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RULE 51. INSTRUCTIONS TO JURY

Effective Date: 3/1/2005

(a) Requests.

(1) Before or at the Close of the Evidence. At the close of the evidence or at any earlier reasonable time that the court orders, a party may file and furnish to every other party written requests for jury instructions. 
(2) After the Close of the Evidence. After the close of the evidence, a party may:
(A) file requests for instructions on issues that could not reasonably have been anticipated by an earlier time that the court set for requests; and
(B) with the court's permission file untimely requests for instructions on any issue.
(3) Form of Request. The court may require each request to be written on a separate sheet. A party may request a North Dakota pattern jury instruction by reference to the instruction number.

(b) Instructions.

(1) In General. 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) Time for Instructions. The court may instruct the jury at any time after trial begins and before the jury is discharged.
(3) Preliminary Instructions. 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) Final Instructions. 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) Objections.

(1) How to Make. A party who objects to a proposed 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) When to Make. An objection is timely if:
(A) (A) a party objects at the opportunity provided under Rule 51(b)(1)(B); or
(B) a party was not informed of an instruction or action on a request before that opportunity to object, and the party objects promptly after learning that the instruction or request will be, or has been, given or refused.

(d) Assigning Error; Plain Error

(1) Assigning Error. A party may assign as error:
(A) an error in an instruction actually given, if that party properly objected; or
(B) a failure to give an instruction, if that party properly requested it.
(2) Plain Error. A court may consider a plain error in the instructions affecting substantial rights that has not been preserved as required by Rule 51(d).

Rule 51 was amended, effective 1971; March 1, 1990; March 1, 1999; March 1, 2005; March 1, 2011.

Rule 51 was amended, effective March 1, 2005, 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.

Rule 51 was amended, effective March 1, 2011, in response to the December 1, 2007, revision of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The language and organization of the rule were changed to make the rule more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules.

SOURCES: Joint Procedure Committee Minutes of September 24-25, 2009, pages 21-22: January 29-30, 2004, pages 16-18; 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.

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).

Effective Date Obsolete Date
03/01/2005 View
03/01/1999 03/01/2005 View
04/20/1989 03/01/1999 View