What Is A Grand Jury?
What is a Grand Jury
Grand Juries originated in England in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The first American Grand Jury system began in 1635 at the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The California Constitution called for grand juries, and in 1849 the California Legislature provided for grand juries in each county. In 1880, the California Legislature passed laws requiring grand juries to investigate county governments. This was amended in 1983 to include incorporated cities. Only seven other states provide for investigation of county and city government by a grand jury beyond alleged misconduct of public officials. Only California and Nevada mandate that grand juries be impaneled annually to function specifically as a "watchdog" over county and city government. Certain larger counties, such as San Francisco, have both an Indictment (criminal) and a Civil Grand Jury.
How is it selected
Each fiscal year applications are accepted from qualified citizens of the United States, 18 years of age or older, who have resided in San Francisco County for one year. Service on the Grand Jury is voluntary. Applicants should be intelligent, of good character, and possess a working knowledge of the English language. Effort is made to impanel a jury of qualified men and women of diverse age, socioeconomic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.
San Francisco Superior Court judges review the candidates and choose 30 potential jurors. From this group a drawing is held to select the 19 jurors who will serve for a twelve-month term starting each July. At the discretion of the Presiding Judge as many as 10 members of the previous year's Jury may serve a second term.
How does it work
The Presiding Judge appoints a Foreperson to preside at meetings. The Jury organizes itself into committees and determines which of the various departments and functions of government in the City and County of San Francisco it will investigate. It also reviews compliance with the recommendations of previous Civil Grand Juries.
Areas to be investigated are suggested by letters from citizens and from the initial work of jury committees. All actions of the jury, including any communication from the public, are totally confidential until publication of the Reports.
State law requires specific responses, within 60 days from any elective official and within 90 days from any public agency, to the Jury's Recommendations. Responses are also reviewed by the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors.
Civil Grand Jury work is demanding. Members commit to approximately 500 hours of work during their term. Rewards for jury service come from an increased knowledge of local government and the satisfaction of making a worthwhile contribution to the improvement of one's community.