Saturday, February 27, 2010

The role, rewards of grand jury

Dear editor, The state of California celebrates Grand Jury Awareness Month each February. The timing is particularly appropriate because shortly the Napa County Superior Court will begin the selection process for the 2010-2011 Napa County Grand Jury. Nineteen members of the county, as diverse as possible, will be called together for a term that runs from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

The term “Grand Jury” may conjure up visions of a federal grand jury impaneled to look at potential criminal activity. However, county grand juries are impaneled to act as an “arm of the court,” as authorized by the state constitution, to be a voice of the people and a conscience of the community. The primary duty of the Napa County Grand Jury is to investigate and report on county government operations to be assured that the responsibilities are being fulfilled efficiently, honestly and in the best interest of the public. Between county and municipal agencies, there are more than 100 public entities that the Napa County Grand Jury endeavors to investigate over a five-year period.

In addition to a routine review of governmental agencies, the Grand Jury may respond to specific citizens’ complaints, investigate areas of public concern identified in the media, follow up on recommendations by previous grand juries (or trouble areas identified by grand juries in other California counties) and various other sources of information. When appropriate, formal reports are issued as a result of an investigation. These reports are provided to the media, public libraries, and can be viewed on the Napa County Superior Court Web site.

Being a grand juror is a one-year commitment and requires attendance at periodic full-panel meetings, committee meetings, background research, interviews and report preparation. Much of the time required is during “normal” working hours as this is when public officials and agency workers are available for interviews. The reward of being a grand juror is the satisfaction you receive working with 18 fellow residents of the county to improve local government for all of us. Application for grand jury duty can be made online at gov/GrandJury/GJ apply.htm

John K. Morris, foreperson / 2009-2010 Napa County Grand Jury

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