The Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. 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 free man would be “imprisoned or [dispossessed} or exiled or in any way destroyed…except by 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.FUNCTIONS:
As an investigatory body the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse. However, 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 interest of Sutter County citizens is being served. The grand jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods, and systems utilized by county 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.
In order to accomplish the county watchdog functions, committees are normally established.
During its term, the Grand Jury issues final reports on the operations of Sutter County government. The County Board of Supervisors must comment upon the jury's recommendations.
As part of the civil function, 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 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.
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 usually include:
Cases involving public officials, employees or policed officers.
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.
The person is serving as a trial juror in any court of this state.
Be in good health.
In the spring of each year, current Superior Court Judges identify qualified citizens who might serve on the Grand Jury.
The Judges nominate thirty prospective grand jurors, equally divided among the county’s supervisorial districts from this list of names. These people are invited to appear at the Superior Court of the Presiding Judge. At this time, with past Grand Jury in attendance, the Clerk draws nineteen names randomly. All nineteen members are sworn in and given a description of their duties and responsibilities by the Presiding Court Judge. These citizens begin their one-year term on July 1.COMMITMENT:
Persons selected for grand jury service must make a commitment to serve a minimum of three days per week for a period of one year (July 1 through June 30). It is not uncommon for grand jury members to serve four and sometimes five days of a given week.REMUNERATION:
Grand jurors receive a nominal payment for meetings.ORIENTATION:
An orientation program about county and city government and other county entities will be provided to those selected for grand jury duty.
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.
Sutter County residents are urged to apply for service on the Grand Jury. Information may be obtained from:
Superior Court of California, Sutter County
(This information from the 1989-90 Sutter County Grand Jury information brochure, prepared for the Sutter Courts website by the 2002-03 Sutter County Grand Jury, with the aid of Court Information Services. Also, special thanks go to the Grand Juries of San Diego, Santa Clara and Contra Costa Counties for the offering of excerpts from their information brochures.)