Applicants ‘Urgently’ Needed for Orange County Grand Jury

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The Orange County Superior Court is “urgently” seeking applicants for the 2014-2015 Grand Jury, especially residents from the northern part of the county, said court spokeswoman Gwen Vieau.

The courts faced a similar problem last year when too few residents applied for the one-year term on the watchdog body that delves into the operation of public agencies in the county. Grand juries also consider evidence for possible indictments in felony cases.

The deadline for applying is Jan. 24. The new grand jury term begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2015.

“Applicants are especially needed from the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Habra, Placentia, and Westminster,” said Vieau.

The Grand Jury sets its own hours, but usually meets four-and-a-half to five days a week, said Vieau. Jurors receive a minimum of $25 per day up to a maximum of five days a week.

“It’s more and more a struggle,” to attract qualified grand jury applicants, said Vieau, in part because it essentially is “a full year, fulltime commitment.”

She said some other large counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside, have created two separate grand juries, one to handle criminal matters with the District Attorney’s office and the other as a civilian watchdog. But Orange County retains the traditional system of combining both roles.

The 2012-2013 grand jury made waves with one controversial report that described a “culture of corruption” in county government; and another that focused on Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s political maneuvering to control the county’s $1.5 billion federal and state program for low-income children, seniors and residents with disabilities.

The reports so angered members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors that they denied a request for $20,000 by the grand jury to finish its work.

Meanwhile, the state Fair Political Practices Commission announced its own investigation of four of five members of the Board of Supervisors and the board of directors of CalOptima.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who came onto the board in 2012, is the only supervisor not covered by the FPPC investigation.

The current grand jury has yet to issue any reports.

To select a grand jury, the courts are required by state law to narrow the pool of qualified applicants to 25-30 candidates, equally representing each of the five supervisorial districts. Then, the 19-member Grand Jury is selected through a random drawing.

To serve on the grand jury, the law requires a candidate to be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Orange County for at least one year, have a good command of written and spoken English and be “in possession of sound judgment, good character, and a sense of fairness.”

To obtain an application or more information, visit the grand jury website or call the grand jury office at 714-834-6747. Applications may also be obtained at the jury commissioner’s office, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana. Those interested in serving must have the signature on their applications notarized, but the sheriff’s department will provide that service for free.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly asserted that all five county supervisors are under investigation by the FPPC. We regret the error.

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

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