Grand Jury Overview
The grand jury is a judicial body composed of a set number of citizens, 11 in Sierra County, based on county population. It is impaneled by the state constitution and various laws to act as an "arm of the court," to be a voice of the people and conscience of the community.
The grand jury represents one example of our democracy whereby citizens volunteer for civic duty on behalf of their community. These citizens organize and share responsibilities to monitor local government and oversee their appointed and elected officials.
Grand Jury Functions
By law, a grand jury has three distinct functions. Indictment is the act of bringing criminal charges against a person. Accusation is the act of bringing charges against an official of government or of a public agency, which may result in removal from office. Civil Investigation and Reporting, known as the "watchdog" function, is the most frequently exercised function and examines all aspects of local government.
The primary duty of a regular grand jury is to investigate, within the county, the functions of city and county governments, tax supported agencies and districts, and any agencies or districts created by State law. State law mandates certain functions of the grand jury. The jury itself selects additional areas that it wishes to study. At the end of the year, the grand jury publishes its recommendations in a report, which is then distributed to public officials, libraries, media, and the public. Regular grand juries may be tasked to investigate criminal matters and issue indictments when appropriate.
Few regular grand juries are called to judge criminal matters; therefore, those matters are not included in this manual. Should the situation arise, the district attorney calling for such investigation will explain the requirements.
While it is a part of the judicial system, a grand jury is an entirely independent body. Judges of the Superior Court, the district attorney, the county counsel, and the state attorney general may act as its advisers but cannot attend jury deliberations nor control the actions of the Grand Jury.