Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shasta County grand jury holds open house; serving community is a priority

Posted March 15, 2012 - By Joe Szydlowski - The Record Searchlight

About 40 people came to the Shasta County grand jury's open house Thursday evening to hear about the responsibilities and benefits of serving as a grand juror.

The grand jury investigates local government agencies to ensure they are acting appropriately.

The jury then reports its results, along with problems and suggestions, to the community.

A key question on the application to become a grand juror is why a resident wants to serve, said Molly Bigelow, presiding judge of the Shasta County Superior Court.

"The overwhelming majority answer they have a need or a desire to give back to the community," Bigelow said to attendees.

That's what brought Mel Woods, 56, to the meeting at the Redding Library. He said his father, a sheriff's deputy, always spoke to him about the importance of civic responsibility.

He said he's become more involved in the past few years, and sees the grand jury as a good opportunity.

"For the first 50 years ... I was kind of a wallflower," he said. But he wants to make up for that by helping preserve the importance of "citizens having a hand in and not letting government run rampant."

After winnowing down the applicants through interviews, 19 people are selected by lottery to serve. The others serve as backups.

The group investigates complaints from community members against local agencies, identifies problems and solutions, and inspects government facilities. Jurors can also suggest investigations.

State law forbids jurors from speaking about any investigations or findings that aren't included in the final report. Jurors' identities are also kept confidential, Bigelow said.

"It's not a job for someone seeking the limelight," she said.

To be selected, individuals must have lived in Shasta County for at least one year as of June 28, when the jurors are sworn in. They must know English, be at least 18 years old and not hold an elected office.

They earn $15 per day, and can expect 10 to 20 hours of work per week, said Marsha Caranci, head of training for the California Grand Jury Association.

Interested in serving on grand jury?

Applications are due by April 13.

Go to and click on “application” or call 245-6761 to apply.

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