What is a Civil Grand Jury?
Each county in California has its own civil grand jury. Typically composed of 19 citizens who serve for a one-year term, the grand jury monitors the performance of its county, including all cities and other local governing entities within the county. This body then makes recommendations in published reports which can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government services. The grand jury has the power to issue formal accusations against corrupt government officials. At the request of the district attorney, the grand jury can also consider indictments in criminal cases, although this procedure is infrequently used.
How Does it Work?
In Shasta County, applications for grand jury service are accepted from all qualified citizens from January 1st to mid-April. The judges of the Shasta County Superior Court review the candidates and select up to 30 potential jurors. At the empanelment, a total of 19 jurors are chosen by lottery; those remaining serve as alternates. The Court appoints a foreperson at this time. Shasta County grand jurors are sworn in and begin their one-year term the last week of June.
Jurors receive orientation and training on their responsibilities as grand jurors, the duties and operations of local government agencies, how to conduct investigations, and report-writing techniques. The grand jury then organizes itself and investigates various departments and functions of local government as it chooses.
Grand jury investigation topics can come from practically anywhere, including citizen complaints, suspicion of misconduct or government inefficiencies, or because of the interest of members of the grand jury. Such referrals, as with all transactions of the grand jury, are kept confidential.
County counsel, the district attorney, and the Court are available to the grand jury to provide legal guidance as necessary.
The grand jury can issue its reports at any time while it is impaneled, although most juries choose to wait to release their reports at the end of their terms. The reports contain investigative conclusions - called "findings" - and recommendations to elected officials and governing boards. Findings may be positive or negative; if they are negative, they must be accompanied by recommendations for improvement or correction. In some cases, the grand jury may choose to commend an agency or official for outstanding public service. Responses to negative findings and all recommendations are required within 60 days from named elected officials and 90 days from named governing bodies.