In San Francisco Feb. 5, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the California Grand Jurors’ Association to launch Grand Jury Appreciation Month with press releases and public service announcements being distributed to media throughout the state, making this a perfect opportunity to encourage Nevada County residents to apply for the Nevada County Grand Jury.
The application process covering the fiscal year is currently underway. As a former grand juror and board member of the California Grand Jurors’ Association, I can attest that grand jury service is a tremendously rewarding experience providing at least three exceptional benefits not usually available to ordinary citizens.
Nevada County grand jurors play a distinct but vitally important role in government. They have very broad oversight powers to investigate and make recommendations on the activities of the county and those cities, special districts and other organizations in the county that collectively constitute our local government.
Significantly, only grand jurors decide what to investigate, when to investigate, how to investigate, whether to issue a report on their investigation and, if so, what to say and when in their term to say it. They are self-starting, self-motiving and self-directing; no one can tell them what to investigate, how to conduct their investigation or what conclusions to reach as a result. Thus, the first unique benefit of service is that jurors will have a meaningful, independent voice in local government.
The second unique benefit will be a considerably enhanced understanding of the operations and personnel involved in local government. One cannot have been a grand juror without gaining a much greater understanding of how the county and the local governments within function.
The third unique benefit consists of a renewed sense of faith in citizen democracy in the idea that people of good faith, despite their disagreements, may find common ground in the search for compromise, collegiality and the desire to move forward. A grand jury consists of 19 people who initially might not even know each other. They are from diverse backgrounds and education, they have different religious and political views, but they have one thing in common: a belief that what they are doing matters, and if everyone listens as well as speaks and respects those with whom they disagree, the democratic process of give and take among equals will yield the best result. Whatever one’s views outside the grand jury room might be, one cannot complete a term as a grand juror without having gained an increased willingness to consider the views of others to their ultimate advantage.
You can find additional information and an application form online at http://civilgrandjury.com or have an application mailed to you by calling the deputy jury commissioner at 530-265-1475. In the spring, applications are screened for eligibility. Candidates are interviewed. Superior Court judges review the candidates and select 30 potential jurors. Of these 30, 19 names are drawn at random by the deputy jury commissioner to serve as members of the next grand jury to be seated July 1. The remaining jurors will serve as alternates.
Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to be on the front lines of true citizen democracy this year.
Diane Masini lives in Grass Valley. She is an advocate of promoting government accountability by improving the training and resources available to California’s 58 regular grand juries and educating the public about the substantial local government oversight and reporting powers grand jurors have.