Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Make a difference in Lake County — become a civil grand juror

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Lake County Superior Court is seeking volunteers now to apply for service on the Lake County Civil Grand Jury for the 2023-24 session.

While the term “grand jury” brings to mind a “criminal” grand jury that indicts those charged with crimes, California is the last state that empanels a “civil” grand jury in every county, every year, for a one-year term.

The number of jurors seated varies by county population, and, here in Lake County, 19 persons are selected by the presiding judge of the Superior Court to serve a fiscal-year term — July through June — and the judge also selects the foreperson. The anticipated time commitment is approximately 20 hours per week for one year.

The results of most Lake County Grand Jury investigations are contained in reports that set forth findings concerning the problems investigated and make recommendations for solutions.

These documents are published either as interim reports during the year or in the grand jury’s final report at the expiration of its term of office. Once approved by the jurors, all reports are reviewed by the county counsel and the presiding judge for compliance with the law before being released to the public.

By law, the governing body of any agency that is the subject of a grand jury report must comment on the findings and recommendations of the report within 90 days of its publication date, except that every elected county officer or agency head must comment within 60 days.

The comments must be submitted to the presiding judge and must specify what action, if any, has been or will be taken by the department or agency in regard to the recommendations or explain why no action has been taken. This requirement gives the sitting grand jury or its successor the opportunity to track the results of investigations.

The responsibilities and authority of the civil grand jury are specified in the California Constitution, the Penal Code, the Government Code, case law, and Attorney General Opinions.

In general, the predominant functions include:

Civil watchdog responsibilities

a) Examine all aspects of Lake County and Lakeport and Clearlake governments and special districts to ensure that the best interests of County residents are being served and to determine whether the methods and procedures being utilized could be more efficient and cost-effective;

b) Inspect and audit books, records, and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent;

c) Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers within the County;

d) Probe allegations of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees;

e) Investigate complaints from members of the public raising concerns about the function of local government or its officials; and

f) Account for and review for adequacy the Responses of investigated entities in the prior term’s Final Report.

Duties

a) Attend one Plenary session and two committee meetings per week.

b) Schedule and interview committee-specific persons.

c) Conduct research in preparation for the interviews.

d) Take and transcribe notes on the interviews.

e) Conduct inspections of the public prisons.

f) Assist with drafting individual final reports.

g) Assemble the individual final reports by topic into one cohesive Final Report.

h) Arrange for printing and distribution of the Final Report.

Remuneration

Jurors receive a per-diem meeting attendance fee of $15 and a mileage reimbursement of $.39 per mile, payable monthly.

Training

At the beginning of each term, two-day training is provided within Lake County by the California Grand Jurors Association, a statewide group of former grand jurors.

Legal qualifications

a) U.S. citizen, age 18 or older;

b) Resident of Lake County for one year prior to selection;

c) In possession of “natural faculties or ordinary intelligence, of sound mind, and of fair character”;

d) Able to speak and write English;

e) Not a current trial juror;

f) Not a former grand juror within one year;

g) No conviction of malfeasance, felony, or other “high crime”; and

h) Not a current elected official.

Desirable qualifications

a) Active listener;

b) Ability to maintain confidentiality regarding grand jury business;

c) Desire to respect others’ differing opinions and to cooperate to reach common goals;

d) Genuine interest in local community affairs;

e) Computer research and investigative skills; and

f) Facility in writing and editing final reports.

The Superior Court is currently accepting applications for jurors to be seated in July.

The application form can be accessed at https://lake.courts.ca.gov/system/files/grand-jury-application_1.pdf.

Please return the application to Yolanda Blum at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Personal comment

I have been honored to serve seven terms on the civil grand Jury over a period of 22 years, including three terms as foreman, and have found this service to be a privilege, a duty, and an opportunity — a privilege to be trusted with the authority accorded civil grand juries by California statute, a duty to investigate issues thoroughly and objectively, and an opportunity to be of service to the residents of Lake County, where I have chosen to live.

Should you be willing to commit to serving as a grand juror, you will come to both understand and appreciate persons with views not your own and recognize the quality of governance within the county and two cities.

As much as you give, you shall receive.

Beverly Hill is a member of the 2022-23 Lake County Grand Jury.

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