only the parts or omissions so designated are deemed excepted to by the counsel designating the same. All proceedings connected with the taking of exceptions must be in the absence of the jurors and a reasonably sufficient time must be allowed counsel to take exceptions and to note them in the record of the proceedings.
(1) a party who objects to an instruction or the failure to give an instruction must do so on the record, stating distinctly the matter objected to and the grounds of the objection.
(2) An objection is timely if:
(A) a party that has been informed of an instruction or action on a request before the jury is instructed and before final jury arguments, as provided by Rule 51(b)(1), objects at the opportunity for objection required by Rule 51 (b) (2); or
(B) a party that has not been informed of an instruction or action on a request before the time for objection provided under Rule 51 (b) (2) objects promptly after learning that the instruction or request will be, or has been, given or refused.
(d) Preserving Objections; Plain Error
(1) A party may assign as error:
(A) an error in an instruction actually given if that party made a proper objection under Rule 51 (c), or
(B) a failure to give an instruction if that party made a proper request under Rule 51 (a), and--unless the court made a definitive ruling on the record rejecting the request--also made a proper objection under Rule 51 (c).
(2) A court may consider a plain error in the instructions affecting substantial rights that has not been preserved as required by Rule 51 (d) (1) (A) or (B).
Rule 51 was amended, effective 1971; March 1, 1990; March 1, 1999; March 1, 2004.
This rule is similar to N.D.R.Crim.P. 30. Subdivision (a) was amended, effective March 1, 1999, to provide for expanded preliminary jury instructions.
Rule 12 was amended, effective March 1, 2004, in response to the December 2003 amendment of Fed.R.Civ.P. 51. The language and organization of the rule were changed to make the rule more easily understandable. New language in subdivisions (a), (c) and (d) clarifies the procedure for requesting instructions and for objecting to court action on instructions and requests.
Sources: Joint Procedure Committee Minutes of ____________________, pages_____; September 25-26, 1997, pages 16-17; April 20, 1989, pages 2-3; December 3, 1987, page 11; November 29-30, 1979, pages 13-14; Fed.R.Civ.P. 51.
SUPERSEDED: N.D.R.C. §§ 28-1411, 28-1412, 28-1413, 28-1414 (1943).
CROSS REFERENCE: N.D.R.Civ.P. 46 (Exceptions Unnecessary); N.D.R.Crim.P. 30 (Instructions); N.D.R.Ev. 103 (Rulings on Evidence).