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Grand Jury

Grand Jury COMPLAINT FORM

What Is the Grand Jury?

The Grand Jury is mandated to investigate and report on matters within the county, city, and other local agencies and ensure that they are performing properly and ethically.

The California Grand Jury is different in its function than that of a trial jury. The primary role of the Grand Jury is for a group of ordinary citizens to investigate local government agencies and ensure that they are performing properly and ethically.

  • Is an independent body of 19 people, appointed by the court.

  • Can work as full body committee or by using individual committees.

  • Operates with a court-appointed foreperson that facilitates the activities of the Jury and acts as its spokesperson.

  • Grand Jurors serve voluntarily for one year.

What Do Grand Juries Do?

The major function of a grand jury are divided into criminal indictments and civil investigations. There are three predominant functions.

  1. Civil “Watchdog” Responsibilities: The Grand Jury may examine all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the county is being governed honestly and efficiently and that county monies are being handled appropriately. The Grand Jury findings and recommendations are contained in a final report.
  2. Citizen Complaints: The Grand Jury receives many letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received from citizens are acknowledged and investigated confidentially for their validity. If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, appropriate action is taken.
  3. Criminal Investigations: 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.

Organization of the Grand Jury

The Civil Grand Jury is divided into committees, each of which concentrates its attention on the investigation of certain departments or functions of city or county government. All committees visit various county facilities, meet with county officials and develop recommendations for improvement.

Current Grand Jury Committees include:

  • Audit and Finance
  • Local Government
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Fire and Safety Services
  • Human Services
  • Planning and Environment
  • Public Buildings and Properties

At the end of the Grand Jury's term, a final report is prepared with each committee's recommendations and sent to the County Board of Supervisors for response within ninety days. Copies of the full report are distributed to public officials, libraries, and the news media.

Submit a Complaint

You may submit a complaint to the Grand Jury by completing the complaint form. You are encouraged to attach additional information or documents that contribute to your concern.

After filling out the form, print the document, sign it attesting to the information, and mail to the address noted on the form. You may also turn in the form to the court. If brought to the court for delivery to the Grand Jury, the form must be in a sealed envelope.

All complaints submitted to the Grand Jury are treated confidentially.

Additional Grand Jury Information

In the United States, the first formal Grand Jury was established in 1635 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony which considered cases of murder, robbery and wife beating. By 1683 Grand Juries in some form were established in all colonies.

By the end of the Colonial period, the Grand Jury had become an indispensable adjunct of government. Grand Juries proposed new laws, protested against abuses in government and wielded tremendous authority in their power to determine who should and should not face trial.

Originally, the Constitution of the United States, written in 1787, made no provision for a Grand Jury. The Fifth Amendment, ratified in 1791, added this protection:

"No person shall be held to answer to a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except for cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service in time of War or public danger ..."

Through the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution have been made applicable to the states. As interpreted by some states, this amendment meant that prosecution of crimes no longer mandated a Grand Jury indictment.

The first California Penal Code contained statutes providing for a Grand Jury. Early Grand Juries investigated local prisons, conducted audits of county books, and pursued matters of community concern. The role of the Grand Jury in California is unique in that pursuant to statutes passed in 1880, the duties include investigation of county government.

Article I, § 23 of the California Constitution states: "a grand jury shall be drawn and summoned at least once a year in each county." Depending on a county's population, a specified number of citizens ranging from 11 to 23 in each of California's 58 counties are empowered to investigate and report on various activities of county and city government. The Lassen County Grand Jury is a judicial body of nineteen (19) citizens impaneled to act as a community "watchdog". The rules governing the makeup, organization, powers and duties of grand juries in California are found in the California Penal Code § 888-939.

The Grand Jury system in California is unusual in that Federal and County Grand Juries in most states are concerned solely with criminal indictments and have no civil responsibilities. Grand Jurors serve for one year and are impaneled in the first week of the fiscal year to coincide with the county's budget year. Up to 10 Grand Jurors may be held over for a second term.

Forty-two states have some form of Grand Jury; however, only California and Nevada mandate the impaneling of a Grand Jury each year.

