Grand Jury Duty

History, Functions and Organization

 

HISTORY

What is the Civil Grand Jury?

The Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and enforcement of the law. The concept of juries dates back to Norman times in the 800s. 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 the 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 and are now impaneled annually.

The Mono County Grand Jury serves as a Civil Grand Jury. It is impaneled in July of each year and is comprised of 19 members.


FUNCTIONS

What is the function of the Civil Grand Jury?

The Grand Jury’s role has its basis in the U.S. Constitution (Fifth Amendment), in the California State Constitution (Article 1, Section B), and in numerous statutes of the State of California. It functions as an arm of the judicial branch of government, and at the local level, operates under the authority of the Superior Court. The Court appoints citizens to the Grand Jury, formally charges its members with duties and responsibilities established by law, and guides the Grand Jury during its term.

Grand Jurors are officers of the Court but work as an independent body. A Grand Jury works to ensure that the best interests of all citizens of the county are being served by governmental bodies.

The Grand Jury is empowered to act in two basic areas:

1. To investigate aspects of local government, including county government, elected officials, incorporated cities, redevelopment agencies, service districts, special districts, prisons, joint powers agencies, LAFCO, and non-profit agencies which receive public monies.

2. To bring formal accusations against public officials for willful misconduct or corruption in office. Such accusations can lead to removal from office.
Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the two predominant functions include performing "watchdog" responsibilities and handling citizens' complaints. Both are discussed below:

Watchdog Responsibilities

The major function of the Mono County Grand Jury is to examine county and town government and special districts to ensure that their duties are being lawfully carried out. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods, and systems utilized by these entities 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;
  • Inspect financial records of special districts in Mono County;
  • Examine the books and records of any nonprofit organization receiving county or city funds;
  • Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers; and
  • Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.

Response to Citizens' Complaints

The Grand Jury receives letters of complaint from citizens alleging mistreatment by public officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Anyone may file a complaint and ask the Grand Jury to conduct an investigation. Such complaints are acknowledged and are kept confidential.

If the Grand Jury believes the situation warrants, the Grand Jury will investigate. The jury generally limits investigations to the operations of governmental agencies, charges of wrongdoing within public agencies, or the performance of unlawful acts by public officials. The Grand Jury cannot investigate disputes between private parties.

The mission of the Grand Jury is accomplished by assuring that all persons who communicate with the Grand Jury will be protected by strict rules of confidentiality. These rules extend to all participants, including witnesses, and all questions and responses. Further, complaint forms, minutes and records of Grand Jury meetings are protected by law and cannot be subpoenaed or inspected by anyone. Anyone who violates these rules of confidentiality is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Click here to download Citizen Complaint Form (PDF Format)

Grand Jury’s Final Report

At the end of its term, the Grand Jury publishes a final report. The final report summarizes the year's activities and contains findings and recommendations for action and study. Copies of the final report are distributed to public officials, libraries, the news media, any interested parties, and any entity that is the subject of one of the reports. According to law, the governing body of any department reporting to the Board of Supervisors about which a report is issued, must respond to the report within 60 days following the release of the final report. All other subject organizations must respond within 90 days.

The next year's Grand Jury reviews the responses of the affected public agencies and the process of protecting the public interest begins anew.

Grand Jury Final Reports and agency responses to the reports are on file with the Superior Court, in Mammoth Lakes, at local libraries, and are posted on the Court’s website.


ORGANIZATION


How is the Civil Grand Jury organized?

The Superior Court Presiding Judge acts as the Advisory Grand Jury Judge and appoints a Grand Jury foreperson who presides at all full jury proceedings and who is responsible for directing the business of the Grand Jury.

Most Grand Jury work is done by committees. These usually include Administration, Audit/Finance, Cities/ Special Districts, Edit, Education, Health and Social Services, and Law Enforcement. Other committees may be appointed as required by the Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury and its committees meet several times a month. Each Grand Juror usually serves on one or more committees. The committees meet with county and city officials, visit government facilities, and conduct independent research on matters of interest or concern. The committees report to the full Grand Jury each month and conclusions are reached after discussion and study of the issues. The jury may seek advice or request the services of the County Counsel, District Attorney, Advisory Judge of the Superior Court, or State Attorney General. It can also retain private counsel, upon order of the Superior Court.

Service on the Grand Jury is Voluntary

Service on the Grand Jury is VOLUNTARY. Each spring, applications are accepted from qualified citizens. Each of the Superior Court Judges in Mono County may nominate at least one person for Grand Jury service. However, it is not necessary to know a judge personally in order to apply for service.

Mono County citizens are urged to apply for service on the Grand Jury. Citizens who are interested, qualified, and able to commit to a minimum of 10 hours per month, for one year, for Grand Jury service may click Application to download required form (PDF Format); or request an application from:


The Superior Court Executive Office
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1037
Mammoth Lakes, California 93546
Telephone: (760) 924-5444


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