Have you wondered how you can make a positive difference in your community? Are you curious how our county and city governments truly operate or how our jails are run? One of the best opportunities to get an insider’s view of local government and to improve the lives of your fellow citizens is to become a grand juror.
The Orange County Superior Court seeks residents from throughout Orange County for the one-year Grand Jury term that begins in July. The Court has extended the application deadline to Monday, February 5, as it is difficult to attract individuals who can devote 30 to 35 hours per week to this public service opportunity. The Court typically receives more than 150 applications. So far, just 70 individuals have applied for the upcoming term.
Grand jurors attend extensive tours of county facilities and meet the movers and shakers of the county to understand how local governments and agencies, such as school districts and special districts, operate. Many former grand jurors characterize the experience as fascinating and quite rewarding.
The Orange County Grand Jury is an independent body composed of 19 citizens whose primary functions are to investigate county and local governments and agencies to ensure that their activities are efficient and the services they provide are within the confines of the law, and to hear evidence of serious crimes and determine whether to issue an indictment charging one or more felonies. The panel can also inquire into the actions of public officials who it believes may be involved in corruption or violating the public trust, and refer appropriate matters to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
The Grand Jury decides as a group what to investigate. An investigation can be triggered by anything, including an anonymous tip, a formal complaint, an article in the newspaper or a belief by the Grand Jury that there may be wrongdoing committed at a public agency. However, the Grand Jury has no jurisdiction to review matters involving the Orange County Superior Court or state and federal agencies.
At the conclusion of its investigations, the Grand Jury prepares and publishes reports with recommendations for improvement. By law, the appropriate government entity or agency must respond to the report in writing. Past reports and responses are posted online at ocgrandjury.org/reports.asp.
The Grand Jury sets its own schedule and typically observes the 13 court holidays and an additional two weeks off during the year of service. Other time-off requests are coordinated with the foreperson. Grand jurors receive a stipend of $50 per day (as set by the Orange County Board of Supervisors), mileage reimbursement and free reserved parking at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, where they meet.
The minimum qualifications to be a grand juror include being a resident of Orange County for at least a year, a U.S. citizen, 18 or older and have sufficient knowledge of English. The best grand jurors work well in a group environment, can write well and are comfortable using a computer.
I encourage citizens who can devote a year of public service to visit ocgrandjury.org to learn more and submit an application. You can also request to have an application mailed to you by calling 657-622-6747. You’ll be glad you did!
Judge Kirk Nakamura is the Orange County Superior Court’s Assistant Presiding Judge. Judge Nakamura also chairs the Grand Jury Recruitment and Selection committee that will select the 19-member 2018-2019 Grand Jury.
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
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