Penal Code § 893 outlines the qualification for Grand Jurors:

  1. A person is competent to act as a grand juror only if he possesses each of the following qualifications:
    1. He is a citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or older who shall have been a resident of the state and of the county or city and county for one year immediately before being selected and returned.
    2. He is in possession of his natural faculties, of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment, and of fair character.
    3. He is possessed of sufficient knowledge of the English language.
  2. A person is not competent to act as a grand juror if any of the following apply:
    1. The person is serving as a trial juror in any court of this state.
    2. The person has been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within one year.
    3. The person has been convicted of a malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime.
    4. The person is serving as an elected public officer.

The County District Attorney has the option of utilizing special Grand Juries chosen from the regular petit trial jury pool to handle criminal cases and thus ensure indictment by those who present a random cross-section of the community.

All of California's 58 counties are required to have Grand Juries and recent changes in Section 904.6 of the Penal Code (2006) permit any county to have a special Grand Jury at the discretion of the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court.

The primary function of a Civil Grand Jury is to oversee all aspects of the legislative and administrative departments that make up county, city and special district governments. The Civil Grand Jury has the power to investigate them to ensure they are efficient, honest, fair, and dedicated to serving the public and individual citizens. The Civil Grand Jury is an arm of the court and has subpoena powers.

By law, Grand Jurors may not disclose the evidence obtained in their investigations or reveal the names of complainants or witnesses. Similarly, witnesses are prohibited from disclosing any proceedings of the Grand Jury.

When investigations are completed, the Grand Jury decides what recommendations should be made to increase efficiency, improve services to the public, and save tax-payer dollars. Departments or agencies may be singled out for special commendation for well-managed operations. As with all investigations, it takes 12 votes to release a report to the public. The results of investigations are collected in a Final Report at the expiration of the Grand Jury's term of office.

The Lassen County Grand Jury Report is distributed to the public and to public officials, the Lassen County Times newspaper, KSUE/KJDX radio station, the Susanville Library and is available in the Jury Commissioner's office at 2610 Riverside Drive, Susanville, California 96130. The telephone number is (530) 251-8109.

Qualifications to Serve

Pursuant to Penal Code section 893, prospective grand jurors must possess the following:

Must be:

  • A citizen of the United States
  • At least 18 years old
  • A Lassen County Resident for at least one year
  • Possess ordinary intelligence, sound judgment, and good character, and
  • Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language to communicate both orally and in writing.

May not be:

  • Serving as a trial juror in any California court
  • Discharged from grand jury service within the preceding year
  • Convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime, or
  • Serving as an elected public official

Beyond the statutory requirements, the following are other desirable qualities in a grand juror:

  • Investigative skills and experience
  • Open-mindedness and patience
  • Works well with others
  • Interest in community affairs

The Superior Court may either contact potential grand jurors by way of a personal letter or may randomly issue jury summons for Lassen County residents to come in and learn about the Grand Jury. In the event jurors are summoned, the Presiding Judge will conduct a presentation on the function of the Grand Jury. That same day, individuals who are interested may choose to apply.

Individuals who are not contacted by or summoned by the court may still apply for the Grand Jury by completing and returning a Grand Jury Questionnaire to the court. The court accepts applications/questionnaires year-round.

Questionnaires are reviewed by the Judge and selected jurors will be contacted and asked to serve.

Orientation

An orientation and training program for grand jurors and alternates will be held in the month of August in Susanville. Attendance at this orientation is extremely valuable and highly encouraged.

The Grand Jury sets the dates and times for their meetings. However, persons selected for Grand Jury service shall make a commitment to serve no less than two days per month for a period of one year (July 1 through June 30). The average time commitment can range from 4 to 20 hours a month with an increase in hours when preparing the Grand Jury report.

Serving as a Grand Juror can consume many hours. It is essential that all Civil Grand Jurors be in attendance each session. A full body of jurors is essential for productive discussion of issues and decision-making. Each prospective grand juror should sincerely and thoughtfully weigh in any and all family, personal, and business obligations before accepting this nomination.

Grand Jurors are compensated $15 per diem for each day's attendance as a grand juror. In addition, jurors are reimbursed for mileage.

The Grand Jury typically meets at the Hall of Justice or in a designated space determined by the Superior Court of California, County of Lassen. Meetings can also be by remote presence. The Grand Jury decided where and how it will meet to conduct business.

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