Grand Jury Foreperson, Janice Feingold, speaks with Our Ventura TV host, Lyn Fairly, about the Ventura County (CA) Civil Grand Jury.
A Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and the California Constitution call for Grand Juries. Grand juries were established throughout California during the early years of statehood. As constituted today, the Grand Jury is a part of the Judicial Branch of government, an arm of the Court.
There are two types of Grand Juries.
A) Civil and
The Civil Grand Jury investigates and reports on the operation of county and local government entities. The Grand Jury also investigates misconduct by local public officials.
The Ventura County grand jury is a civil investigatory panel of 19 citizens created to serve as a voice of the people and a conscience of the community. Jurors are not appointed by politicians; they are volunteers who act as independent eyes and ears of Ventura County residents.
In California, grand juries have three basic functions:
1) To weigh criminal charges and determine if indictments should be returned.
2) To act as the public’s “watchdog” by investigating and reporting on the affairs of local government, including the county, cities, special districts, Local Agency Formation Commissions, Joint Powers Authorities, and designated non-profit corporations.
3) To weigh allegations of misconduct against public officials and determine whether to present formal accusations requesting their removal from office.
In Ventura County, the first function is fulfilled by what is commonly referred to as the “criminal” grand jury. A criminal grand jury is impaneled when deemed necessary by the district attorney. Members are selected from the criminal jury pool so that membership is “reasonably representative of a cross-section of the population” in order to ensure that due process is afforded to possible defendants in criminal proceedings. Members serve for a limited time (usually three months).
The second and third functions are fulfilled by what is commonly referred to as the “civil” grand jury.
As noted above, the civil grand jury is an investigative body that functions in a government oversight capacity. Its investigations are usually in response to a public complaint but may also be internally generated. Within their legal boundaries, grand juries have almost complete independence from the courts and legislative or administrative bodies. The jury may examine witnesses at its discretion, and its power over witnesses resembles that of a trial court. All procedures are secret and complainants and witnesses are never identified. Upon completion of an investigation, the grand jury publishes its findings and recommendations. Members of this jury are selected through an application and screening process and are impaneled for a period of one year.
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