Op/Ed: Join the Orange County Grand Jury

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By Kirk H. Nakamura, Assistant Presiding Judge and Chair, Grand Jury Recruitment and Selection Committee, Orange County Superior Court

Have you wondered how our county and city governments truly operate or how our jails are run?

Are you interested in “giving back” and making a positive difference in your community?

One of the best opportunities to get an “insider’s view” of local governments and agencies and to improve the lives of your fellow citizens is to become a grand juror.

Grand jurors attend extensive tours of county facilities and meet the “movers and shakers” of the county. In the process, they gain extensive knowledge of how local governments and agencies, such as school districts and special districts, operate. The work is interesting and challenging. Many former grand jurors characterize the experience as life-changing.

The Orange County Superior Court is seeking Grand Jury applicants from throughout Orange County for the one-year term that begins June 30, 2017.

It is difficult to attract individuals who can devote 30 to 35 hours per week to this almost full-time public service opportunity. Due to the shortage of applicants to date, the Court has extended the application deadline to Feb. 1, 2017.

The Orange County Grand Jury is composed of 19 citizens whose primary functions are to receive evidence of serious crimes and determine whether to issue an indictment charging one or more felonies, and to investigate county and local governments and agencies to ensure that their activities are efficient and the services they provide are within the confines of the law.

The Grand Jury can also inquire into the actions of public officials whom it believes may be committing malfeasance (e.g. corruption or violation of the public trust) and refer appropriate matters to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.

As an independent body, the Grand Jury is a public watchdog which is free to inquire into any local governmental unit in Orange County. The decision about what to investigate is one which only the Grand Jury makes. An investigation can be triggered by anything, including an anonymous tip, a formal complaint, an article in the newspaper, or a belief by the Grand Jury that there may be wrongdoing committed at a public agency.

However, the Grand Jury has no jurisdiction to review matters involving the Orange County Superior Court, or state and federal agencies.

At the conclusion of its investigations, the Grand Jury prepares and publishes reports with recommendations for improvement. By law, the appropriate government entity or agency must respond to the report in writing. Past reports are posted online at ocgrandjury.org/reports.asp.

The Grand Jury sets its own schedule and typically observes the 13 court holidays with an additional two weeks off during the year of service. Other time-off requests are coordinated with the foreperson. Grand jurors receive a stipend of $50 per day, mileage reimbursement, and free reserved parking at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, where they meet.

The minimum qualifications to be a grand juror are: Orange County resident for at least one year, U.S. citizen, 18 or older and have sufficient knowledge of the English language to prepare reports. The best grand jurors are committed to the work, work well in a group, can write well, and are comfortable using a computer. Most who have served as grand jurors have found the experience to be rewarding, enlightening and quite fulfilling.

I encourage citizens who meet the minimum qualifications and who can devote a year of public service to visit ocgrandjury.org to learn more and get an application form. You can also request an application by calling (657) 622-6747.

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