PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Opinion

My turn: The grand juror’s view — Yes, you can make local government better

By From page A4 | May 07, 2014

The annual opportunity for citizens to take part in the El Dorado County Grand Jury process is here. The Grand Jury is an excellent vehicle for committed men and women to keep government accountable to all of our county’s citizens. Applicants must be Untied States citizens, at least 18 years of age, have resided in the county for at least one year at the time of the swearing-in date (June 2014) and cannot hold an elected office.

The judges of the Superior Court shall select names from those submitted, as well as other nominees and currently seated grand jurors who are chosen to be held over from the prior year, to be put into the jury pool. Nineteen jurors (and several alternates) are then selected in a random drawing from this pool. Final selection will take place in June. Jurors are expected to be present for the “draw.” Jurors serve for a period of one year — July 1 to June 30. A required training session provided by the California Grand Juror’s Association will take place on July 1 and July 2 in Placerville.

The El Dorado County Grand Jury is an investigative body (established in the California State Constitution and Penal Code for all counties) to benefit county citizens by providing oversight to the proper and legal operation of public entities. It is an arm of the Superior Court and a representative of the public, but operates independently of direct court supervision. It is a watch dog of governmental action. It is not a branch of the county, nor is it answerable to the District Attorney. The Grand Jury acts as an investigative body to ensure that county, special district and city governments are being effectively run. The Grand Jury is not a jury for criminal trial. Typically the Grand Jury looks at systems and processes. The Grand Jury has no enforcement authority; it can only make recommendations through publication of a public final report, usually published in June each year. Each complaint the Grand Jury accepts for investigation must be investigated thoroughly, seeking out and analyzing the facts prior to writing a report for publication. This is a time-consuming process and usually takes many months to complete. For a complete description of the Grand Jury’s duties, as well as past Grand Jury reports and report responses, visit edcgov.us/grandjury.

Jurors are regularly called upon to confer with government officials and other citizens in order to gain information and insight concerning matters under investigation. While being a Grand Juror is not a full-time job, it does require a substantial time commitment. This time commitment includes attendance at full jury and committee meetings, investigating and preparing written reports. While each year the El Dorado County Grand Jury sets its own meeting schedule, jurors can typically expect to serve between eight and 16 hours per week, spread over two or three days. Investigative committee chairs and the foreperson may expect to serve more hours per week. Jurors can certainly take vacations during the session, but periods of absence exceeding three or four weeks, especially during the second half of the session, should be held to a minimum.

This service is essentially volunteer, although meetings are compensated at the rate of $15 per day, and mileage is compensated at the rate payable to employees of El Dorado County (currently $.56/mile) for miles actually and necessarily traveled for purposes of Grand Jury sessions or committee work.

Qualified citizens who have an interest in this unique and rewarding community service are encouraged to pick up an application at the Superior Court, 2850 Fairlane Ct. suite 110, Placerville, 95667. The application is also available online at edcgov.us/GrandJury/, or you may call 530-621-7414 and request an application/questionnaire to be mailed to you. If you have questions and would like to talk with a current or prior juror, please feel free to contact the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association at our [email protected], or visit the Website edcgja.org. The deadline this year has been extended to May 16. Please submit applications to the El Dorado County Superior Court, 2850 Fairlane Court, Suite No. 110, Placerville, 95667; Attn: Suzanne M. Thurman, Executive Administrative Assistant.

The Grand Jurors View is published throughout the year in the Mountain Democrat, and is written by the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association. Please contact Deb Hass, president, by e-mail at [email protected], by mail at P. O. Box 383, Placerville, 95667.

Chuck MacLean

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