01 Mar Grand Jury Service Needed Now
Margaret A.M. Heine
is the principal counsel at Heine Law Group in Fullerton, California. She is licensed in California and Washington and has authority to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of International Trade.
GRAND JURY SERVICE NEEDED NOW:
Orange County Deadline is February 5th
San Bernardino Deadline is March 31st
Los Angeles Deadline is November 17th
Miss the excitement of your favorite t.v. crime investigators? Outraged by county actions spending taxpayer money for shoddy work? Want to help change the system? Our legal system needs you! There is one part of our legal system that fully relies on you, the Grand Jury system.
The Grand Jury system in California is unique. California Constitution Article I, section 23, sets out that each county is required to have a grand jury comprised of 11 to 23 jurors based on the population of the county. Each of the jurors serves for one year, the fiscal year for the county in which they are serving. In Orange County, jurors would serve from July 1st through June 30th. The jurors investigate or make indictments depending on the matter submitted to them.
Grand jurors must be U.s. Citizens, at least 18 years old, live in the county where they want to serve for at least one full year, speak English, and not be serving on a jury, convicted of a felony, or be an elected official. The term of service is July 2018 through June 2019.
A good grand juror must want to investigate, research, and analyze facts, writings, expenditures, and ask the hard questions about what is happening in their city, county, government entities, and other civil entities. They must respect others opinions and have objectivity.
Grand Jurors take on a full time job in this civic responsibility from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. They work three to five days per week, five to eight hours per day. Vacation time during their year of service may be optional or not permitted at all. Grand jurors get paid for their work, $50 per day, up to $250 per week.
What is the job of a grand juror? In civil matters, the grand jury makes investigations. Investigations may be made on any aspect of county government, including the sheriff’s department, county supervisors, anything which the county is responsible for. This includes that the county conducts business honestly, appropriately, and efficiently. The grand jury may also look into allegations of wrongdoing and evaluation conditions and management practices for various county agencies, like redevelopment agencies, social workers, health care, and jails.
The grand jury receives complaints from private citizens, county officials, county employees, anyone interested in presenting a written complaint for them to investigate. The grand jury then decides which matters to investigate. They may seek the assistance of the Superior Court, the District Attorney, County Counsel outside consultants.
The grand jury submits a final report to the president judge of the Superior Court along with their recommendations, studies, and investigation reports. Each agency receives a copy of its report with a 90 day period to make a response to the findings and recommendations contained in the report.
The grand jury issues criminal indictments. In criminal matters, grand juries are not used very often in California. Studies showed that criminal cases brought before the grand jury resulted in a 95% rate of indictment. Although the California Constitution permits grand juries to hear testimony, review evidence, and indict a person for criminal activity, the District Attorney generally opts to take their evidence to the speedier process called the preliminary hearing process. If a person is indicted by the grand jury, then there will not be a preliminary hearing.
There are good reasons for the District Attorney to request a grand jury indictment, however rate the circumstance may be. The grand jury only gets to decide if there is probably cause that a crime was committed and that the person accused of the crime probably committed it.
Criminal matters are conducted in secrecy and therefore protect the identity of witnesses and defendants. If a grand jury hears a criminal matter, only the District Attorney and a court reporter are allowed in the grand jury room. A minimum of 12 or 15 jurors must agree that an indictment is appropriate.
The District Attorney has generally used the grand jury systems when the persons being indicted are Public officials, employees, or police officers, the indictment is complex or involves a sensitive case like molestation or crimes against children, and the grand jury subpoena powers are desired. The grand jury is helpful when there are undercover witnesses, witnesses in witness protection programs, children, or generally, when the District Attorney does not want the evidence to become public immediately.
How do I become a member of the Grand Jury? You will fill out an application, have a background check run, and depending on the county, be placed into a lottery for a position on the jury, be able to serve for a one year term, and sometimes through additional criteria. Grand Jurors can possibly serve more than one term. This depends on the matters being considered, the practice of the county in which you reside, and the availability of jurors.
Orange County has an online application which needs to be submitted by February 5, 2018. You may find it and other information at http://www.ocgrandjury.org/new.app.
San Bernardino has an online application also, which needs to be submitted by March 31, 2018. You may find the application and other information at: http://cms.sbcounty.gov/grandjury/BecomingaGrandJuror/HowtoApply.aspx
The applications for 2018 have closed for Los Angeles County, but they are accepting applications by November 2018 for the 2019-2020 Grand Jury Year. You may find the application and additional information at: http://grandjury.co.la.ca.us/
Become involved in the process. This is an intimate, behind the scenes look at your county. You have a unique opportunity to be of service, and to make recommendations for improvement in your local county government. Applications are generally posted on-line or at your county courthouse. Check your local county for terms and when applications are due.