Information provided by the County of San Benito
San Benito County has released a statement asking citizens to participate as Grand Jury jurors and describing the process. See attached PDF to view the prospective grand juror questionnaire.
WHAT IS THE GRAND JURY?
The California Constitution requires the appointment every fiscal year of a Grand Jury for each county. In San Benito County, 19 Grand Jurors are appointed to serve for a term of one (1) year, but not more than two (2) consecutive years. The Grand Jury is an official body of the Court with independent authority that is not answerable to administrators or legislators. Its principal purpose is to protect the public interest. Appointment to the Grand Jury provides citizens a means to participate in the affairs of the local governments.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE GRAND JURY?
California Penal Code section 893(a) states that a person is competent to act as a Grand Juror if that person possesses each of the following qualifications:
- Be “a citizen of the United States”
- Be “of the age of 18 years or older”
- Have been a resident of San Benito County for one (1) year immediately before
- being selected
- Be in possession of “natural faculties, of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment,
- and of fair character”
- Be “possessed of sufficient knowledge of the English language.”
- California Penal Code section 893(b) states that a person is not competent to act as a Grand
- Juror if any of the following apply:
- “The person is serving as a trial juror in any court of this state”
- “The person has been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within
- one year” of being selected (although for ease of transition from one year to the
- next, Jurors may be held over for a second year at the discretion of the Court)
- “The person has been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other
- high crime”; or;
- “The person is serving as an elected public officer.”
The Grand Jurors are selected by lot after a screening process by the Court at the beginning of the County’s fiscal year (July 1). Anyone interested in becoming a Grand Juror may submit an application to the Jury Commissioner at the above address by May 28. Application can be found here.
WHAT DOES THE GRAND JURY DO?
The Grand Jury serves a primary civil (non-criminal) function – namely the investigation of county and city government, special districts, and school districts. These civil investigations result in recommendations for improvements to save taxpayers’ dollars and to improve services.
To do this, the Grand Jury is divided into committees, each of which concentrates on careful and diligent investigation of certain departments or functions of government. These committees study complaints submitted by citizens of San Benito County, visit various facilities, investigate records and documents, draw conclusions regarding the operation of local governments, and meet with officials.
The Grand Jury may subpoena witnesses to give testimony or deliver documents for study. The Grand Jury may seek advice from the District Attorney or County Counsel and may discuss problems with a Judge of the Superior Court. If these officials are unable to assist properly, the Grand Jury may request advice from the State Attorney General. After performing these activities, the Grand Jury submits recommendations for improvement of the operation of the county government to the Board of Supervisors.
WHO MAY ASK THE GRAND JURY FOR AN INVESTIGATION?
The Grand Jury may receive and investigate complaints by private citizens, local government officials, and local government employees regarding the actions and performance of public officials.
Complaints requesting an investigation must be submitted in writing with a legible signature, address, and telephone number, and must include any supporting evidence available. Members of the Grand Jury are sworn to secrecy and, except in very rare instances, neither minutes nor records of its meetings can be subpoenaed by any outside body, thus assuring that all complaints will be handled in an entirely confidential manner. If the Grand Jury believes that the evidence submitted is sufficient or within their jurisdiction, a detailed investigation may be conducted. Complaints requesting a Grand Jury investigation must be mailed to the following address. Complaints submitted to an address other than the one listed below will not be reviewed by the Grand Jury.
San Benito County Grand Jury
P.O. Box 1624
Hollister, CA 95024
DOES THE GRAND JURY INVESTIGATE CRIMES?
In San Benito County most criminal complaints are handled through the Court. The Grand Jury may hear evidence concerning criminal activity and, where there is probable cause to bring charges, return an indictment. This happens infrequently. Information about the Grand Jury’s work in this area is not included in the Grand Jury’s Final Report.
THE FINAL REPORT
A Final Report is prepared at the end of the Grand Jury’s term, which contains each committee’s recommendations. Copies of this report are distributed to the public officials, county libraries and news media. The County Board of Supervisors must respond to each of the Grand Jury’s recommendations within 90 days. Should you want to know what your Grand Jury has investigated and recommended, read the local library’s copy or ask to read a copy of the Report at:
Clerk of the Superior Court
450 Fourth Street
Hollister, CA 95023
For more information contact Maria Alfaro:
(831) 636-4057 ext. 240