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Grand Jury of Kings County

The Grand Jury

California Grand Juries: An Overview

The Grand Jury Process

Grand Jury Selection Process

Time Commitment

Grand Jury Officers

Grand Jury Committees

Grand Jury Reports

Citizen Complaint Form

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THE GRAND JURY

The Grand Jury is one of the oldest, most respected, and powerful civil institutions in the United States. More than forty states have some form of Grand Jury. The State of California mandates that nineteen randomly selected citizens be impaneled every year as a Grand Jury in each county. Grand Jury duties, powers, responsibilities, qualifications and the selection process are set forth in the California Penal Code.

The Grand Jury is part of the judicial branch of government and has three functions:

1.      To examine all aspects of city and county governments and special districts by initiating its own investigations.

2.      To serve as ombudsman for the citizens of the cities and the county.

3.      To conduct criminal investigations and, if the evidence is sufficient, issue criminal indictments in lieu of a preliminary Superior Court hearing.

CALIFORNIA GRAND JURIES: AN OVERVIEW

Grand Juries are impaneled in every county in California. 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 rules governing the makeup, organization, powers and duties of grand juries in California are found in the California Penal Code 888-939. Recent changes in the Penal Code (904.6, 1991) permit any county to have an additional grand jury at the discretion of the presiding judge of the superior court.

The statutes permit some variation in the manner and time of selection of jurors and require only that the term of service be for one year and coincide with the County's fiscal year. Qualifications for grand jurors are outlined in Penal Code 893. This section requires the prospective grand juror be at least 18 years old, in possession of their natural faculties and have sufficient knowledge of the English language. In Kings County, each grand jury begins its term July 1 and ends its service June 30 of the following year. Throughout the State, prospective grand jurors in each county are chosen through a lengthy process that includes application, screening by the jury commissioner from Department of Motor Vehicle Records and nomination of interested persons by Superior Court Judges. A thorough background check is made on all interested persons and list of qualified candidates is submitted to the judges for review and approval. Since some members of the existing grand jury may be carried over for a second term, the number of names drawn will equal those needed to provide a grand jury of 19 members. (The law allows for a grand jury of 23 in counties with greater than four million population and for 11 members in counties with less than 20,000 population. (Penal Code 888.2))

It has been the practice in many counties to advertise widely and to encourage many people to apply for the grand jury. Because grand jury service requires the devotion and commitment to spend 20 hours per week or more for only a token payment, it is desirable for grand jurors to have an interest in community affairs and be open-minded with a true concern for the views of others. Grand jurors also should posses some investigative skills and be able to take good notes and write and type reports. A good knowledge of the functions and responsibilities of city and county government is also helpful.

f you wish to view any of the Penal Codes, they are available through the California Law web site located at www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html. Then, follow the directions for finding the code(s) you are interested in.

THE GRAND JURY PROCESS

The Grand Jury although a part of the judicial system, is an entirely independent body. The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, the District Attorney, the County Counsel and the State Attorney General act only as advisors. They cannot prevent Grand Jury action unless that action violates the law.

The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems used by government agencies to determine whether they comply with the stated objectives of the agency and if their operation can be made more efficient and effective. It may inquire into any aspect of county/city government, including special legislative districts and joint power agencies to ascertain that the best interests of Kings County residents are being served.

The Grand Jury functions lawfully only as a body. No individual grand juror, acting alone, has any power or authority. Meetings of the Grand Jury are not open to the public. Law requires that all matters discussed before the Grand Jury and votes taken, to be kept private and confidential. The end results of inquiries into civil matters are released to the public in the form of a final report, which is approved before release, by the Presiding Judge, the Supervising Judge of the Superior Court.

The Penal Code requires the Grand Jury to:

Inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county. Investigate and report on the operations, accounts and records of county officers, departments and functions. Inquire into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers. Submit the final report of its findings and recommendations, no later than the end of its term, to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. Agencies to which these recommendations are directed are required to respond to the County Board of Supervisors within 90 days after the report is released.

GRAND JURY SELECTION PROCESS:

(a) [Definition] "Regular grand jury" means a body of citizens of a county selected by the court to investigate matters of civil concern in the county, whether or not that body has jurisdiction to return indictments.

(b) [Regular grand jury list] The list of qualified candidates prepared by the jury commissioner to be considered for nomination to the regular grand jury should be obtained by one or more of the following methods:

(1) Names of members of the public obtained at random in the same manner as the list of trial jurors. However, the names obtained for nomination to the regular grand jury should be kept separate and distinct from the trial jury list, consistent with Penal Code section 899.

(2) Recommendations for grand jurors that encompass a cross-section of the county's population base, solicited from a broad representation of community-based organizations, civic leaders, and superior court judges, referees, and commissioners.

(3) Applications from interested citizens solicited through the media or a mass mailing.

(c) [Carry-over grand jurors] The court is encouraged to consider carry-over grand jury selections under Penal Code section 901(b) to ensure broad-based representation.

