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Civil grand jury

WHY BECOME A GRAND JUROR?

Those who are asked to serve on the Grand Jury feel privileged to be selected. They enter this service with interest and curiosity in learning more about the administration and operation of the government in the county in which they live.

Although serving as a Grand Juror consumes many hours, those who serve are willing to give their time for the betterment of the government which, in truth, belongs to them.

If and when you are asked to serve as a Grand Juror, step up to your responsibility, accept the appointment and represent the community in which you live.

Santa Clara County residents are urged to apply for service on the Grand Jury.

For additional information, including how to contact the Grand Jury, click to see the Court's Civil Grand Jury brochure .

Members: Current list of 2014-2015 Civil Grand Jury members 

Reports:

2013-2014 Final Reports: see below

2001-2013 Final Reports & Agency Responses: see Archive page

About the Civil Grand Jury: History, Functions, Qualifications, Selection Process, Commitment, and Remuneration, and Orientation

Complaint forms:

Note: the Grand Jury does not investigate all complaints received.

Final 2013-2014 Reports

Information about the Civil Grand Jury:

History

The concept of juries dates back to Norman times in the eleventh century. By 1215 the jury concept had evolved into a guarantee expressed in the Magna Carta that no freeman would be “imprisoned or [dispossessed] or exiled or in any way destroyed...except by the lawful judgment of his peers….”

In the United States, the Massachusetts Bay Colony impaneled the first grand jury in 1635 to consider cases of murder, robbery, and wife beating. The U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment and the California Constitution call for grand juries.

Grand juries were established throughout California during the early years of statehood. As constituted today, the grand jury is a part of the judicial branch of government, an arm of the court.

Functions

The Civil Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the three predominant functions include:

CIVIL WATCHDOG RESPONSIBILITIES

This is the major function of present day grand jurors, and considerable effort is devoted to these responsibilities. The Grand Jury may examine all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the best interests of Santa Clara county citizens are being served. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by county/city government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury is also authorized to:

  • Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent.
  • Inspect financial records of over 25 special districts in Santa Clara County.
  • Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers.
  • Inquire into charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.

Most Grand Jury “watchdog” findings are contained in reports describing problems encountered and making recommendations for solutions. During its term, the Grand Jury may issue final reports on the operations of Santa Clara County government. The County Board of Supervisors must comment upon the Grand Jury’s recommendations.

CITIZEN COMPLAINTS

As part of the civil function, the Grand Jury receives letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received from citizens are acknowledged and investigated for their validity. Such complaints are kept confidential. If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, appropriate action is taken.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

Occasionally and under certain circumstances, the Grand Jury holds hearings to determine whether evidence presented by the district attorney is of sufficient nature to warrant persons having to stand trial in court. A minimum of 12 jurors must vote for an indictment in any criminal proceeding. The types of cases presented to the grand jury by the district attorney usually include:

  • Cases involving public officials, employees or police officers.
  • Other cases the district attorney deems appropriate.

Qualifications

Prospective grand jurors must possess the following qualifications (Penal Code Section 893): Be a citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or older who shall have been a resident of the county for one year immediately before being sworn. Be in possession of his or her natural faculties, or ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment and of fair character. Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language. A Person is NOT competent to act as a grand juror if any of the following apply: The person is serving as a trial juror in any court of this state. The person has been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within one year. The person has been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime. The person is serving as an elected public official. Desirable qualifications for a grand juror include the following: Open-mindedness, with concern for the views of others. Ability to work with others. Genuine interest in community affairs. Investigative skills and an ability to write reports.

Selection Process

In the spring of each year Superior Court Judges seek volunteers to apply for service on the Grand Jury. The Superior Court Judges nominate thirty prospective grand jurors from the pool of applicants, divided among the county’s supervisorial districts. These people are invited to appear before the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. At this time, with the outgoing Grand Jury in attendance, nineteen names are drawn randomly. All nineteen members are sworn in and given a description of their duties and responsibilities by the Presiding Judge. These citizens serve a one-year term.

Commitment

Persons selected for Grand Jury service must make a time commitment of a minimum of three days per week (20-25 hours) for a period of one fiscal year. It is not uncommon for Grand Jury members to devote four and sometimes five days per week to their duties.

Remuneration

Grand Jurors receive per diem of $20 for meetings and Grand Jury activities, and mileage reimbursement.

Orientation

An orientation program about county and city government and other county entities is provided to those selected for Grand Jury service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara