The San Diego County Grand Jury investigates citizen complaints and performs a traditional function as a watchdog over government agencies. (This is different than a "Criminal Grand Jury" which is a group of people summoned together by a prosecutor to decide whether there is enough evidence to press criminal charges.) The California Constitution provides for a group of 19 citizens of San Diego County to be brought together and dedicate a year of full-time "watchdog" service looking into the workings of government.
The grand jury is a body of 19 citizens who are charged and sworn to investigate county matters of civil concern as well as inquire into public offenses committed or triable within the county. Grand jury duties, powers, responsibilities, qualifications and selection processes are outlined in Penal Code section 888 et seq.
The grand jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by government to determine whether they can be made more efficient and effective. It may examine any aspect of county government and city government, including special legislative districts and joint powers agencies, to ensure that the best interests of San Diego County residents are being served. The grand jury may inquire into written complaints brought to it by the public.
The grand jury functions lawfully only as a body; no individual grand juror acting alone has any power or authority. Meetings of the jury are not open to the public, and discussions and voting are required by law to be kept private and confidential.
The Penal Code requires the grand jury to:
- Inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county;
- Investigate and report on the operations, accounts and records of county officers, departments or functions;
- Inquire into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers; and
- Submit a final report of its findings and recommendations no later than the end of its term to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. Agencies to which these recommendations are directed are required to comment.
A grand juror must meet all of the following qualifications:
- be a citizen of the United States.
- be at least 18 years old.
- be a resident of California and San Diego County for at least one year immediately prior to selection.
- possess ordinary intelligence, sound judgment, and good character.
- possess sufficient knowledge of the English language to communicate both orally and in writing.
A grand juror cannot...
- be serving as a trial juror in any California court.
- have been discharged as a grand juror in any California court within one year of the beginning date of service, July 1.
- have been convicted of malfeasance in office, any felony or other high crime.
- be serving as an elected public officer.
Other desirable qualities:
- good health
- sensitivity to and concern for the views of others
- skill in working with others in a group setting
- interest in and knowledge of community affairs
- skill and experience in fact finding
- skill and experience in report writing
- working knowledge of computers
- general knowledge of the responsibilities, functions and authority of county and city governments
Nominees selected for grand jury service must commit to serving at least 32 hours, four days per week for the period July 1 through June 30. It is not unusual for jurors to work more than six hours in any given day and more than four days in any given week. The grand jury traditionally does not work during the two-week, year-end holiday season and on court holidays. Jurors are requested to take no more than three weeks of additional time off and are encouraged to take vacations prior to March 1 because of the usually busy schedule during the last few months of jury service.
You can expect that a criminal records check will be conducted. The questionnaires will be reviewed and may be forwarded to a judge for consideration. We expect to receive 600 to 700 questionnaires. A judge may wish to interview you in person if you are being considered.
Grand jury members are selected from the supervisorial districts of the county in proportion to the number of inhabitants in each district. On a specified date in June, random drawings are conducted under the direct supervision of the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court in the presence of the nominees. First, a pool of 30 names is drawn. Then, the names of the 19 people who will compose the grand jury are drawn at random from this pool. The remaining 11 names are drawn and ranked to form the alternate list. If a juror is unable to serve, a replacement is selected from the alternates according to rank.