The activities of California grand juries have always been shrouded
in mystery. Indictment proceedings behind closed doors and the power
to subpoena citizens and documents in the course of an investigation
seem to paint a picture of power.
The grand jury is one of the oldest civil institutions in America.
Its roots can be traced as far back as the Norman conquest of England
in 1066. The origin of our current system probably occurred during
the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) when 12 men in each village were
assembled to bring charges against those suspected of crimes.
In Nevada County citizens volunteer to
serve as members
grand jury. From this pool of volunteers, 19 are selected by the
Superior Court to make up a grand jury and act as an arm of the
court. Jurors serve for a period of one year. The California Penal
Code, Sections 888 to 940, governs jurors.
The prime objective of the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury is to
help improve the overall functioning of governmental entities within
the county. To accomplish this, grand jurors review the day-to-day
operational aspects of a program, organization, or entity and report
on their findings. The three main aspects covered in investigations
- Efficiency (are they doing the right things?)
- Effectiveness (are they getting results?)
- Economy (are they doing it in a cost-effective manner?)
Another objective of the grand jury is to examine specific complaints
of private citizens.
What kinds of people serve as grand jurors? He/she should be able
to take an unbiased look at the way government works and, when necessary,
offer solutions or suggest more efficient management of operations.
He/she also needs to possess strong personal initiative and high
energy to face the workload. Above all, a good juror is curious
about how his/her government works and how it can be improved. Grand
jurors come from all lifestyles. Grand jurors operate under a strict
code of behavior and confidentiality. While grand jurors function
lawfully as a body, a grand juror acting alone has no power or authority.
Penal code 933 requires that a final report must be released within
one month of the close of the fiscal year. Jurors conduct numerous
investigations from which they prepared written summaries of their
findings, investigation, conclusions, and also recommendations for
improvements in procedures and processes.
Few people realize each grand jury report is intended to be read
by all interested citizens. It is not a confidential document intended
only for government officials. The full reports are available for
review at county libraries or can be found by clicking on
For more information, you can visit the California
Grand Jurors' Association website.