6/11/13

Grand Jury Report: Encouraging Citizens To Apply For Grand Jury Service

The Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) suggesting ways to increase Grand Jury applicants from historically under represented areas of Contra Costa County:

The Contra Costa County Grand Jury is not a part of County government, nor is it a part of any city or special district governing body. The Grand Jury is a part of the State of California’s court system.  The Grand Jury has no oversight responsibility related to any activity or function carried out by the Court. Specifically, the Grand Jury cannot write reports and make recommendations related to how the Court chooses to administer any aspect of the Grand Jury process. That process includes activities related to (a) recruiting potential jurors, (b) evaluating applications received from potential jurors, (c) interviewing applicants, and (d) the final selection of jurors for service.

During discussions with several members of the County Board of Supervisors, it was mentioned that it has become increasingly difficult to find citizens willing to volunteer to serve on the numerous boards, advisory committees, councils, etc. that the County has established. This situation was investigated by last year’s Grand Jury in Report #1215. Although not established by the County, the Grand Jury is similarly dependent upon finding volunteers from the community willing to serve. In looking at this issue, this Grand Jury has discovered that there has been a significant imbalance in the number of applications received from each of the five Supervisorial Districts. Over the five most recent Grand Jury terms, Districts II and IV have jointly produced 61 applications per 100,000 of population. Over that same period Districts I, III and V combined have produced only 28 applicants per 100,000 of population, or approximately half that of Districts II and IV. 


In order to make the Grand Jury a more effective body, it is important that (a) an adequate number of applications be received each year by the Court and (b) that in this group of applications an equitable geographic representation is achieved. The purpose of this report, therefore, is two-fold: First, to make the public and Contra Costa County (CCC) elected officials aware of this imbalance in applications with respect to the five Supervisorial Districts; Second, to make recommendations to CCC and city officials who can be instrumental, in general, in encouraging citizens to volunteer for Grand Jury service and, in particular, in increasing the number of Grand Jury applications from Districts I, III, and V. 

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