Civil Grand Jury
Civil Grand Jury Information
The Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury consists of 19 private citizens solicited from the registry of voters and through community outreach. Interested citizens are interviewed and, if selected, empanelled by the presiding judge of the Grand Jury. This investigative body serves for one year, with the option of individual jurors serving a second year. Grand Jury duties, powers, and qualifications, as well as the selection process, are set forth in the California Penal Code.
The Grand Jury is part of the judicial branch of government and has three functions:
- To examine all aspects of city and county governments and special districts by initiating its own investigation;
- To serve as ombudsman for the citizens of the cities and county; and
- To publish its investigative findings and recommendations to improve governmental operations.
The Grand Jury Process
The Grand Jury, although a part of the judicial system, is an entirely independent body. The presiding judge of the Grand Jury, the District Attorney, the County Counsel, and the State Attorney General act only as its advisors. They cannot prevent Grand Jury action unless that action violates the law.
The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates operations, procedures, methods, and systems used by governmental agencies to determine 1) whether they comply with the stated objectives of the agency and 2) if their operation can be made more efficient and effective. The Grand Jury may inquire into any aspect of county or city government, including special legislative districts and joint power agencies, to serve the best interest of Santa Cruz County residents.
The Grand Jury functions lawfully only as a group. No individual grand juror, acting alone, has any power or authority. Meetings of the Grand Jury are not open to the public. The law requires that all matters discussed before the Grand Jury and all votes taken are kept confidential. The end result of inquiries is released to the public in the form of a final report. This must be approved, prior to release, by the supervising judge of the Grand Jury.
In general, the Penal Code requires the Grand Jury to:
- Investigate as needed and report on the operations, accounts, records, and functions of any county or city department or special district, including their officers and personnel;
- Inquire as necessary into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers; and
- Release a final report of its findings and recommendations no later than the end of its term. Agencies to which these recommendations are directed are required to respond to the grand jury in writing after the final report is released.
Citizens may submit complaints directly to the Grand Jury requesting it to investigate what they perceive as mistreatment by officials or suspicions of governmental misconduct or inefficiencies. The Grand Jury is not a consumer complaint agency but uses complaints to identify policies and procedures that might need improvement. While the Grand Jury cannot investigate every complaint, each one is considered carefully and treated confidentially. The ultimate goal of the Grand Jury is to improve government in Santa Cruz County and to make public officials responsive to the people.
Requirements to Become a Grand Juror
Grand juror candidates must meet all of the following qualifications:
- Be a citizen of the United States;
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be a resident of Santa Cruz County for at least one year immediately prior to selection;
- Exhibit intelligence, sound judgment, and good character;
- Be proficient in English;
- Must not be serving as a trial juror in any California court;
- Cannot have been discharged as a grand juror in any California county within one year of the beginning date of service;
- Cannot have been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime; and
- Cannot be serving as an elected public official.
Grand Jury Selection Process
In Santa Cruz County potential grand jurors are sent postcards in the mail to a portion of people from the same random list of names used for petit juries. Interested citizens may also submit applications directly to the court. Potential grand jurors are given information about grand jury duties and the time commitment required. They are then invited to attend an orientation presented by the court and members of the current Grand Jury. The supervising judge selects 60 candidates to be interviewed, and on the basis of those interviews reduces the number to 30. The final selection is made by a random drawing of names. Upon approval by the court, up to 10 members of the previous Grand Jury may carry over to the following year. Members of the Grand Jury are intended to represent a cross-section of ages, occupations, ethnic groups and geographic regions of the county.
Time Commitment and Reimbursement
The Grand Jury convenes July 1 and operates through June 30 of the following year. Jurors are expected to spend an average of 15-20 hours per week on their duties. Each juror is paid per diem ($15 per day) for those days when the juror attends a meeting, with a maximum of $30 per week. Jurors are provided free parking at the County Government Center. Mileage is reimbursed for travel between jurors’ residences and the Grand Jury office in the County Government Center, and for travel on grand jury business.
Citizen complaint forms may be found either online or at the office of the grand jury, both in English and Spanish. The grand jury may be contacted using the information below:
Find additional information and contact the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury.