Background

THE GRAND JURY
ITS ROOTS RUN DEEP

The Grand Jury's history stretches back 1,000 years to the time of the Norman King William, when he crossed the English Channel in 1066. As conqueror of a new land, William thought it wise to inventory his kingdom. He gathered a group of knights and freemen, titled them "Jure Gran" or "Grand Jury" and sent them throughout the country to gather information. Their reports were classified and recorded into what became known as the "Domesday Books," the documents by which all Englishmen would be judged.

A century later King Henry II resurrected the Grand Jury concept when he gathered a group of respected freemen to act as an accusing jury or "jury of presentment." In the absence of the King's circuit-riding judges, this body investigated charges of criminal misconduct. When the judge arrived they presented him with indictments against the accused.

Half a world and 30 generations removed from Henry's court, the Grand Jury in this country enjoys essentially the same power to accuse and present indictments to the court. The United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and the California Constitution call for grand juries.

Throughout history there have been actions to abolish the Grand Jury. The sentiment is still alive today. Yet, the Grand Jury is the only remaining institution not answerable to the administration, the politician or the legislator. It is the "ombudsman" or "watchdog" of the public interest. Those who appreciate and believe in the need to maintain this people's panel must guard it by responsible conduct.


GRAND JURY - TRIAL JURY
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

THE TRIAL (PETIT) JURY
Over 100,000 potential trial jurors are selected at random each year in San Bernardino County from voter and driver's license registration lists. From these rosters jury panels are composed.

If your name is selected for a panel, you receive written notice to appear for jury duty. You may be one of the 12 persons eventually selected to decide the guilt or innocence of an accused person in a criminal trial, or make certain decisions concerning civil (non-criminal) suits.


THE GRAND JURY
The Grand Jury plays a distinctively different role in the judicial system. It is composed of 19 persons (or 23 in counties with over 4 million residents) selected from a group of 30 citizens nominated each year by the Superior Court judges.

Service on the Grand Jury is extremely rewarding. It’s a great opportunity to serve the community in a unique and challenging way.

For over 25 years, the Superior Court of San Bernardino County has been fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated, hard-working, conscientious citizens’ volunteer for Grand Jury service.

Each year the Superior Court judges invite County citizens to volunteer to serve on the Grand Jury. From these names, and those who have been suggested by other individuals, the judges nominate 30 people. The nominees' names are placed in a jury wheel and on the day of appointment (usually mid-June); the clerk of the court spins the wheel and draws the 19 names, one at a time. The Superior Courtroom is usually filled with the nominees, outgoing Grand Jury, members of the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrative Officer, major County agency and department heads, the judges and representatives of the news media.

When the Jury is selected, the presiding judge administers the oath, gives a Charge (instructions) to the Grand Jury and designates a Foreman. The remaining 11 people not chosen compose the list of alternates. As vacancies occur, a new name is selected from the list of alternates by the same random process.


WHO ARE THE GRAND JURORS?
A nomination to the Grand Jury is considered an honor and judges generally make an effort to select citizens who have some knowledge of community or governmental activities. The Jury is usually drawn from individuals who have the time to devote to this important task. The majority of Grand Jurors are middle-aged, or "senior citizens" and retired from business, professions and government; or are homemakers not employed outside their residence. A few young people serve on the Grand Jury. Those in the midst of an advancing career, however, often cannot afford to make the financial sacrifice of serving on a Grand Jury. The pay in San Bernardino County is $25.00 a day. Mileage on Grand Jury business is reimbursed at the same rate as that for County employees.


HOW LONG DOES A JUROR SERVE?
Grand Jurors serve a 12-month term beginning July 1 of each year. A Grand Juror in San Bernardino County can expect to devote an average of three full days a week; but once the juror is oriented and assigned a project, there are not enough days or weeks in the year to do the job.

WHAT DOES A GRAND JURY DO?
The Grand Jury is an investigative body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law.

Civil government oversight is the major function of present day Grand Juries. The Grand Jury may examine all aspects of County and government and special districts to ensure the best interests of San Bernardino County citizens are being served.

The Grand Jury also reviews and investigates complaints from citizens about governmental jurisdictions. Such complaints are kept confidential.

In addition to the above, the Grand Jury may be called upon to hear evidence and indict someone for a crime, if the evidence is sufficient.

ORIENTATION
Grand Jurors are provided with a manual to help prepare them for their tasks. The members also attend lectures and workshops on their duties and responsibilities.

Jurors interview members of the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrative Officer, agency administrators, department heads and County elected officials to review their functions and responsibilities within the County. Grand Jurors also inspect prisons, jails and holding facilities throughout the County.


WHAT DOES THE FOREMAN DO?
Appointed by the presiding judge, the Grand Jury foreman appoints the various committees that are responsible for gathering information on the functions of the many County departments.

The Foreman presides at regular meetings, serves as spokesman for the Grand Jury, prepares press releases and coordinates activities of committee chairmen. When called upon, he or she appears on radio or television, makes public speeches and, in general, represents the Grand Jury before the public.

HOW DO THE COMMITTEES WORK?
Committees are frequently organized along government organizational lines and work on complaints in their area and make a choice of other problems they consider to have highest priority. They meet one or more times a week to discuss problems, visit offices, interview key personnel and develop their written reports for presentation to the total Grand Jury.

DOES THE GRAND JURY MEET IN SECRET?
By law, all meetings of the Grand Jury are in secret, except that legal counsel is generally invited to be present. When the Grand Jury meets to consider indictments, even legal counsel is excluded.

IS THERE ANYTHING
THE GRAND JURY CANNOT DO?

YES, the Grand Jury cannot:

  1. Serve as an appellate body to the courts;

  2. Make changes in government. It can only make recommendations to the courts and to the Board of Supervisors


WHAT DOES THE GRAND JURY DO
WITH THE MATERIAL IT GATHERS?
Each year the Grand Jury prepares a final report that is delivered to the Court the day the succeeding Grand Jury takes office. On some issues it prepares "interim reports" so that it may receive responses prior to the date it leaves office and receives optimum coverage in the press.

The final report is officially delivered to the Superior Court, the Board of Supervisors, all County agencies and departments and the press. The Board of Supervisors by law must answer the report, in writing, within 90 days. Elected officials must comment upon Grand Jury findings and recommendations within 60 days.

Once the job is done and the report filed, the Grand Jury loses its power and influence; except perhaps in the influence its report has on the succeeding Grand Jury and from its "Continuity Report" which calls attention to any major problems it believes the new Grand Jury should follow through on.