Civil Grand Jury Info
The Civil Grand Jury in Tulare County is an official body of 19 men and women chosen to perform duties as prescribed by California law. The Civil Grand Jury acting as a "watchdog" inquires into the conduct of local government, investigates citizen complaints and ensures that officials and departments perform their duties properly and efficiently. Then the Civil Grand Jury writes reports using the information gathered in the investigations making recommendations for improvements.
Download the Civil Grand Jury Questionnaire
Any citizen, 18 years of age or older; a resident of the County of Tulare for one year immediately prior to being selected; an individual of ordinary intelligence and good character and who possesses a working knowledge of the English language, is eligible. However, elected public officials or candidates for such offices are not considered eligible. Civil Grand Jurors are selected from all walks of life and no special skills or expertises are required. Young people who have the time to serve are urged to apply.
Generally, in February or March of each year, there is a public announcement requesting that any qualified citizen interested in serving as a Civil Grand Juror contact the Court Executive Secretary in the Visalia Courthouse located at 221 South Mooney Blvd. Room 303, Visalia, 93291. A Nomination Form can be mailed upon request by contacting the Court Executive Secretary at (559) 730-5000 ext #1110. In addition, the Tulare County Judges each nominate several citizens they believe can properly serve.
From questionnaires, applications and interviews prospective jurors are selected and invited for further questioning by the Superior Court Judges. Names are then drawn by lot by the Superior Court Clerk and these, plus any holdovers from the previous year's Civil Grand Jury, are sworn and instructed by the Presiding Judge.
The Civil Grand Jury has a foreperson selected by the members of the Civil Grand Jury and approved by the Presiding Judge. A foreperson pro tem and a recorder are also elected by the Civil Grand Jury members. Most of the work is done in committees. These committees are generally designated as Administration, Special Districts, Education, Edit & Final Report, Health & Welfare, Land Use, and Justice. Each Committee has between four and eight members. Each juror usually serves on two or three committees. Any preference for committee assignments is generally honored.
- The jury receives instructions from the Presiding Judge who also is available for advice and counsel.
- The District Attorney gives instruction on duties and responsibilities related to criminal matters.
- The County Counsel gives advice and instruction on civil matters.
- The Office of the California State Attorney General.
- An auditor, retained by the Civil Grand Jury.
- Other personnel as deemed necessary by the Presiding Judge. These may include, but are not limited to, clerical assistance, investigators, stenographers or others.
- There are trainings, meetings and seminars conducted by the California Grand Juror's Association.
- Advice and guidance to new Civil Grand Jurors can be provided by those jury members who have served on previous Civil Grand Juries.
- The Civil Grand Jury may also call upon county officials and departments for information and reports. Tours of county facilities can be arranged.
- There is a Civil Grand Jury Manual of Procedures.
- Reports and materials written by past Civil Grand Jury members are available.
As committees of the Civil Grand Jury begin looking at the various departments assigned to them, areas for investigation become apparent. The Civil Grand Jury also receives many letters and complaints from citizens alleging mistreatment by county officials, suspicions of misconduct, observed inefficiencies or inequities. If these fall within the Civil Grand Jury's jurisdiction, the Civil Grand Jury investigates their validity and assists in effecting the necessary corrections. Committees may, with the approval of the entire Civil Grand Jury, instigate inquiries. Letters received do assist in identifying areas requiring investigation by the Civil Grand Jury. The Civil Grand Jury cannot compel officials to act, but it does have means to bring about action.
The power of the Civil Grand Jury lies in its ability to persuade or to expose. The very fact that the Civil Grand Jury looks into county functions and makes it presence known frequently stimulates improvement. The informational media would perhaps prefer more excitement generated from the work of the Civil Grand Jury; however, sensationalism is not its goal. The goal is always improvement to the level of local government. If the goal can be achieved without any public notice, so much the better. On occasion, the media and the Civil Grand Jury compliment each other, working together to achieve the desired result.
Besides working behind the scenes to effect change, the Civil Grand Jury can issue interim reports turning the spotlight on areas of concern. It also makes suggestions and recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors who are required to respond. One past Cvil Grand Juror's comment was, "I am surprised at what the Grand Jury accomplishes. I think that the presence of the Grand Jury is one reason California enjoys relatively corruption-free local government. The presence of the Grand Jury is a deterrent to persons who would exploit government for personal advantage. Acting as the eyes and ears and the conscience of the public, it [the Grand Jury] is the best bargain in government today."
Tulare County Civil Grand Jurors receive a per diem of $25.00 for each day or portion thereof when performing Grand Jury business, plus mileage.
Civil Grand Jurors generally serve for one year and are usually impaneled in the first week of the fiscal year (July 1). Up to ten Civil Grand Jurors may be held over for a second term if the Juror so desires and subject to the approval of the supervising Superior Court Judge.
The Civil Grand Jury as a unit usually meets once a week. Committees usually meet bi-weekly. Meetings generally last approximately two hours. Members try to group their meetings into two or three days a week. Days and times of meetings are determined by committee members. The average juror spends about 20 hours a week during his/her year of service.
When the term is over and the final reports are filed, the Civil Grand Jury loses its power and influence, except insofar as the succeeding Civil Grand Jury pays attention to its 'continuity report' or suggestions for further inquiry into unresolved problem areas.
Satisfaction is in the conviction of each Juror that he or she has made a contribution to the American system, and the inner knowledge that one has 'done his or her bit to make democracy work.
Any private citizen, County official or employee may present complaints to the Civil Grand Jury and the civil Grand Jury will make a response to that person. Request for a complaint form may be made by contacting the Civil Grand Jury office at:
Tulare County Civil Grand Jury
5963 South Mooney Blvd.
Visalia, CA 93277
All complaints or suggestions are held in the strictest of confidence. Civil Grand Jurors are sworn to uphold confidentially and all proceedings are held in closed session. While the Civil Grand Jury does not encourage anonymous complaints, these often are the only means by which problems are brought to the attention of the Civil Grand Jury.