About the Grand Jury
An Introduction to the
BRINGING MATTERS TO THE ATTENTION OF THE GRAND JURY:
If you have matters having to do with public agencies, public officials, or special districts in Contra Costa County that you believe should be brought to the attention of the Grand Jury, they may be addressed to:
Contra Costa Grand Jury
P.O. Box 431
Martinez, CA 94553-0091
Your letter or complaint form will be treated with total confidentiality. Though not required in order for the Jury to review and consider contact correspondence from a citizen, providing your name and address will make it possible for the Jury to acknowledge receipt of the information and facilitate further interaction with you if appropriate. There is a Complaint Form available in PDF format that you can print out and use. (You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to review and print the form). You can also e-mail the form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following a month's orientation, grand jurors devote at least 20 hours per week or more for a period of one year (July 1 through June 30). It is not uncommon for Grand Jury members to serve four or five days of any given week, so they must have ample time and reliable transportation to participate effectively in Grand Jury activities.
Grand jurors must have a genuine interest in community affairs and an ability to work with others. Every juror must file a Statement of Economic Interest (FPPC Form 700) within 30 days of impanelment.
Grand Jury responsibilities are generally divided into civil and criminal matters. The Contra Costa Grand Jury investigates principally civil matters; however, it may occasionally hear evidence of a criminal nature.
In Contra Costa County, the Grand Jury is impaneled annually and is comprised of 19 members. Grand Jurors are officers of the court and function as an independent body under the guidance of a Superior Court Judge.
A) Watchdog Responsibilities: The Contra Costa Grand Jury is authorized to examine city and county governments and special districts to ensure their duties are lawfully conducted. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures used by these entities to determine whether more efficient and economical policies may be employed.
In addition, the Grand Jury is authorized to:
- Inquire into the conditions and management of jails and detention centers.
- Inquire into charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.
B) Reports: The Grand Jury issues its findings and recommendations in written reports. At least 12 members of the Grand Jury must approve each report. Within 60 to 90 days following the issuance of a report, officials responsible for matters addressed in the report must respond in writing to the supervising Judge.
At the end of its term, the Grand Jury publishes a single volume containing all reports issued during the year. It then distributes copies of the Final Report to public officials, libraries, the news media and interested organizations. Click here to see the index of reports. .
The concept of juries dates back to Norman times in the ninth century. 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 judgement of peers."
Grand Juries are investigatory bodies created to protect society and the enforcement of the law. 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.
The Superior Court Judge responsible for the Grand Jury appoints a foreman from the impaneled jurors who presides at all full jury proceedings and is responsible for directing the business of the Grand Jury.
Apart from the investigations mandated by the California Penal Code, each county's Grand Jury decides what it will investigate. Investigations may be initiated in response to letters from citizens, newspaper articles and personal knowledge.
Grand Juries accomplish most of their work in committees whose findings are reported to the full Grand Jury for approval. Contra Costa County's Grand Jury committees usually include Audit and Budget, Special Districts, Government, Law and Justice, Health and Social Services, Child Welfare, Editorial, and Compliance and Review.
According to Penal Code 893, prospective grand jurors must possess the following qualifications:
- Be a citizen of the United States, age 18 or older and a resident of the county for at least one year immediately before being sworn.
- Be in possession of natural facilities and ordinary intelligence and of sound judgment and fair character.
- Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language.
No person is eligible to act as a grand juror if any of the following apply:
- The person is serving in an elective office or as a trial juror in any court in California.
- The person has been discharged as a grand juror in any court in California within one year.
- The person has been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime.
In addition to a small payment for meetings and reimbursement for allowable travel, arrangements are made for parking.
Contra Costa County residents are encouraged to apply for service on their Grand Jury.
Written applications are screened for eligibility, then judges interview potential jurors and select citizens from each supervisorial district. This process reduces the list to about 30 candidates. Jurors are then chosen by random drawing about one month prior to the commencement of the Grand Jury's year-long term of service, which begins July 1 of each year after a one-month comprehensive orientation program.
The law provides that the supervising Judge may hold over as many as up to 10 members from the previous Grand Jury to be included in the total of 19 jurors.
Would YOU Make a Good Grand Juror? Click Here for further information.
Click Here to download an application to be a Grand Juror.
For further information, contact:
Secretary of the Superior Court
Re: Grand Jury
725 Court Street, 4th Floor
Martinez, California 94553
Current Grand Jury members are available to speak before Civic Groups, Fraternal Organizations, High School and College Civics classes, etc. If you would like to have a speaker for one of your meetings, please contact the secretary of the Grand Jury at 925-957-5638.