(d) [Nomination of grand jurors] Judges who nominate persons for grand jury selection under Penal Code section 903.4 are encouraged to select candidates from the list returned by the jury commissioner or otherwise to employ a nomination procedure to ensure broad-based representation from the community.

(e) [Disfavored nominations] Judges should not nominate to the grand jury a spouse or immediate family member (first degree of consanguinity) of any  superior court judge, commissioner, or referee, elected official, or department head of any city, county, or governmental entity subject to grand jury scrutiny.

Sec. 17 adopted effective July 1, 1992.

f you wish to view any of the Penal Codes, they are available through the California Law web site located at www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html. Then, follow the directions for finding the code(s) you are interested in.

TIME COMMITMENT:

The Grand Jury convenes July 1 through June 30 of the following year, is paid a per diem of ($15 per day) for those days when the juror attends meeting with a minimum of three days per week. Mileage is reimbursed for travel between the juror's residence and the Grand Jury Chambers in the County Government Complex and for travel on Grand Jury business (currently .36 cents per mile).

GRAND JURY OFFICERS:

Foreperson - recognizes that the most important responsibility lies in seeing that the Grand Jury as a whole and each of the committees function effectively and efficiently.

Foreperson Pro Tem - in absence of the Foreperson, assumes all functions of foreperson.

Recording Secretary - is the general assistant to the foreperson in all matters, keeps the accurate record (minutes) of the proceedings of each meeting.

Correspondence Secretary - is responsible for incoming and outgoing correspondence.

Treasurer - provides jurors with reimbursement forms and collects these forms at the end of each month and handles all bills received by the Grand Jury.

GRAND JURY COMMITTEES:

The work of the Grand Jury currently is done by its committees and ad hoc committees, which are formed in response to special needs.

Law and Public Safety - focuses on law enforcement agencies, prisons and fire departments.

County Government - looks into county agencies and departments not covered by other committees.

Health and Education - examines school districts throughout the county, the Health department and district hospitals.

Local Government - is responsible for city and local boards including cemeteries and Community Service Districts.

Edit and Review - responsible for producing the Final Report and other such manuals necessary in the function of the Grand Jury.

Complaint - the first committee to screen all citizen complaints received and assign to the proper committee for action.

Grand Jury: Reports

State Law requires that each grand jury submit a final report of its findings and recommendations to the presiding judge of the Superior Court. In addition to the mandated reports on financial audits and the condition of adult and juvenile detention facilities, recent Kings County grand jury Reports have covered such topics as the Public Library Authority, Child Protective Services, and Inappropriate Use of Funds at a Special District.

A report, just as an accusation or an indictment, must be approved by at least 12 of the 19 grand jurors (15 if it is a 23 member jury). With so many possible investigations and a term limited to a single year, it is necessary for each grand jury to make hard decisions as to what it wishes to undertake during the term. Except for mandated duties to report on the financial condition of the county and on the conditions of county jails, the grand jury has great discretion in determining its agenda.

Most grand juries divide into committees for conducting investigations and for writing reports, but there seems to be a wide variation between counties as to the number and structure of committees; it is up to each grand jury to determine its own method of operation within the parameters of the law.

Government agencies that are the subject of reports are required by law to respond to specific grand jury findings and recommendations. However, the grand jury has no enforcement power, and the agencies are under no legal obligation to carry out the recommendations. While some recommendations are ignored, others are followed, particularly those that suggest greater efficiency for operations and that do not require the expenditure of large sums of money. Grand jury criticisms of public officials and agencies frequently attract press attention, bringing greater community awareness of what is happening in public agencies. Many grand jurors believe that public officials tend to be more accountable when they know an impartial; outside body is looking over their collective shoulders.

While surrounded by secrecy before publication, grand jury reports become public documents when signed by the grand jury foreman and approved by the grand jury's advisory judge. Copies are sent: to all targeted government agencies, to interested officials, to public and private groups and individuals and to the press. At the end of the year, bound or loose-leaf copies of all reports are placed in all public libraries.
Copies of recent Kings County Grand Jury reports may be found on the Grand Jury's Web Site.

 Individuals may request copies from:

Kings County Grand Jury

1400 West Lacey Blvd
P.O. Box 1562, Hanford, CA 93230

 

A WORD ABOUT THE CITIZEN COMPLAINT FORM

Any citizen may ask the Grand Jury to conduct an investigation into:

        allegations of mistreatment by officials

        suspicions of misconduct or inefficiencies by agencies of Kings County or the cities of Hanford, Lemoore, Corcoran or Avenal or Special Districts

The official complaint form is available from the Grand Jury. You may obtain one by telephoning the office at (559) 582-3211 EXT 2892, Internet or e-mail and asking that one be sent to you. When you receive it, fill it out and mail or deliver it to:

Kings County Grand Jury
1400 West Lacey Blvd
Hanford, CA 93230

If you wish to obtain a Grand Jury Complaint Form, please click on the Grand Jury's Web Site.
 

 

 

 
Superior Court of California, Kings County
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