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. Sutter county impanels a Grand Jury of 19 members for a one-year term.
What Do Grand Juries Do?
The major functions of a grand jury are divided into criminal indictments and civil investigations. There are three predominant functions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Qualifications to Serve
Pursuant to Penal Code section 893, prospective grand jurors must possess the following:
- A citizen of the United States
- At least 18 years old
- A Sutter County Resident for at least one year
- Possess ordinary intelligence, sound judgment, and good character
- Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language.
May not be:
- Serving as a trial juror in any California court
- Discharged as a grand juror at any California court within one year
- Convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime.
- An elected public official
Beyond the statutory requirements, the following are other desirable qualities in a grand juror:
- Investigative skills and experience
- Open minded
- Works well with others
- Interest in community affairs
In April and May, the Superior Court randomly issues a jury summons for Sutter residents to come in and learn about the Grand Jury. Superior Court judges and previous Grand Jurors conduct a presentation on the function of a Grand Jury. That same day, individuals may choose to apply.
Individuals who are not summoned by the court may still apply. The court accepts applications year-round. To be considered for the current year’s grand jury, apply by the due date April 1st. If the application is turned in after the due date, the court will consider the applicant for the following year’s grand Jury.
Candidates are then selected to interview with a Superior Court judge. The individuals found to be most qualified will be nominated.
Drawing of Grand Jury
The persons nominated by the Court will be summoned to attend the Grand Jury oath of office in June or early July of each year. The names or the nominees are placed in a box and nineteen names are drawn by random selection. The nineteen members then proceed to take an oath of office. The remaining individuals who are not selected will be the alternates. If, during the year, a vacancy occurs, a selection to fill this vacancy is made from the remaining individuals.
An orientation and training program for grand jurors and alternates will be held in the month of July in Marysville. Attendance at this orientation is extremely valuable and is highly encouraged.
Terms of Service
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. The average time commitment can range from 4 to 10 hours a week with an increase in hours when preparing the Grand Jury report.
Serving as a Grand Juror consumes 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 weight in any and all family, personal, and business obligations before accepting this nomination.
Grand Jurors are compensated fifteen dollars per day for each day’s attendance as a grand juror. In addition, jurors are reimbursed for mileage.
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
- 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 final report are distributed to public officials, libraries, and the news media.
You may submit a complaint to the Grand Jury completing the complaint form. You are encouraged to attach additional information or documents that contribute information to your concern.
After filling out the form, print the document, sign it attesting to the information, and mail to the P.O. Box 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.