Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

By Donna Westfall – June 16, 2023

It seems that I get a jury summons almost every year, but when I’ve specifically asked to be on the Grand Jury, I’ve been snubbed.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE GRAND JURY?

There are three functions of the Grand Jury, Penal Code requires the Grand Jury to:

  1. Inquire into the condition and management of jails with the County.
  2. Investigate and report on the operations, accounts and records of county officers, departments, and functions.
  3. Inquire into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CIVIL AND CRIMINAL GRAND JURY?

Civil: Every year, in each of California’s 58 counties, a group of ordinary citizens takes an oath to serve as grand jurors. Its function is to investigate the operations of the various officers, departments and agencies of local government.

Criminal: A criminal jury uses trial evidence to make a determination of innocence or guilt.

Grand Jury proceedings are not open to the public. Plus they are secret. The only people present in the room during a grand jury proceeding are the jurors themselves, a prosecutor, and a court reporter, who is sworn to secrecy. There are no judges, clerks, or other court personnel present.

Another reason they meet in secrecy: The protection of whistleblowers is one of the primary reasons for the confidential nature of the grand jury’s work. Grand juries may charge public officials of “willful or corrupt misconduct in office.” The accusation is tried as if it were an indictment, and may not be dismissed for political or extra-legal motives.

However, I have personally found, and in my opinion, that the protection of whistleblowers in this County does not happen. Too many things are political, and depending upon the grand jurors, the presiding judge and the powers that be, “willful or corrupt misconduct in office” takes places routinely. Oftentimes, just a few grand jurors will lead the pack. The rest attend as performing their duty, but take little interest.

WHO WILL BE PICKED THIS YEAR?

There’s a discrepancy. It was ordered that the panel to be picked from consist of not less than 50 (42) names.

I called the courthouse and asked to be on the Grand Jury and was told by Judy Reynolds, Judicial Assistant for Judge McElfresh, that names had already been selected, but I could go on the list as an alternate. I said by all means, put me on as an alternate. She told me I didn’t have to fill out any paperwork.

3 thoughts on “GRAND JURY 2023-2024”
  1. The reason the Grand jury and judges etc. don’t function like they should is the same reason the local judicial system doesn’t operate as it should. The “but I have to live here” syndrome. Corruption in whatever form is rampant when everyone involved is from the same fishbowl.

    A better system would be to make all judges and jurors have to live and commute from another county. Yes it would cost more to reimburse travel expenses, but the only fair judge and juror is one who has no dog in the fight, and is less likely to corruption in that area.

  2. I am inclined to agree with Linda Sutter on this one. On the list of alternates, I recognize the name of one crooked lawyer, and the wife of a crooked lawyer — Whisky Tango Foxtrot !? The abbreviation C.C. is no longer for Crescent City. Instead, C.C. is an abbreviation for Corruption City.

  3. The purpose of the grand jury is to act as fact finders and present the facts that are found. Unfortunately the grand jury most of the time is a group of untrained individuals who don’t know what they are supposed to do or what they are looking at. Additionally, the grand jury reports out to the public but does not hold the government entity they are investigating accountable and things are swept under the rug.
    Ultimately and because of these facts it is nothing more than a dog and pony show specially picked by a judge. I wouldn’t expect anything more than rose colored glasses in a report. Go along to get along is the motto.

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