The Constitution of the State of California requires every county to impanel a Grand Jury each year. Every year the Colusa Superior Court impanels 19 grand jurors. The grand jury serves as an arm of the judicial system but acts as an entirely independent body. Grand jury service is an exciting opportunity to serve your community and learn more about local government. It can be an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience.
The primary civil function of the grand jury is to review the operations of city and county government as well as other tax supported agencies and special districts. Based on these reviews, the grand jury publishes its findings, usually at the end of the term, in a Grand Jury Final Report. Based on its findings, the grand jury may recommend constructive action to improve the quality and effectiveness of local government.
The grand jury also investigates complaints from private citizens, local government officials, or government employees.
The Grand Jury is also authorized, but not limited to:
- Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.
- Inquire into conditions of jails and detention centers.
- Inspect and audit books, records, and financial expenditures of all agencies and departments under their jurisdiction, including special districts and non-profit organizations, to insure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent.
Members of the Grand Jury are sworn to secrecy and most of the jury's work is conducted in closed session. All testimony and deliberations are confidential. Breach of confidentiality is a misdemeanor punishable under the penal code.
Grand Jurors may act only through the Grand Jury as a body. Individually, they have no official standing, power, or authority. A Grand Juror may take no official action without prior approval and authorization of a majority of the Grand Jury. The foreperson is the only official spokesman for the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury has three (3) ways to exercise it's power:
- Reports: Written reports evaluating the actions of governmental agencies with recommendations for improvement, when no crime is charged.
- Indictments: Formal written complaints charging a person with a crime.
- Accusations: Formal written complaints accusing a governmental employee or officer with misconduct. These are similar to indictments except that conviction would result in removal of the public officer from office rather than criminal penalties.
The Grand Jury receives many letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Anyone may ask the Grand Jury to conduct an investigation. All complaints, of any nature are confidential. The jury generally limits investigations to the operations of governmental agencies, charges of wrong doing within public agencies, or the performance of unlawful acts by public officials. The Grand Jury cannot investigate disputes between private parties.
All complaints must be made in writing, signed and date. To ensure fair and proper consideration, a complaint should include the address and telephone number of the complainant, as well as a complete description of the concern. A request for Grand Jury investigation should include sufficient detail and factual evidence to support the complaint. Complaint form can be filed by writing to: Colusa County Grand Jury, 532 Oak Street, Colusa, California 95932.
A grand Juror must meet all of the following qualifications:
- Must be a citizen of the United States.
- Must be 18 years of age or older.
- Must be a resident of Colusa County for at least one year before selection.
- Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language.
- Not currently serving as a trial juror in any court of this state during the time of your grand jury term.
- Have not been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within one year.
- Must not have not been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony.
- Not serving as an elected public officer.
Other desirable qualities:
- Interested in how local government works and how it can operate more effectively.
- Willing to cooperate with eighteen (18) others in creating and working toward common goals.
- Serve from four (4) to ten (10) hours a week for one year (July 1 - June 30).
- Willing to learn (or already have ) the skills of listening, asking thoughtful questions, reviewing document, and helping to write reports.
- Exercise strict confidentiality during and after your term as a grand juror.
The term of service is a period of one year, from July 1 through June 30. You should be committed to serving the entire year.
The average time commitment for grand jury members is approximately 2-10 hours per month. Generally, two grand jury meetings are conducted per month, usually in the evening. Additional committee meetings may sometimes be scheduled during business hours.
Grand Jury Training
Grand Jury service is important work and a considerable responsibility. Generally, there are at least two training opportunities soon after being selected as a member of the grand jury.