Grand Jury Faces Chronic Shortage of Applicants

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The deadline to apply for a spot on the 2015-2016 grand jury has been extended to January 30, a recurring issue in recent years as too few candidates, generally from north Orange County, apply for a spot on the watchdog body.

“We are hopeful that by extending the application deadline, a sufficient number of qualified individuals will apply, especially from the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, and Santa Ana,” said Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge Charles Margines Tuesday in a news release.

Margines is the chairman of the Grand Jury Recruitment/Selection Committee. Grand jury candidates are chosen from each of the five County Board of Supervisor districts.

It’s the third straight year  judges have extended the deadline for those interested in serving on the 19-member grand jury.

“It’s more and more a struggle,” to attract qualified grand jury applicants, court spokeswoman Gwen Vieau said last year. The problem stems in part from the fact that serving on the grand jury is essentially “a full year, fulltime commitment.”

Vieau noted last year that 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.

Grand jurors receive $50 per day for up to five days a week, plus mileage and free parking, although in the past when county supervisors didn’t like grand jury findings, the supervisors threatened to cut their pay and refused to provide $20,000 to finish one study.

And the 2013-2014 grand jury recommended the county establish an independent ethics commission, a subject of debate in the current campaign to fill the Board of Supervisors seat held by Janet Nguyen who was elected to the state Senate in November.

The jurors perform three roles. They conduct “civil oversight of local government” including reviewing, evaluating and writing reports with findings and recommendations on county and city agencies, jails, school and special districts.
Separately, they consider potential indictments in criminal cases and review complaints submitted by citizens.

The new term begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2016.

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 and a sense of fairness.”

Qualified applicants are interviewed by Superior Court judges. The pool is narrowed to 25 to 30 nominees representing each of the five supervisorial districts. The final 19-member grand jury comes from a random drawing of the 25 to 30 nominees.

Application forms and additional information are online at www.ocgrandjury.org. Applicants may also call 657-622-6747, or apply in person at the Jury Commissioner’s Office, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    Given the total disrespect that the County of Orange, Board of Supervisors have shown recent Grand Jury participants – who would want to bother? The Board retaliated verbally and moved to cut their meager compensation. It would not shock me to find out that now potential members are “vetted” prior to selection to make sure they are sufficiently pliable,