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CONSIDER BECOMING A GRAND JUROR

ARE YOU UP TO THE CHALLENGE?

Have you ever seen a newspaper article that outlined a study and a report done by our Nevada County Grand Jury? Have you wondered about what this “thing called Grand Jury” is all about? Indictment proceedings behind closed doors and the power to subpoena citizens and documents in the course of an investigation … the activities of grand juries have always been shrouded in a bit of mystery.

Although 42 states have some form of grand jury, only California and Nevada mandate that County Grand Juries be empaneled every year to conduct civil investigations of county government and to hear evidence to decide whether to return indictments.

The functions of a County Grand Jury include indictment, accusation, and, by far the most frequently exercised function, civil investigation and reporting (also known as the “watchdog function”).

Investigations by a grand jury may be undertaken as a result of a complaint of a private citizen or as a result of data analysis, inspections, or interviews conducted by jurors. Over the past decade, Nevada County Grand Jury investigations have resulted in reports that include topics such as:

1. Alternative Education: NUHS Telecommunications Partnership Academy: 2006 2007
2. Compensation and Benefits Review of the County Board of Supervisors: 2007 2008
3. Child Protection and Welfare: 2010-2011
4. Vagrancy in Nevada County – Illegal Campfires: 2014-2015
5. Body Worn Cameras – Transparency and Public Safety: 2015-2016

This short sample of report titles is taken from the many reports issued by the Nevada County Grand Jury. “The Superior Court – County of Nevada” web site (http://nccourt.net) has all of these reports available for access to the general public.

In Nevada County, citizens volunteer to serve as members of the grand jury. The application period closes each year on May 1st. From this pool of volunteers, 19 are selected by the Superior Court and they serve for a period of one year, beginning in July.

What kinds of people serve as grand jurors? Jurors come from all walks of life. We have retired lawyers, engineers, school principals, building contractors, medical professionals, military officers, business owners, homemakers, government employees … and the list goes on.

What kinds of attributes and skills are necessary? You need to be able to take an unbiased look at the way government works and, when necessary, offer solutions or suggest more efficient management of operations. You also need to possess strong personal ethics, curiosity, some computer literacy, and high energy to face the workload. Grand jurors operate under a strict code of behavior and confidentiality. Grand jurors lawfully function only as a body, so you need to be a team player. Expect to be in session for up to 3 days each week. “Homework” is a necessary part of the job as well. A juror will “put in” between 15 to 20 hours a week.

 Do not expect much group or individual publicity … all panel sessions are conducted in secret. In July, at the beginning of the Jury Year, you are sworn in by the Presiding Judge of the Grand Jury and instructed that you are expected to maintain complete secrecy of jury proceedings both during and after the year has concluded. There is some “remuneration.”

The grand jury recruitment process begins in February. The hours are not incidental, the pay is almost non-existent (but, yes there is some return), there is pressure and no public recognition, but it is incredibly interesting, mind expanding, and vitally important.

To borrow a phrase from a credit commercial … ”WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET … WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE A NEVADA COUNTY GRAND JURY BUSINESS CARD?”

Are you up to the challenge?
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