The California Grand Jurors’ Association is excited to announce the publication of an informative new 50-page eBook. The public is urged to download and read this comprehensive new book, California Civil Grand Juries: History, Law and How They Operate in order to better understand the California Civil Grand Jury’s activities and their very important “watchdog role” of local government in all 58 counties in California. The system is unique in being an ongoing program enshrined in our state constitution to give every county citizen oversight of county and government, schools and special districts.
The book can be downloaded at https://www.cgja.org/sites/default/files/californias_civil_grand_juries_edition4.pdf.
Louis Panetta, President of the California Grand Jurors’ Association, said, “We are so pleased to update this “go to” resource for explaining what the California Civil Grand Juries do and the impact they make on good governance.”
There are many issues that arise about the activities of local government and special districts. Just read some letters to the editor or attend a public meeting and you’ll hear many varied opinions. Many issues become the subject of investigations by the Civil Grand Jury members within a county.
Each year, there are excellent investigations and reports available for viewing on the CGJA website at https://cgja.org/search-grand-jury-report-topics. “Now more than ever, I urge the public to take the time to read our new book, learn more and apply to serve on the Civil Grand Jury for your county.”
The carefully selected jurors serving on a Civil Grand Jury in California are dedicated to ensuring that local government is effective, efficient, accountable and transparent.
Panetta adds, “Not only are they using their critical thinking and writing skills to better understand a specific local government activity, but they often create friendships among their fellow jurors that last a lifetime!”
“Throughout California,” Panetta points out, “Why not search reports to read about wild fires, homelessness, or the environment, a few of the many fascinating investigations which effected important changes within local government.”
According to James Perry, a past California Civil Grand Juror in Monterey County, “Serving as a Civil Grand Juror allows people the opportunity to do great things and become instruments of justice! It’s like having a backstage pass.”
Investigations and reports
In the forward to the book, Judge Quentin L. Kopp (retired) states, “Established in the state constitution in 1850 and codified by the California legislature in 1872, grand juries devote hours of time and attention to city, county, school district and special district administration and governance in an effort to secure effectiveness, governmental efficiency, and understanding of taxpayer expenditures and public office holder and entity integrity.”
As a truly independent body, each grand jury is free to choose which local governmental entities or public officials to investigate. With very limited exceptions, no one outside the grand jury can direct it to conduct an investigation.
Ideas for investigations generally come by way of three avenues: citizen complaints, matters raised by the members of the grand jury, and referrals from the preceding grand jury.
During its investigations, the grand jury acts as a finder of fact. In addition to determining if the official or entity under investigation is adhering to the laws that govern the operations of that entity, the jury analyzes whether the entity is operating in a businesslike manner and providing public services effectively and economically.
While it has no authority to order or otherwise compel compliance with its recommendations, it is through its reports that the grand jury wields its power. Those reports are influential because they attract the attention of the media, and subsequently, the voting constituencies of the investigated officials. The resulting public pressure often prompts the implementation of the recommended changes.
Typically, over 500 reports are issued each year by California’s 58 county grand juries.
About the Civil Grand Jurors’ Association
The California Grand Jurors’ Association is an all-volunteer, membership nonprofit organization (501c3) dedicated to promoting, preserving and supporting the civil watchdog function of California grand juries. Each year, CGJA provides training to grand juries to help them more effectively fulfill their state constitutional authority to, among other things, investigate and report on the conduct of local government as an arm of the Superior Court.
For more information, go to www.cgja.org. To apply to serve as a juror, check out the website of the Superior Court in Lassen County.