Citizens may ask the Civil Grand Jury to investigate their concerns about county or city departments, special districts, or the officers and personnel within them. It is done by submitting a Citizen Complaint Form describing the perceived mistreatment or suspicions of governmental misconduct or inefficiency.
The Civil Grand Jury is not a citizen complaint agency – it uses complaints to identify policies and procedures that might need improvement. While the Civil Grand Jury cannot investigate every complaint, each one is considered carefully and treated confidentially.
Applying for Civil Grand Jury Service
Civil Grand Jury Selection Process
In Santa Cruz County, citizens are invited by multiple means to join the Civil Grand Jury. These include mailed notices, community service ads, and newspaper articles. The online application form linked above is currently the only way to apply for Civil Grand Jury service.
Potential Civil Grand Jurors are given information about grand jury duties and the time commitment required. They are invited to attend an orientation presented by the court and members of the current Grand Jury, after which their applications are reviewed.
Members of the Grand Jury are intended to represent a cross-section of ages, occupations, ethnic groups and geographic regions of the county.
Requirements to Become a Civil Grand Juror
A Civil Grand Juror must
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be a resident of Santa Cruz County for at least one year immediately prior to selection
- Be in possession of intelligence, sound judgment, and good character
- Speak and write English fluently
- Not be serving as a trial juror in any California court
- Not have been discharged as a grand juror in any California county within one year of the beginning date of service
- Not have been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime
- Not be serving as an elected public official
For more information about applying to be a Civil Grand Juror, contact the Jury Commissioner:
Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, Office of the Jury Commissioner
701 Ocean Street, Room 101C, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Serving on the Civil Grand Jury
Civil Grand Jury Operation
The Grand Jury, although a part of the judicial system, is an entirely independent body with three functions:
- To examine all aspects of city and county governments and special districts by initiating its own investigations;
- To serve as ombudsman for the citizens of the cities and county; and
- To publish its investigative findings and recommendations to improve governmental operations.
To accomplish this, it reviews and evaluates operations, procedures, methods, and systems used by governmental agencies to determine whether they comply with the stated objectives of the agency and if their operation can be made more efficient and effective.
The Grand Jury may inquire into any aspect of county or city government, including special legislative districts and joint power agencies, to serve the best interest of Santa Cruz County residents.
Grand Jury inquiries may become investigations resulting in reports that are released to the public. The Grand Jury reports, with their recommendations for improved transparency and efficiency, are not binding. Their power rests in their ability to move the public to insist that the agencies act on the issues revealed by the investigations.
The Grand Jury functions lawfully only as a group. No individual grand juror, acting alone, has any power or authority. Meetings of the Grand Jury are not open to the public. The law requires that all matters discussed before the Grand Jury and all votes taken are kept confidential.
Time Commitment and Reimbursement
- The Grand Jury typically convenes July 1 and operates through June 30 of the following year.
- Jurors are expected to spend an average of 15-20 hours per week on their duties.
- Each juror is paid per diem ($15 per day) for those days when the juror attends a meeting, with a maximum of $30 per week.
- Jurors are provided free parking at the County Government Center. Mileage is reimbursed for travel between jurors’ residences and the Grand Jury office in the County Government Center, and for travel on grand jury business.
Training and Support Services
The Presiding Judge of the Grand Jury, the District Attorney, the County Counsel, and the State Attorney General all act as advisors, responding to requests throughout the year. They act only as advisors and cannot prevent Grand Jury action unless that action violates the law.
The California Grand Jurors’ Association (CGJA) provides two days of training at the beginning of each term and support throughout the year. It is composed of current and former grand jurors from throughout the state. It is dedicated to promoting the understanding of the unique practices of grand juries in California and to educating the public and prospective grand jurors about the beneficial oversight function of this system. This dedication is embodied in their mission statement:
To promote, preserve, and support the grand jury system through training, education, and outreach.
The Santa Cruz County Chapter of the CGJA is a group of former civil grand jurors from Santa Cruz County interested in continuing their service to the community. They have helped with public relations, community outreach, and juror support.