The Placer County Grand Jury
11532 B Avenue, Auburn CA 95603
Fax (530) 886-5201
What Is a Grand Jury?
The Grand Jury is an investigatory body with the authority to act as a watchdog on local government, investigate citizen complaints, and assist in criminal matters at the request of the district attorney.
The Grand Jury is part of the county judicial system as authorized by the California State Constitution. It is advised by the Superior Court, but is not accountable to elected officials or government employees. Its findings and recommendations are unbiased and impartial. Grand jurors are sworn to secrecy and, other than final reports, their work is kept strictly confidential.
Grand Jury History
The current Grand Jury system evolved from an earlier Anglo Saxon institution in England, which performed similar functions as the watchdog on local government and to identify wrongdoers. Its role changed over time as it took on responsibilities once performed by the church. By the seventeenth century, the Grand Jury had become a counterweight to the authority of the crown and its agents helping to protect the rights of individuals. Instead of trying individuals solely upon the word of the king, the Grand Jury would determine whether a crime had been committed and whether there was enough evidence to try the person accused.
In 1635, the first American Grand Jury was impaneled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By 1683, grand juries were present in all of the colonies. These early American grand juries started the practice of returning presentments or formal accusations, which were primarily against public officials and which are different from criminal indictments. This led to the development of the Grand Jury as a civil watchdog safeguarding citizens from governmental malpractice and official misconduct. The Grand Jury’s role in criminal cases was also established in the Bill of Rights in the Fifth Amendment:
. . . “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,” . . .
Activities of the Grand Jury
Each year the Grand Jury performs its three functions. Certain activities of the Grand Jury are mandated by law; however, the Grand Jury is free to select those agencies of government it wishes to study. The Grand Jury is required by law to issue a final report on its findings and recommendations. The reports become public record and are available for public review. The Grand Jury provides print copies of the reports to public officials, libraries and the media. Electronic copies are also published on the court’s Web site at:
The Civil Function
In its function as a watchdog on city and county government and special districts within the county, the Grand Jury examines several aspects of local government. It has the authority to ascertain how public funds are spent and how spending is documented, examine the condition of jails and other detention centers, examine charges of willful misconduct in office and investigate that type of misconduct. In its final reports, the Grand Jury also recommends ways to increase efficiency, improve services to the public and save taxpayer dollars. The Grand Jury may also commend well-managed departments.
Any private citizen, city or county official or employee may ask the Grand Jury to investigate a complaint about an agency within the Grand Jury’s jurisdiction. All complaints must be submitted in writing. The Grand Jury complaint form is available through the office of the Superior Court Executive or from the Grand Jury. All Grand Jury investigations of complaints are confidential. The Grand Jury may only act on requests that concern an agency or individual that it is empowered to investigate. For example, the Grand Jury is not empowered to investigate a private organization or company. In addition, the Grand Jury would investigate cases where agencies or officers have acted improperly and not cases where someone may disagree with agency or officer actions or decisions.
The telephone number for the Grand Jury is (530) 886-5200 and its mailing address is:
Placer County Grand Jury
11532 B Avenue
Auburn, CA 95603
The Criminal Function
The Grand Jury is asked to perform its criminal function infrequently in Placer County. The district attorney may ask the Grand Jury to determine whether there is enough evidence to show an individual may have committed a felony crime. A Grand Jury indictment is not a finding of legal guilt or innocence. Criminal inquiries are conducted in the strictest secrecy, as are all Grand Jury hearings.
Select of Grand Jury
Citizens may apply to be grand jurors or they may be nominated by a Superior Court Judge. The Superior Court advertises in the spring of each year for grand jury applicants. All citizens wishing to serve on the Grand Jury complete a written questionnaire. They are interviewed by the presiding Superior Court Judge and the Superior Court Executive Officer. All applicants are given equal consideration. The Grand Jury consists of 19 jurors, most of whom are chosen by lot, but typically each year some jurors remain as holdovers. Several alternate jurors are also chosen by lot. Grand jurors are sworn in by a Superior Court Judge for a term of one year beginning July 1 and ending June 30 of the following year.
Qualifications of Grand Jury
Serving on the Placer County Grand Jury is a substantial public service. The Placer County Superior Court welcomes applications from potential grand jurors.
A grand juror must:
- Be 18 years of age;
- Be a citizen of the United States who has resided in Placer County for one year immediately prior to becoming a grand juror;
- Have a command of the English language;
- Be able to devote 25 to 30 hours per month to grand jury service.
A grand juror must not:
- Have been convicted of a felony;
- Have been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within one year;
- Be serving as an elected official.
In addition, applicant should be:
- Able to devote 25 to 30 hours per month to grand jury service;
- Computer literate.
Links to further information about grand juries:
The California Grand Jury Association
The Placer County Grand Jurors' Association (PCGJA)
Information on Federal Grand Juries
Behind the Locked Door of an American Grand Jury: Its History, Its Secrecy and Its Process
Complete Text of Fifth Amendment